Wednesday, July 06, 2011
First published: 1997
The Blurb: The vampire is one of the nineteenth century's most powerful surviving archetypes, owing largely to Bela Lugosi's portrayal of Dracula, the Bram Stoker creation. Yet the figure of the vampire has undergone many transformations in recent years, thanks to Anne Rice's Vampire Chronicles and other works, and many young people now identify with vampires in complex ways.
Blood Read explores these transformations and shows how they reflect and illuminate ongoing changes in postmodern culture. It focuses on the metaphorical roles played by vampires in contemporary fiction and film, revealing what they can tell us about sexuality and power, power and alienation, attitudes toward illness, and the definition of evil in a secular age.
Scholars and writers from the United States, Canada, England, and Japan examine how today's vampire has evolved from that of the last century, consider the vampire as a metaphor for consumption within the context of social concerns, and discuss the vampire figure in terms of contemporary literary theory. In addition, three writers of vampire fiction--Suzy McKee Charnas (author of the now-classic Vampire Tapestry), Brian Stableford (writer of the lively and erudite novels Empire of Fear and Young Blood), and Jewelle Gomez (creator of the dazzling Gilda stories)--discuss their own uses of the vampire, focusing on race and gender politics, eroticism, and the nature of evil.
The first book to examine a wide range of vampire narratives from the perspective of both writers and scholars, Blood Read offers a variety of styles that will keep readers thoroughly engaged, inviting them to participate in a dialogue between fiction and analysis that shows the vampire to be a cultural necessity of our age. For, contrary to legends in which Dracula has no reflection, we can see reflections of ourselves in the vampire as it stands before us cloaked not in black but in metaphor.
The review: In many respects Blood Read is a product of its age and it was interesting to read the discourses on the vampire as a metaphor in an age before the Buffy the Vampire Slayer phenomenon had gone full tilt and long before Twilight brought a sparkling teen romance angle to the genre.
The book is a series of essays and like all books built in such a way there are good and bad pieces within it. Mari Kotani’s look at the vampire within Japanese literature and culture was absolutely fascinating, for instance, whereas the essay by Jules Zanger irked because one got the feeling that the author had barely watched the Hunger, suggesting that Bowie and Deneuve “pick up three nameless, grungy young people” – its two and I’d hardly call them grungy – and take them to a “cheap hotel room” – it’s a house, and further suggests that we see “Catherine Deneuve’s beautiful mouth grimacing to reveal her growing incisors” - when, of course, there were no fangs in the film and the vampires used concealed knives.
That bad moment aside the rest of the essays were interesting and well researched. There was a moment when there were a series of essays by authors looking at their own work that gave me pause to thought. Brian Stableford discussed his own Empire of Fear and Young Blood, Jewelle Gomez wrote about the Gilda Stories and and Suzy McKee Charnas wrote about the Vampire Tapestry. The thing is, literally all those books are in my “to read pile”. I decided to read their contributions anyway and they have simply made me want to get to those books even more.
All in all a good read for the person looking for a scholarly look at the vampire as a metaphor – or at least as the genre had developed up to 1997. 7 out of 10.