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Chance's Take on Books

I'm a novelist who loves to read and discuss all things word-bound.

Currently reading

Swann's Way
Marcel Proust, Lydia Davis
Artful Sentences: Syntax as Style
Virginia Tufte
The Chicago Manual of Style
John Grossman, Margaret D. Mahan
I'll Never Get Out of This World Alive
Steve Earle
Dracula - Bram Stoker I've visited the shrine where vampire horror all began, and I happily pay homage. The Dracula novel surpasses all the old movies, in my opinion. To enjoy it throughly, I set aside modern jade and prejudice and simply enjoyed the story with as fresh eyes as was muster-able. Dark forests and mists and wolves. Red eyes, sharp teeth, mists and seduction. Chilled as terror-cicles in the blood. To Stoker's credit, his novel, now over 100 years old, remains creepy, and page-turningly-bold.

One observation, or point of discussion, is the evolution of villains and evil in culture. In Dracula, evil is straight forward: the vampire is dead/unclean, repelled by sacred objects, repulsive, and, any attraction is sexual in nature--but here, sexual attraction to be fought against-- its allure is a trap that leads to the soul's death and destruction. Upon defeat, Dracula gains a moment of peace, perhaps grateful for having been staked and beheaded.

In modern times, from Interview with a Vampire to Twilight, True Blood, Vampire Diaries, et al, evil is allowed to speak to the reader directly. Evil has a story, can love, can be loved, hey--the monster's not all that bad if you don't mind a little gore and carnage. Our culture desires romance with vampires. We want to be vampires, live forever, be as strong as superman--lose our fear of the night. The shade of evil is less clear. Some vampires play the role of bad guys, others are warm, fuzzy and heroic. The world is more complicated, you see.

I believe this comes from our wanting to weaken evil, make evil not so scary as all that. Reduce our fears by showing a 'human' side to evil, beyond the motivation of Dracula which was to simply survive, reap a little vengeance now and then, or take on a few servants as needed.

Humanized evil is popular now. Zombies, werewolves and vampires are not that much different than us. Perhaps this is a positive view, if we apply it on foreign people and cultures -- less demonizing and more tolerance of, er, different appearances and lifestyles. If such is the case, I'll praise the modern horror trends. Fear is a rotten motivator of worldly action.

As for straight out horror in literature, the more alien, unknown, and unknowable the slimy, dark-hearted critter is, the more I'm likely to keep the light on and the covers pulled up to my chin after a night of reading. This frightful feeling is fun in fiction, but for real life, I prefer tolerance and cute vampires who can handle crosses and garlic, yet struggle with morality and the pursuit of meaning in life. I think Stoker might not mind the variety and abundance of nightmares his work helped spawn. He may even have enjoyed Buffy, who, come to think of it, is not all that different than Mina--without all the Victorian dressage.