V is for Vampire

Rating: 
4
V is for Vampire: the A to Z Guide to Everything Undead
Review by Inksucker, submitted on 7-Dec-1996

V is for Vampire: the A to Z Guide to Everything Undead
by David Skal
ISBN 0-452-27173-8

If you think you already have enough vampire encyclopedias (maybe you have Bunson's small one and Melton's massive tome), you should make room for Skal's V is for Vampire on your shelves. While it goes through the topics from A to Z like the title says, the topics it tackles are something else again.

On the surface, many of the topics covered appear to be the usual obligatory entries for any vampire encyclopedia; various films, authors, books, Highgate Cemetary, Transylvania, etc.

But a closer look will reveal that Skal's book is full of fascinating psychological information relevant to the topic. Even in discussions of films, etc where many encyclopedists confine themselves to a blurb on the plot and actors involved, Skal discusses things like oedipal themes, Freud etc.

Also scattered throughout the book are topics I've never seen in any other vampire encyclopedia but are very relevant to the whole topic of vampires and vampirism; Darwin, castration, xenophobia, rape, codependency, fellatio, and many others.

Take for exmaple, bite marks - what can you say about bite marks? Well, here's what Skal did in over a page of information. Bite mark styles are as changeable as hemlines. In the 19th century they occured over the heart - the traditional location of the emotions which lent a poetic atmosphere to the act of vampirism. Stoker changed all that when he moved the biting location to the neck. And the consternation that the other characters exhibited when they found the bite marks may have reflected the underlying, but rarely talked about concerns with the then-uncurable syphilis. As time has gone on, and films acquired colour, not to mention more aggressively domineering vampires starting with Christopher Lee, the small bite marks have gradually evolved into huge ragged wounds with lots of blood and gore.

Those of you who have read Skal's excellent Hollywood Gothic will already be familiar with his well written and accurate information. But in this book he has an extra treat in store for you - humour. In fact the humour helps to emphasise the message as in this line from the entry on television: The great technological vampire of modern times, television rests in a box and is especially active at night, when it mezmerizes us with it's baleful gaze.

Or how about this entry on the film Vampire at Midnight: It had to happen - psychobabble goes gothic! He goes on to explain that the ambience is, ahem, drop-dead chic

Anyway, by now you probably have figured out that I REALLY liked this book. It was tough to find here in Canada - I had to order it, but well worth the wait.

Fanged Films

Canada, 1992
Forever Knight
USA, 1985
Fright Night

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  

Drawn to Vamps?

Vol. 1 No. 2
Welcome to the Jungle
Vol. 1 No. 129
The Lottery