Blood Read

Blood Read
Review by The Mad Bibliographer, submitted on 28-Oct-2001

A version of this review appears in The Vampire's Crypt 17 (Spring 1998). The Vampire's Crypt web site is:

Blood Read: The Vampire As Metaphor in Contemporary Culture, ed. Joan Gordon and Veronica Hollinger. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997; paperback ISBN 0-8122-1628-8; $16.50; hardcover ISBN 0-8122-3419-7; $36.50. Includes bibliography, filmography, notes, and index.

The editors' introduction to this volume describes it as "the first collection of articles and essays to focus specifically on the role of the vampire as metaphor in contemporary culture.... as a metaphor for various aspects of contemporary life." This makes BLOOD READ sound more inaccessible, if not necessarily more highbrow, than it actually is. Some of the authors are scholars and write in a dense and scholarly fashion, but others are fiction authors themselves and write about their works without reference to terms like "postmodernism" and "intertextuality." Suzy McKee Charnas tells how her desire to de-romanticize the vampire led to writing THE VAMPIRE TAPESTRY -- a novel the cooperated only in part with her aims. Jewelle Gomez, in an article titled "Recasting the Mythology: Writing Vampire Fiction," tells how she was surprised at the lack of women in vampire fiction and deliberately pushed boundaries in writing THE GILDA STORIES. Brian Stableford, who writes about himself in third person, analyzes (among other things) the sexual subtexts of his novels THE EMPIRE OF FEAR and YOUNG BLOOD. These are reader-friendly essays even when they delve briefly into the world of lit. crit.

Reader-friendly articles covering a wider variety of works include Jules Zanger's "Metaphor into Metonymy: The Vampire Next Door." Zanger notes that more recent vampires, demythologized from demonic creatures to something more like members of a secret society, have the potential to be more socially complex ... or more banal. Margaret L. Carter has written a veritable survey of "The Vampire as Alien in Contemporary Fiction," examining works as diverse as George R. R. Martin's FEVRE DREAM, Charnas's VAMPIRE TAPESTRY, Bob Leman's "The Pilgrimage of Clifford M.," and even Mel Gilden's Fifth Grade Monsters series, with its allusions to human ethnic minorities. In "Sharper Than a Serpent's Tooth," Joan Gordon analyzes SOME OF YOUR BLOOD (Theodore Sturgeon), SABELLA (Tanith Lee), and THE SILVER KISS (Annette Curtis Klause) in terms of the vampire's search for the mother.

More scholarly essays include "THE GILDA STORIES: Revealing the Monsters at the Margins" by Miriam Jones, which sets in opposition the support of hegemony implied in *being* the narrative voice and the decidedly "Other" position of narrators such as Gilda. In "Coming Out of the Coffin: Gay Males and Queer Goths in Contemporary Vampire Fiction," Trevor Holmes discusses how the figure of the vampire can mediate among goth, gay, and S/M in fiction, examining such works as VAMPIRES ANONYMOUS (Jeffrey McMahan), DIARY OF A VAMPIRE (Gary Bowen), LOST SOULS (Poppy Z. Brite), and fiction published solely on the Internet. "Techno- Gothic Japan" by Mari Kotani gives a fascinating glimpse of vampire fiction largely inaccessible to Western audiences but influential in Japan, including the novel ISHI NO KETSUMYAKU (The Blood Vessel of Stone) by Ryo Hammura, the manga (comic) POE NO ICHIZOKU (The Clan of Poe) by Moto Hagio, and Mariko Ohara's novels HYBRID CHILD and EPHEMERA THE VAMPIRE.

Some of these essays are rough going for the non-scholarly (or those who are out of practice at reading literary criticism, like me). But despite the potential difficulties, I would encourage serious or even semi-serious students of vampire fiction to check out BLOOD READ for its insights into numerous works, as well as the (sub)cultures that read and write them. It has a couple of nifty steel engraving collage illustrations, too.

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From the Library

As the 20th century evolved, rational man turned to science to explain mythology that had pervaded for thousands of years. How could a man be mistaken for a vampire? How could someone appear to have been the victim of a vampire attack? Science, in time, came back with answers that may surprise you.Anemia
A million fancies strike you when you hear the name: Nosferatu!N O S F E R A T Udoes not die!What do you expect of the first showing of this great work?Aren't you afraid? - Men must die. But legend has it that a vampire, Nosferatu, 'der Untote' (the Undead), lives on men's blood! You want to see a symphony of horror? You may expect more. Be careful. Nosferatu is not just fun, not something to be taken lightly. Once more: beware.- Publicity for Nosferatu in the German magazine Buhne und Film, 1922  

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