B.Y.O.B. (bring your own bear)

I plan to loll about tomorrow at Rebecca’s with all the girls, finishing what we’re now calling New Year gifts. They will all be documented and easily reproducible; I may even cut out a paper knife and fork wreath for the youngest, who I now refer to as the Good Child.

Tonight, in honor of New Year’s eve, I’ll transcribe Tolstoy’s description of a party that seems to have gotten slightly out of hand. My fondness for this scenario proves definitively that it’s best I’m not strong enough to rip a window frame out of a wall with my bare hands. My absolute favorite part of this novel (War and Peace) is where Nikolai Rostov is lying face down on a battlefield, thinking how outrageous it is that people are trying to shoot him because his mom thinks he’s a total sweetheart. It’s strangely convincing. But this is pretty good, too:

Pierre threw off his cloak and entered the first room….From the third room came sounds of scuffling, laughter, familiar voices shouting, and the growl of a bear….A man of medium height, with clear blue eyes, whose voice was particularly striking among all those drunken voices for its tone of sobriety, called from the window: “Come over here and look after the bets.” This was Dolohov, an officer of the Semeonovsk regiment, a notorious gambler and daredevil who was making his home with Anatole. Pierre smiled, looking about him gaily. “I don’t understand. What’s it all about?”

“Stop, he’s not drunk,” cried Anatole; and taking a glass from the table he went up to Pierre. Anatole kept his glass filled while he explained that Dolohov had laid a wager…backing himself to drink a bottle of rum sitting on the sill of the third floor window with his legs hanging down outside….The bottle of rum was brought. Two footmen, evidently rather flustered and made nervous by the orders and shouts from all sides, were pulling at the sash frame which prevented anyone from sitting on the outer sill….Pierre seized hold of the crossbar, gave it a wrench and the oak frame came away with a crash. “Take it right out, or they’ll think I’m holding on,” said Dolohov….With a bottle of rum in his hand, Dolohov jumped on to the windowsill…Pressing with both hands against the sides of the frame he settled himself into a sitting position, let go his hands, shifted a little to the right, then to the left, and took up the bottle….he turned round again, let his hands drop, took the bottle and lifted it to his lips, threw his head back and raised his free hand to balance himself….The bottle was emptying visibly, rising almost perpendicularly over his head. “Why does it take so long?” thought Pierre. It seemed to him as though more than half an hour had elapsed. Suddenly Dolohov made a backward movement of the spine and his arm trembled nervously; this was sufficient to cause his whole body to slide as he sat on the sloping edge. As he slipped, his head and arm wavered still more violently with the strain. One hand moved as if to clutch the windowsill but he brought it back. Pierre shut his eyes once more …Suddenly he was conscious of a general stir. He looked up: Dolohov was standing on the windowsill, his face pale but triumphant….Pierre dashed up to the window. “Come along then,” cried Pierre. “Come along…And we’ll take Bruin with us.” And he caught the bear up in his arms and began dancing round the room with it.

(excerpted from Rosemary Edmonds’ translation)

If I recall correctly, Dolohov later seduces Pierre’s wife, forcing Pierre to shoot him, in spite of the utter tedium of his marriage. This does not go over well, but I say Dolohov should have remembered Pierre’s ability to do demolition work without a crowbar, even though the fact that Pierre spends most of the novel taking his reading glasses off and putting them back on may have been slightly misleading.

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One thought on “B.Y.O.B. (bring your own bear)

  1. Thanks, know I’ll never read it and got a great shot for free. Happy New Years Day to all you guys!

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