Thursday, January 28, 2010


I went to see Elizabeth Kostova at Powell's last night. I went, primarily, to decide whether or not I want to read her new novel, The Swan Thieves.

The Historian was her first novel, a book about Dracula that jumped centuries and used many different forms - journals, letters, first person, etc. I think the century jumping and the various forms made the book that much creepier, perhaps more adding more mystery and intrigue. I did enjoy it.

The new one, The Swan Thieves, is set in the US and in France, and is about art and artists. Doesn't quite grab me from the description the way The Historian did, even though I haven't been a Dracula (or vampire) afficianado.

A friend of mine at work and I talked about The Swan Thieves and whether or not we were planning on reading it soon. It wasn't grabbing her either, but she wanted to wait and hear about it from other people before she decided. So maybe I went to the reading/signing for both of us.

At the event, Elizabeth Kostova came out and read a chapter (chapter 67) and the prologue. There was a lovely evocative description in the prologue of an artist seeing a woman as a subject in his painting and how she would be placed on the canvas, and also realizing that she is a real woman. The juxtaposition of the woman as subject of a painting and the woman as a real person was stunning. Though after she read I still wasn't persuaded either way, to read or not to read.

And then came the Q & A. One person asked her which authors have been her inspiration. She right off said 19th century authors - Dickens, George Eliot, Virginia Woolf, Tolstoy... She loved that novels written then tend to have much more literary style and merit (as opposed to Dan Brown style writing, which elicited applause).

And then I realized - The Historian feels like it was written by a 19th century author, long and complex, which can be delicious. I also realized that I don't want to read a 19th century novel right now.

So there. Decided. Not never, just not now.

At work I picked up Joseph Monninger's Eternal on the Water. Not familiar with the author (who evidently is an award-winning author, though the promotional literature doesn't say what he won an award FOR, nor what award he won), it looked intriguing. Described as "Chris Bohjalian meets Nicholas Sparks by way of Walden Pond"...I have to say that the Nicholas Sparks part put me off a bit, but I figured that I could start the book and if I don't like it, can always quit.

So far I'm enjoying it, even though the two main characters have met and fallen in love, the kind of love one searches for their whole lives, in less than 24 hours. Oh well, I'm just going with it. It's written in first person, which I like, and so far I'm liking the writing and the story.

There was one interchange that made me laugh...

"If the sun blew up and you had ten minutes to live, what would you do?"
"I would do push-ups, because time passes really slow when you do push-ups."


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