Natural History

Natural History
Review by The Mad Bibliographer, submitted on 1-Jan-1992

Adapted from the column "Vampires in Print" in The Vampire's Crypt #3 (Spring 1991).

Review by Cathy Krusberg

Joan Perucho. Natural History (Knopf, 1988; Ballantine, 1990)

Natural History was originally published in 1960 -- in Catalan. This is the first English translation. Set in nineteenth-century Spain, it intertwines its Dracula_-style search-and-destroy plot with political intrigues, personal relationships, and, yes, natural history.

Protagonist Antoni de Montpalau finds himself drawn from the mere pursuit of natural history by a mysterious letter addressed to his friend, the Marquis de la Gralla. Every night, a villager of Pratdip is found dead, drained of blood, with two holes in his neck; the remaining inhabitants live in fear with only purslane for a defense against the creature they call the Dip. As a scientist, Montpalau cannot credit the existence of such creatures as the Dip, but (in a truly scientific spirit), he determines to go to Pratdip and investigate. After a few days' preliminary investigations, he sets out with his friend Novau -- in a carriage festooned with garlic.

Natural History offers a variety of episodes unparalleled in most vampire novels. Our protagonist finds himself caught in political crossfires and even a literal gunfight; is menaced by such aberrations as a vanishing bull and a dancing goat, not to mention giant fleas; saves the life of one victim of the Dip; falls in love; and still has time to indulge in the study of nature.

For the vampire fan, however, the best part of Natural History is antagonist Onofre de Dip himself. He shares the traditional vampire's need for blood, but his powers of transformation exceed Count Dracula's wildest daymares. Nonetheless, the Dip is vulnerable not only to garlic but to purslane, exorcism, and symbolic procedures much milder than what he terms "the hideous butchery prescribed by legend." In the face of this extensive catalog of our antagonist's powers and limitations, however, Perucho has shown a subtlety rare in horror authors by revealing the Dip himself only in tantalizing glimpses. The Dip is not a typical vampire; Natural History is not a typical vampire novel. If you decide to make their acquaintance first hand, be prepared for some (one hopes pleasant) surprises.

Fanged Films

Denmark, 1913
USA, 1936
Dracula's Daughter

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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