Monday, August 29, 2005

Armchair historian

The other night we watched the 20/20 report on "Summer of the Vampire," although I think that's a pretty bold claim to make on the basis of only one, if bestselling, novel. The report gave an overview of the vampire legend and its appearance in books and film, framed by snippets of interview with Elizabeth Kostova, author of The Historian (excerpt).

I've been intrigued by this novel, but am much less so now. The book has been praised for its meticulous research, yet Kostova never made it to the site of Vlad Tepes' grave (till now). The derision of the Romanian guides when they call her an "armchair historian" is marked.

She may have a genius for evoking places, but she does so through words based in and more authentically evoked by history, legend, image, not experience.

(I can't imagine writing about someplace I'd never been, unless it were wholly imaginary.)
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