Khanh the Killjoy


The Historian - Elizabeth Kostova

January 3, 2014

Dear Khanh of 2006,

I am your older, wiser self. Many things will happen in the years that have elapsed before you become the me of today. You will fall in love. You will break hearts. You will get your heart broken (karma's a bitch). You will change jobs. You will graduate from college.

Most importantly, you will become more intelligent, you will learn the art of advanced thinking because really, all college teaches you is how to get good grades by regurgitating textbooks. When you are older, as you begin to read critically, you will learn to appreciate a good book, and you will be able to identify literary bullshit when you see it.

That's all this book is. Literary bullshit.

This book is dramatic rubbish, artistic gibberish. It is nothing more than a glorified travel brochure.

Seriously, younger Khanh, what the fuck were you thinking when you enjoyed this book? You thought it was sweet, you thought it was romantic, you thought the writing was beautiful. Really? Really?

Between 2006 and 2014, you will be able to identify purple prose when you see it. You will realize that flowery prose is not good writing. Correlation does not imply causation, and good writing does not necessarily encompass a good plot.

You will be able to recognize a deus ex fucking machina when you see it. Oh, I know that you learned about deus ex machina in AP English. You learned a lot of things in English class. You learned about symbolism, foreshadowing, all that good shit, but really, it does you no fucking good unless you are able to identify it when you see it. And clearly, you did not see the tremendous, horrifying, abominable (that's a hyperbole) overuse of deus ex fucking machina upon your first perusal of this book.

You will realize that a good epistolary book involving several different characters should have the characters be actually fucking distinct. Did you seriously think this book was realistic in any way, when you cannot distinguish between the narrative of an old man, an older man, and that of a girl as she grows from her early teens?

Did you ever for a moment think upon the complete absurdity of the letters and the storytelling, particularly when said letters and spoken stories were told in excruciating minutiae. Is that realistic in any way? In your letters, have you ever once mentioned the trivialities of your evening routine, particularly when it made absolutely no relevance whatsoever to whatever point you were trying to make?

While I waited I poked up the fire, added another log, set out two glasses, and surveyed my desk. My study also served me for a sitting room, and I made sure it was kept as orderly and comfortable as the solidity of its nineteenth-century furnishings demanded. I had completed a great deal of work that afternoon, supped off a plate brought up to me at six o’clock, and then cleared the last of my papers.

When you tell a story to your friends, have you ever once mentioned the drumming of your fingertips when you're trying to tell a story of---supposedly---the utmost importance?

I drummed my fingers on the desktop. The clock in my study seemed to be ticking unusually loudly tonight, and the urban half darkness seemed too still behind my venetian blinds.

I know you are young and stupid, but you are not that stupid. Please don't tell me that this book fooled you in any way. Did you seriously buy into the letters and the "stories?"

Fucking letters. Fucking stories. Bullshit attempts at letters and storytelling and an epistolary timeline that is everything overwrought, all that is overdramatic and completely devoid of sense and rationality. I would beg for a little bit of sensationalism over sense, because overall, the plot of this story is entirely lacking in anything remotely resembling fascination, anything that would captivate and hold the imagination rather than lulls it to sleep.

You endured over 700 pages of this balderdash for a story that doesn't even bring any sense of excitement. Vlad Tepes holds no danger. He is the equivalent of a grown-up high school bully. Once powerful, he no longer holds any amount of thrall. The only remnants of his power are the few close hangers on, the few douchebags foolish enough to cling onto the remains of a long-diminished power. That high school bully might scare a few odd child here and there, with his posturing, with his scowls. You, as an adult, are no longer afraid. You, as an adult, should know better than to buy into this book's aesthetically pleasing, inconsequential claptrap.

Reluctantly yours,

An older, a more erudite, a considerably more critical

- Khanh