Monday, October 11, 2004

I Love You, Princess Ekaterina Alexandrovna

Gloria, in an astonishing act of what I can only call self-flagellation, has read Anna Karenina.

This is inconceivable. I didn't know anyone on this planet had ever read Anna Karenina without being threatened by failing grade or court order.

I know, I know. It's a classic. Tolstoy is a genius. Blah blah blah blah blah. Anna Karenina is eight hundred pages long. It's so long that you can write a book about reading it. Here's the Cliff's Notes version of Important Facts About Tolstoy: he lived in an era when paper was cheaper than editors. Anything can be explained in twenty more pages. And it is. The first line in Anna Karenina is "Vengeance is mine. I will repay." That's not an epigraph--it's a statement of work.

War and Peace? I never made it to peace.

Here's what Tolstoy had to say about his own readers: "he has to work ten, twelve, fourteen, or more hours a day, at alien, monotonous, tedious work, often pernicious to health and life." Okay, he actually said that about laborers, but who could tell?

What Tolstoy needed was a vampire. He could ramble on for thirty pages about wheat harvests or politics, but then, if he threw in a vampire, we'd all snap to attention. He was a count, after all--how much more of a hint did he need? Just lob in He would need to feed soon every third chapter and it's golden. Here's an example:
He was a completely new name in the circle of the noblemen, but he was obviously a success, and he was not mistaken in thinking that he had already gained influence among them. Contributing to that influence were: his wealth and high birth, his splendid lodgings in town, which his old acquaintance, Shirkov, a financial dealer who had established a flourishing bank in Kashin, allowed him to use; an excellent chef, whom Vronsky had brought along from the country; his friendship with the governor; who had been Vronsky's comrade, and a patronized comrade at that; and most of all his simple, equable treatment of everyone, which very soon made most of the noblemen change their opinion about his supposed pride.

He would need to feed soon.

Vampires create built-in dramatic tension. Who will they bite next? Will they make it to their coffins before the sun rises? And do they ever take showers?

Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoevsky. Now there's a guy who could have used a few vampires.

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