My 10th grade science teacher — who would always greet us in the morning and expect a “Good morning, Mr. Aspen,” back in return — would always tell us about the things he could be doing instead of teaching us how a cell divides or just what exactly cycles in the Krebs Cycle. He could be lounging on the beach with the Coppertone Beach Babes because he was a famous baseball player. (I have no idea. Do baseball players do this? All I know is that curling players get wicked ah-some mah-ple syrup, eh?) Or he could be a zillionaire twice over because one day, as he was eating waffles, he accidentally got said maple syrup on a piece of paper, rushed out the door and noticed that it was stickily attached to the wall, he could have invented something that everybody uses today. He could be doing anything besides teaching a bunch of snot-nosed, pink-haired (that was me!) punks.
At first I took this to be his lackadaisical approach to my still squishy and ungooshed mind (both of which are, by the way, scientific terms first described to me in the Krebs cycle that have to do with something being in a malleable state, much like Taylor Lautner’s face) like some kind of horrible opposite-world Stand and Deliver.
Then, as I grew older and the words, “Good morning, Mr. Aspen” became second nature to me, I realized that he wasn’t pining away for bikini-clad babes or a Scrooge McDuck-sized vault full of money, but that he had real respect for these other professions and made this be known by teaching our fragile minds that the greatest expectations we have are just there to be shattered when we realize that all baseball players are on steroids and that sticky notes aren’t really all that impressive and that our trust funds come from escaped criminals from Australia. (Coming soon to a theater near you: Kurt Russell *explosion* His eyepatch *arrrr* ESCAPE FROM AUSTRALIA. Summer 2010.) That you aim for something high and you fail.
In the end, however, I did learn something from 10th grade. Instead of remembering what the Krebs Cycle is, all I took from Mr. Aspen is that I will aim high and end up a bitter old cat-lady with blue tattoos mumbling about how I could have been a World-Famous Roller Derby Doll surrounded by scantily-clad Nathan Fillions or have invented aglets or something, but alas, I just write random posts on the Internet next to some lolcats and that youtube video of Charlie the Unicorn. What a glamorous life.
So, here’s a list of books I wished I had written but haven’t.
Now, as your humble host and narrator (because I’m deluding myself that ‘narrator’ is one step up from ‘blogger’), you must by now know that I divide everything in the world into two very rigid categories. Things that have vampires in them and things that are slightly less awesome because they don’t. With that in mind, proceed cautiously, wear proper eye protection, and pick up a book and read sometime. You know, the ones with paper and funny-smelling spines?
1.) The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov. I wrote a 94 page honors thesis on this book and I still love it. I read it every April because that’s when it takes place. I can read this puppy in Russian without knowing Russian that well because I just know the story that well. It’s about the time when the Devil went down to Moscow to prove he exists. There’s also naked witches flying hogs, a talking, chess-playing, vodka-drinking black cat, a hero who shows up in the mental asylum, Pontius Pilate, and, oh yeah, your mom. Don’t worry about it; just know it is spectacular.
Does it have vampires? Yes. A naked one with flaming red hair.
2.) The Brothers Karamazov and Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. Let’s face it. My man D never really writes different books, but just the same one over and over with different characters. What happens when man thinks he has replaced God? (A theme that runs throughout most of my favorite novels) What happens when everything is permitted? You start hallucinating, basically. The Devil pops up in the Bros K as well. (Oh hey there, Lucifer. Say hello to your mother for me.)
Does it have vampires? No, sadly. Though if we’re talking about spiritual vampires, then cuss, yeah.
3.) Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. Objectivism! Who is John Galt? (Me. I was John Galt for Halloween once. It was a name-tag costume — thanks, Oz! — and everyone asked me, “Who’s John Galt” and I replied, “Exactly.” I was a strange child.) This book changed my life at 14 mostly because it was assigned summer reading and the first book I had ever read that was over 1000 pages. I’ll leave you with another excited statement: Philosophical discourse!
Yeah, but are there vampires in it? If it’s 1000+ pages, they’d better be naked, like in the first one. No, sadly. Though I have a few friends who say Ayn Rand should burn in hell, so that should count for something.
4.) The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie. Oh, hey, Lucifer. Did you ever see a Perfect Storm, Lucifer? This book is almost incomprehensible to me because I’ve only ever read it once, but hopefully both of those things will change. Basically, Rushdie takes The Master and Margarita and transports it to India and London. Brilliantly written, philosophically intriguing, and did I mention that I love to be confused?
Vampires? No. That was, alas, one thing that did not transfer over.
5.) We by Evgenii Zamyatin. This book inspired 1984 and is, in my humble opinion, far superior. It’s a dystopian novel, but one that follows the experiences of an engineer as he starts to go coo-coo for Cocoa Puffs. It’s Russian, has beautiful symbolism and is rather heart-breaking.
Vampires? Uh, uh, death! I mean cake! No, you said death first! No, there are no vampires.
6.) Guilty Pleasures by Laurell K. Hamilton. Yes, yes there are vampires! Finally.
7.) Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov.
8.) A Hero of Our Time by Mikhail Lermontov.
9.) The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas.
10.) Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig.
This list is by no means exhaustive or really all that vampire-inclusive. Let’s face it. A lot of books with vampires in them just aren’t very good. Where’s Interview with a Vampire you ask? Because you’re a hard-hitting reporter (not unlike April O’Neil) and I’m Tom Cruise speaking about Scientology. I read the first five books in the series when I was younger, more squishable and ungooshier, and I just couldn’t do it anymore. Like eating too much ice cream, I received an aristocratic-vampire-who-cries-too-much tooth ache from reading them back to back. And, to be honest, everything goes sharply downhill after Queen of the Damned. Maybe one day, when my looks have faded a little, I’ll be able to come back and appreciate them, but for now, just oogle Brad Pitt’s oh-I’m-such-a-bad-‘n-broody-vampire face just right before Claudia talks him into killing Lestat.