“His books teach us how to see what we usually overlook because we take it for granted.”
That might describe a long list of writers. In fact, it’s a virtual job description for what the best writers do. Mediocre writers help kill time, if that’s what you’re looking for. The good ones, as an old friend used to say, “help us see new colors we didn’t know were there.”
In the passage quoted above, Gary Saul Morson refers to Count Tolstoy, who was born on this date, September 9, in 1828. Few novels have surprised me as violently the first time I read them as War and Peace. I expected spectacle and costume drama. I got a vast collection of intimate moments. I didn’t expect to fall in love, as I did with Natasha Rostov, or discover myself in Prince Pierre.