Friday, July 08, 2005

The Historian, Part II

I just read the New York Times review of Ms. Kostova's book. It begins:

"Garlic and crucifixes are traditionally part of the arsenal for vanquishing vampires. But in 'The Historian,' the Dracula-da Vinci Code hybrid that has emerged as the most heavily hyped novel of the summer, the first-time author Elizabeth Kostova tries a different tactic. Perhaps even the undead can be talked to death."

You can imagine where it goes from there. Of course, the Times' review page is well-versed in hack jobs (see Lemony Snicket's worthless review of the new Lovecraft Anthology). This one ranks right up there. I don't know why this particular book was selected for special reviling, but I would guess that it had something to do with a "$2 million advance, a movie sale and the prospect of publication in at least 28 languages," facts featured very prominently in the review, that made the reviewer become like the Hulk: green and angry.

Whatever the reason, this book is entirely undeserving of the droll criticism heaped on it by the eminent reviewer (The reviewer's flip attitude is pretty much summed up by the Da Vinci Code reference. Everything I've read about this book has made it clear that Ms. Kostova worked on it for some ten years. I missed The Da Vinci Code in 1995.). As I said in my review, The Historian is certainly not a classic, but it is still a good book, and Ms. Kostova should be applauded for her ambition. Frankly, I think it is a testament to her hard work and determination that she pulled off what she did, given the size of what she undertook. Let's face it: the vampire legend is pretty played out, especially after that Anne Rice nonsense. And not only did Ms. Kostova try to bring the Dracula legend back to its more respectable roots, but she brought a fresh approach and interesting new twist, all the while making it feel like this was the authoritative telling. I think that's worth something.

I think the Times review is worth something else.


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