Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Accented Historians

I recently finished listening to The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova, which was a very enjoyable 30 hours. I got Mom started on the deadtree version of it as well, and tonight read a few chapters aloud to her while she did some packing for her impending move. The chapters I read mostly took place in Istanbul, so I got a considerable amount of practice doing a Turkish accent, as well as a bit of Romanian for one of the main characters. Not something I'd ever tried before, but I had the characters' voices in my head from Paul Michael's excellent narration, so that helped. I love how some of those accents really roll the syllables around so thoroughly while they're still way back in the throat. The back of my tongue is actually kind of tired from it. Fun, though.

While I'm talking about this book, I'd like to say that the title and cover could both really have been chosen much better. As it is, it actually took me a long time before I realized this was something I actually wanted to read. First of all, I don't know what that weird cover design is all about, with a sideways slice of someone's head spliced on top of a curtain or something. (The back cover is actually kind of cool, though.) And "The Historian" isn't much of a title (though it eventually turns out to be kind of interesting to see exactly who all the historians are in the story). Something like "The Book of Drakulya" or even just "Drakulya" would have worked and been more interesting, I think. Though perhaps it doesn't quite catch the right feel of the overall book. Maybe "Drakulya's Historian" as a compromise.

Good book overall, though, and I thought it was neat following multiple generations of the storyline at once. You have to be kind of willing to be a vicarious historian yourself to read it, though, as there is much more historicizing than actual action, and it could get to be a long slog if you're not into reading letters from medieval monks or whatever. Heh, so maybe it is an appropriate title afterall. It's more interesting than it sounds, though.

4 comments:

arrianwin said...

Hi, i have just read you review of The Historian and i have to say i agree with you for the most part, the book itself is rather long winded on narrative and short on actual occurance, yet the style of prose is agreeable to say the least. However your comment on the naming of the text did amuse me somewhat, i agree that the mystical naming of the text may have been better replaced by the words The Diplomat or something that was more akin to the direction which the text follows.

I have a question for you though, do you feel that the Dracula myth has already been used and abused by literature and does this text REALLY acheive its goal of taking the legend of a LEGEND ( no pun on the text I am legend i assure you!) soeplace new in the world of literature?

i would be interested in your thoughts.

arrianwin

my blog: arrianwin.blogspot.com

Graham said...

Well, I haven't really read a ton of Dracula/vampire literature, actually. Bram Stoker's, of course, and also Interview with the Vampire, but that's about it. So I may not be as jaded as some about the subject. I certainly enjoyed this one, though, and it was definitely unlike any other book I've read. I don't know if it's something new in the whole world of literature, but in my little subset of that world, I approve. If you're wondering something along the lines of "was it worth Kostova's bothering to write this," I'd say yes.

reno said...

Hi Graham !

Just to say that it's a real plesure to visit your blog.

I'll be back every week !

Greetings

Reno

arrianwin said...

thanks... i really appriciate your views on the subject! i definatly find this book is a worthwhile read, if a little long winded, it does add yet another perspective to a long held debate.

speak soon
Arrianwin :)