While in college, I read "War and Peace" and "Anna Karenina", by Leo Tolstoy. I was absorbed by the stories and writing. Of course, they are considered classics.
50 years later, I just finished "Tolstoy", a biography by Henri Troyat, written in 1965. I really knew very little about the great Russian author, but considered him a hero of mine, solely because of the two books I read.
For many chapters chronolizing his early life, I was impressed by his love of nature, thirst for knowledge, and basic joie de vivre. I also began to disapprove of his immoral and rash behavior.
Midway through the book (and his life), I saw a radically different Tolstoy--in fact, a radical. I saw it coming, but didn't want to believe it. My old hero had become a religious zealot. While forsaking the church and it's icons, crucifixes, and "holy men", he formed his own internal religion devoid of all the trappings of the church.
Tolstoy became contemptable of fame, despite seeking it for much of his life. His marriage was contentious with life-long fights with his wife Sofya, 16 years younger (she gave birth to 14 children, half of which died in infancy or childhood). He was a horrible husband and father, so wrapped up in himself and his wandering,contradictory mind. Living the life of an ascetic and hermit was his goal.
He continued to write, using his characters--based on real people--to explain his ideas. He died (at age 82) while trying to run away from his home and family!
So what started out as hero worship for me (I always assumed Tolstoy was an atheist), evolved into somewhat of a loathing for the man. I could write much more about him, but you get the picture. Check out Wikipedia or whatever for more details. At least, now I know the real Tolstoy, a great writer, but one loony-tune.

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Comment by Luara on February 19, 2014 at 3:19pm

Have you read Camus?  His novels might be worth a read.  Also Sartre, for example his novel Nausea.

Comment by Luara on February 19, 2014 at 5:43am

Having feet of clay is the human condition.  You could find a dark side to anyone. 

But we can also celebrate humanity, as we are and not some fantasy.  Human beings truly are amazing. 

I read a The Plague by Camus (stoned!) and it seemed to me a heroic statement about humanity.  As we are, no fantasy needed. 

Comment by Joan Denoo on February 19, 2014 at 12:09am

So many of my heroes turn out to have feet of clay. Reading something written by a writer gets me all fired up and interested, and when I read their other writings, or read what others write about him or her, I wonder how such a person could have inspired me. 

Carl Sagan and his wife Lynn Margulis appear to have had a troubled marriage and one of their sons, Dorion wrote that his father was a man of many natures, a prophet with boyish fantasies, demanding, controlling, analytical, warm, brusque, reasonable, irrationalism, full of wonder, a skeptic and charming. Sagan sometimes was blind to the needs of people around him. His wives were entranced by his passions, even as they were infuriated by his absenteeism and often illogical “logic”. Sons were captivated by his example, even as they struggled to escape his shadow.

Lynn wrote that Sagan expected her to do the cooking, laundry and housekeeping as she was more interested in endosymbiotic theory

This is just one example. 

Comment by roland707 on February 18, 2014 at 11:06pm

Learned something today. Thanks.  On the subject of Tolstoy being a nut, I have this theory that a person can't be extraordinary and ordinary. Great creative minds seem to often be deficient or bizarre in other areas.

Comment by Daniel W on February 15, 2014 at 11:41am

Randall thank you for the bio / review.  I feel embarrassed that I am not more literate.  I can be more literate by connection to your reviews!

Comment by Future on February 15, 2014 at 9:58am
I gave Anna Karenina a try last year, but I just couldn't get into it at all. It just seemed like an excessively long and boring recantation of how wealthy elitists lived in that day. I gave up about a third the way through, which is still quite a bit of reading.

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