Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

"The Historian" by Elizabeth Kostova-Vampires and The Reading Life

Vampires are often portrayed in films and novels as creatures of great erudition. Deep readers
lurking in musty collections of obscure lore in which dark secrets can be found. Carefully
selected new
acolytes can be admitted to their kabbalistic realm, the cost only being their soul.

These are some of the themes mined in The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (2005-909 pages). Why do readers evolve into vampires? Does reading drain our life force?

The Historian is a very long book. I love long books as long as the content helps the book. Some of the historical aspects of the book are interesting and shows the author has watched some History channel programs on the Baltic and the Biography Channel show on Vlad the Impaler. The descriptions of Istanbul and other cities are also interesting enough. The conflation of Dracula and Vlad the Impaler was also dealt with on The History Channel. To me there is a good bit of duplication in the historical narratives and travel log parts of the book. The characters are not that well developed. A lot of the conversation seems stilted. The central love story is not real convincing.
The book does get better as you go on and I really enjoyed the last fifty or so pages.

The book does show us somethings about the reading life. it show how reading can lead to obsessions that can drain other aspects of our lives from us. It also show how a shared love of common reading interests can create immediate bonds.

I think maybe the book is set in preinternet post world war two Europe in order for scholars and academics will be required to do all their research in books and special libraries rather than on line. The lore of the Vampire seems much more recondite when it is in a private library in Romania than when it is on The Guttenburg Project

The Historian to me seems worth reading as a suspenseful vampire mystery (it did take a while for something exciting to happen) I still do not know why we accept the notion that Vampires are deeply read but it makes us thing about some Reading Life issues. The central characters are nearly all book centered persons. I enjoyed The Historian. It is a clever take on the Dracula story. This was the author's first novel. I will look forward to her next one.

Mel u

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Anonymous said...

Even though it was a little dry, I really enjoyed this book.

SusieCat said...

This of course calls to mind the immensely popular Twilight series of vampire novels. The author, Stephanie Meyer, turned stereotypes of vampires on their heads; for example, in her novels vampires shun the sunlight not because it kills them but because their skin twinkles like diamonds (I visualize a sort of hologram effect, or the way a CD looks in sunlight). She claims that vampires are erudite and talented not only because they have superpowers (strength, speed, highly sensitive senses of vision, hearing, and smell, and immensely fast-moving brains) but because they have so much time on their hands -- when you live forever and don't need to sleep, you have a lot of time to read, research, practice your skills, etc. Edward, the hero, is a superb pianist; his "father," Dr. Cullen, has spent many years researching the effects of vampire venom. Ms. Meyer's world isn't completely internally consistent; for example, she doesn't seem to be able to make up her mind if vampires breathe or not (she says they don't, yet her vampires can smell the faintest scents). And despite a novel filled with vampires and shape-changing guardians, this reader still wonders how Dr. Cullen got hired at the hospital without proof of a current medical license. Picky, picky. A friend said she thought that the series was about 2 books too long. Certainly there are some odd plot twists and characters and events that could have been cut with no loss. Maybe it is just that Ms. Meyer's imagination wasn't up to achieving her apparent goal of fully integrating the supernatural into the natural.

yorkke said...

I picked this book up because I am a historian, and I assumed this would be about a historian. Instead I got a book about vampires. I'm not a 16 year old girl, I didn't want to read Twilight.

PS- I think I read somewhere this book took her 10 years, so might take awhile for her next.