What a busy, clamouring crowd in the picture above! Gosh darn whatever can they be doing? Are they doing a crossword? Trying to place a last minute bet on the fifth at Randwick? Splitting the bill?
No - appearances can be deceiving, can't they? They are in fact the Zaporzhye Cossacks writing a letter to the Turkish Sultan, as brought to us by the brush of Ilya Repin.
This busy painting graces the cover of a copy of Tolstoy's The Cossacks that I bought from a trendite little second-hand book store a few years ago.
Just as we might have been initially confused as to what the peeps in the painting are doing, the bookseller was confused as to what I was doing buying Tolstoy. Said he: "You don't look like the kind of person who reads Tolstoy".
So I've always wondered: what does a Tolstoy reader look like? Bearded? Grey-haired? Frowny? Devious? Noble? Disillusioned? Questing of moral stability? Impatient with intellectual dishonesty? Aloof from the Russian intelligentsia?
Must one not smile when purchasing Tolstoy? Must one give a short treatise on non-violent anarchy and mutter about what the aristocrats can learn from the peasants as one hands over one's $4?
Sheesh, I just wanna'd ta read ma book.
Next time I buy Tolstoy I'm wearing a snorkle and Dame Edna glasses. What the heck darn will the poor chappy make of that?