Author: Mathew Bunson
First Published: 1993
This should be a simple review. This encyclopaedia contains “over 2000 entries on the myth, legend, and lore” of the vampire and therefore all is good. Things are never that easy however.
The book was published in 1993, mine is the edition released in 2000, and yet there do not seem to have been any updates of the entries. Given the high number of vampire books and films released since 1993, I would have hoped that the publishers would have asked Bunson to produce an updated edition. Even if brand new entries had not been added, it is clear that entries such as the one on Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles could have been updated to include later books rather than stalling at “The Tale of the Body Thief”. As such the book is caught in time.
Which brings me to gripe number two; I disagree with some of the entries. I shall use the entry referring to Lilith as an example. Bunson writes:
“The Queen of the Night, portrayed in Hebrew legend as the first woman, created to be the wife of Adam, but with such an evil spirit that she departed Adam’s side to dwell with the forces of darkness.”
This is far from my understanding of the legend. The way I understand it, Lilith refused to be dominated by Adam and insisted that, when coupling, she was on top. When her wishes were refused she became (self) exiled and then a woman scorned. Lilith essentially is the first feminist and the myth underlines the misogynous view that stated that women must be always under men (literally and metaphorically). This is not mentioned at all.
To be fair, I do not find such fault with most of the entries but, those that I did, stood out glaringly to me. Another example concerned the book Dracula:
“Ranked as the greatest work of the genre (fans of Interview with a Vampire or ‘Salem’s Lot would disagree)”
This is presumptive. I am a fan of Interview and ‘Salem’s Lot, but I still rank Bram Stoker’s Dracula as the greatest work of the genre, others would not. To me an encyclopaedia should burnish you with fact and whilst, given the style of the book, opinion was not going to be avoided, that opinion should not presume the opinions of others.
The final gripe I had with the book was not the fault of the author at all but, given the huge amount of material that surrounds the genre I simply felt that over 2000 entries was simply not enough. I really wanted the book to go on and on, but such a work would be one that would consume a lifetime and, given the fact that the genre continues to grow exponentially, one that would never be complete.
All that said, the book is a good reference material for the student of the genre and is written in a friendly, chatty manner that aids consumption of the facts. Containing details of literature, myth, legend and film it is certainly, with the caveats I have listed, a book I would recommend, though it desperately needs an update.
All in all 8 out of 10.