Book Simple: The Only Thing Sexier Than Vampires Is Research [Yeah Right]
a life-in-books by Amy Brown
For all that my degree requires quite a lot of research, I spend a fairly minimal amount of time in the UCLA libraries. It’s especially unfortunate given how much I love libraries. UCLA has quite a lovely one in Powell Library, despite the contingent of smoking and cell-phone-operating undergraduates usually clogging up its steps. Actually, I’ve been quite jealous of my colleagues who must head off to foreign countries, visiting collections at libraries in Rio and Kiev; my own work centers on information easily available from any computer attached to the World Wide Web.
So I was rather envious of the characters in The Historian, who jaunt cinematically from a mysteriously anonymous city in eastern Europe to Tuscany to Istanbul (once Constantinople) in search of Dracula. Our unnamed heroine, teenager-y and consequently both petulant and eager, discovers a sheaf of ancient letters with which she extracts from her father a story of such juiciness that one would assume it fiction, but for the fact that her father disappears soon after its telling.
Dracula is alive, her father Paul, who has spent much of his life in search of Dracula’s unknown tomb, tells her. Not only alive, but willing to send minion after minion in search of Paul’s careful research – one must be careful, too, because only three bites, and Dracula will control you, as well.
It’s troublesome, actually being a graduate student reading this book. Kostova evinces a wild excitement regarding research that suggests, a little bit, that she may never have done any. A librarian Virgil into the arcane world of the undead describes the collection of vampire literature in Istanbul: “‘This is the last document…I have never been able to make sense of it. It is listed in the library catalog as a bibliography of the Order of the Dragon.’
“My heart lurched, and I saw the color rise in Helen’s face,” reports our heroine’s father. At this moment, I couldn’t quite suspend my disbelief, despite my general willingness. Bibliographies are lists, never an exciting concept, and even in context, this one isn’t earth-shattering.
I look forward to the inevitable film adaption of the novel. The wealth of geographical landmarks, a near endless series of which Kostova references, may leap to life more passionately on screen than they do on the printed page. And heaven knows, the subject matter is terrifically interesting. Who doesn’t want to read about a mysterious, ageless man who will, periodically, bite one on the neck?