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Vampire novels I Liked Better

November 24, 2008

I think this will be my last Twilight, or vampire-related post for a bit. I’ve had a fun weekend with Twilight, paying attention to what I think, and the comparisons I draw. (Vampire Weekend! Ha! But I don’t like that band, particularly.)

Kim W. sent me a link to a very funny, sarcastic review of Twilight and a smart analysis of the reason it’s an explosive phenomenon. Go read it. And here’s Twilight by the Numbers

And now- my list of vampire visions I prefer to the sparkly and swoony world of Forks.

Of course- Dracula gets top billing. The original, Bram Stoker. The hardcover I checked out of the Cutchogue library, the summer I was 14. It was deliciously, wonderfully shivery and spooky. Some scenes were so terrifying I could barely bring myself to turn the next page. I didn’t sleep very much that week. It was wonderful.

I have been recommending The Historian to both Twilight fans, and those who found Twilight disappointing. It’s gorgeous and chilling and convoluted. Lovely prose followed both a modern mystery and the slowly unfolding spookiness that made me love reading Dracula.

The YA vampire novel I remember loving when I was a teenager was The Silver Kiss which, I hope, will garner more interest now that “Twilight” fervor has got teenage girls all frenzied for fangs. A lonely girl, an undead boyfriend. Their love tinged with the tragedy of his vampiric true nature. I feel like this is the vampire romance done right, not clumsily teetering on the edge of whining or camp. I’m afraid to reread it, because I might find myself feeling snarky, instead of fond

I loved Dead Until Dark because the no-nonsense narration from Sookie kept the vampires’ pretensions from overblown. I haven’t watched the Showtime series yet. I’m mildly curious. (Also mildly peeved that you can’t get a copy of the first book with the original, painted cover. I hate it when they cover books with their media tie-ins!) I liked the first two or three in the series of novels, but stopped reading them. I felt like the humor had faded, which really lessened their appeal.

I think what I’m getting at, as I write this list- is that a modern view of vampires can’t be Gothic. It can be terrifying, inhuman, tragic… but also has to honor the humor. Whether it’s camp, or the ragged, slightly hysterical laughter that bubbles up to temper stress and imminent danger.
To my mind, nobody strikes that balance better than… (drumroll)
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (the series.)
Granted, the medium plays to an entirely different agenda and skill set. Getting to tell the story visually, as well as through dialogue rather than description, allows a story to work differently. Episodes require self-contained mini-narratives to offset the larger tale. And establishing that story over the course of seven (or eight) seasons allows a different progression. Also worth remembering: a television series is vastly different from a novel, being intensely collaborative, rather than the work of a solitary author and a handful of editors.

Late addition to the list, one I can’t believe I omitted. “Sunshine,” by Robin McKinley.  In her world, vampires, and other magical creatures, are hidden at the edges of a much more magic-infused world, one where charms and talismans actually work, and demon blood in the ancestry can give people special talents like transforming small objects or keeping coffee pots warm.  There’s a human girl paired with a vampire, but Sunshine is fierce.  She’s feisty, fights back, may have wizard blood, and definitely bakes a mouth-watering chocolate cake.

It’s worth mentioning that I never could get into Anne Rice. Her prose never grabbed me. Ditto Laurel K. Hamilton. Aside from their writing styles, I’m not fond of the ways either one conflates vampires and eroticism. And then adds an intensity that creates utter humorlessness.
Given the way I’ve been blogging about “Twilight,” is anyone surprised? I like it when the prose, and the humor have some teeth, not just swooning and mooning and fangs.

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