Thursday, July 02, 2015

Rise of the Vampire – review

Author: Erik Butler

First published: 2013

Contains spoilers

The blurb: Before Bella and Edward; Stefan and Damon Salvatore; and Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter, there was Lestat and Louis, The Lost Boys, and Buffy Summers. Before True Blood and Let the Right One In, there was Dark Shadows and Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles. And then there is the most prominent of them all: Dracula, immortalized by Bram Stoker in 1897. Whether they’re evil, bloodsucking monsters or sparkling like diamonds in the sunlight, vampires have been capturing our imagination since their modest beginnings in the rustic fantasies of southeastern Europe in the early eighteenth century. Today, they’re everywhere, appearing even in movies in Japan and Korea and in reggae music in Jamaica and South Africa. Why have vampires gone viral in recent years?

In The Rise of the Vampire, Erik Butler seeks to explain our enduring fascination with the creatures of the night. Exploring why a being of humble origins has achieved success of such monstrous proportions, Butler considers the vampire in myth, literature, film, journalism, political cartoons, music, television, and video games. He describes how and why they have come to give expression to the darker side of human life—though vampires evoke age-old mystery, they also embody many of the uncertainties of the modern world. Butler also ponders the role global markets and digital technology have played in making vampires a worldwide phenomenon. Whether you’re a fan of classic vampire tales or new additions to the mythology, The Rise of the Vampire is a fascinating look at our collective obsession with the undead.

The review: I have looked at Erik Butler’s previous volume, Metamorphoses of the Vampire in Literature and Film: Cultural Transformations in Europe, 1732-1933 and stated in the review “This is not a book, however, for the casual reader.” This is the reference book more designed for that casual reader, a quick foray through the flora and fauna that make up the media vampire (and a little touch on folklore).

There were moments within where I found myself disagreeing with him. The assertion that in Carmilla Le Fanu “hints at Lesbianism but never shows it” is one interpretation, however I believe Le Fanu showed much – in the dialogue and the scene where he quite obviously has Laura, whilst fed upon, orgasm belies that interpretation. Or interpreting the pure in heart maiden requirement for Ellen in Nosferatu as virginal (and thus her and Hutter having not consummated their marriage) was, I think, interesting but not necessarily the correct interpretation.

One assertion I must mention is that the Rocky Horror Picture Show is a vampire film – I found the logic here thin but perhaps a mention of Anyab, the Egyptian rip-off of the Rocky Horror Picture Show in which the Frank equivalent character is a vampire, might have shored up the argument.

But, hey, no matter what Butler always gives food for thought and is a joy to read. This volume probably is a little too fleet through the subjects but that aids its readability. It is referenced and has an index. 8 out of 10.

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