The Lure of the Vampire, or Why We Fantasize about Dead People

Vampire lore owes its popularity to Bram Stoker and the release of Dracula in 1897 at the height of the Victorian Era. At that time there were strict rules for how men and women should act in public, such as women never appearing in public or found alone with someone who wasn’t their father, brother or husband. Women’s clothing was generally quite restrictive with high necklines, bustles (to accentuate the behind) and corsets (to cinch the waistline). Necks and ankles were considered “sexy”, only because they were, for the most part, hidden from view.

In the novel, Dracula creeps into both Lucy and Mina’s rooms whilst they sleep to bite each of them on the neck. This challenged a number of social values including men and women being alone without chaperones and men seeing women in anything other than full dress. Women were expected to restrain their desires, yet the female characters in Dracula welcome his penetration (pun intended). The titillation factor was high as a result, which might account for the popularity of the novel in the long term.

Symbolically, blood and the drawing of it have sensual connotations. Blood signifies a woman’s coming of reproductive age. It is associated with the loss of her virginity and subsequent sexual awakening. It is also spilled with childbirth (Kella), all topics that were not discussed in polite company, yet implicitly referenced in vampire lore.

The main thing that’s changed since Dracula’s heyday on the literary stage is the degree of vampiric humanity. Most vampires are young and attractive. They are driven by their appetite for blood, their lust, and their emotions. Many male vampires (think Aidan from Being Human and Damon from Vampire Diaries) epitomize the leather-clad bad-boy popularized by James Dean in the fifties and which a number of ladies still find appealing.

Modern vampires are tragic figures who, lives cut short and often sired against their will, evoke pathos in their struggle against what they’ve become and what they’ve had to do to survive the ages. They are portrayed as broken brooders in search of the one person on earth who is able to fix them. Though they sometimes mate with their peers, they often desire human companionship. Even then they are forever doomed to play Romeo to a still human Juliet, taking star-crossed lover after star-crossed lover only to watch them grow old, perish and die unless he turns her.

In spite of the myriad books, movies and television shows, vampires are still hot, the object of fear and fantasy for so many of us.

Which vampire or vampire story is your favourite? What was it that attracted you to it? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

“The Other Typist” – Flappers gone wild

In her job as stenographer for the police department, The Other Typist‘s Rose Baker is forced to hear a number of graphic and sometimes gruesome confessions not suitable for a woman’s ears. Rose is a prim and proper young woman living in 1924 New York in an era of prohibition and waning morals. When Odalie joins the steno pool, Rose distains her at first, but then she becomes fascinated by her. It’s not long before Rose becomes Odalie’s friend and roommate and Odalie becomes her obsession. When Rose enters Odalie’s world, she is thrown into a world of lies, mistaken identity and murder.  It’s not long before Rose’s world begins to unravel. She fakes a police report, attends speakeasies, runs errands for bootleggers, and fights her feelings for the Lieutenant Detective and for Odalie.

I enjoyed the inherent suspense of Suzanne Rindell’s first publication, the likes of which I have not seen since S.J. Watson’s Before I Go To Sleep. In the beginning, the mystery revolves around Odalie. I wanted to know who she was, why someone of her stature and grace wanted to work in a dirty police station. When we are taken to her upscale apartment and learn she may have a sugar daddy, I wondered why, if she had someone to pay her bills, she would need to work at all, let alone with smelly drunks and underhanded murderers. After Rose attends her first club and finds out Odalie is both bootlegger and speakeasy organizer, the mystery shifts and the reader wonders how far buttoned-up Rose will go to be near the object of her obsession. Rose soon confides she is telling her story from a hospital and seeing a psychiatrist, adding another level of intrigue. Then Teddy appears to question Odalie’s identity, claiming she is not Odalie, but Ginevra instead, and that she has something to do with his cousin’s death. Later, when Teddy shows up at the police department, the page-turning reaches manic proportion. I think I missed most of Revolution in my haste to finish the novel. After all, Kobo told me I only had 1 hour left of reading to go. Having to re-watch parts of Revolution to fill in the blanks was a small price to pay for the punch line of this amazing book.

The Other Typist is an excellent example of the unreliable narrator. In most of what we read, we grow an affinity with the narrating character. Over the course of the novel, we learn to trust the narrator, identify with her, empathize with her, maybe even imagine ourselves in her position, but this is not always the case. By the end of The Other Typist, the reader is left questioning unsuspecting, mousey Rose’s culpability in the debacle. Did Odalie drug her fiancé and leave him to die in his car on the train tracks or was it Rose? Did Rose grow up in an orphanage or was it Odalie? Was Rose the one making changes to the confessions all along or was it Odalie? Did Odalie kill Teddy or was it Rose? What about Gib? Does Odalie really disappear to begin life anew at the end or does Rose kill her too? Is Ginevra Odalie’s alter ego, or is it Rose’s? Normally I like a story to tie all loose ends into a tidy bow at the end, but somehow, having these questions burn on in my psyche long after the novel is done is more satisfying.

As is the case with Single White Female and The Talented Mr. Ripley, the suspense of The Other Typist is in the build toward the climax, wanting to see how far the characters will go, waiting for the last thread to unravel.

Have you read The Other Typist? Who do you believe is Ginevra in disguise?

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves – Book Review

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In We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler, Rosemary Cooke begins her story in the middle. She is in college in a cafeteria where she meets Harlow who is angry at her boyfriend and having a tantrum. … Continue reading

Dexter Meets Nancy Drew

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Dexter Meets Nancy Drew Harper Curtis squats in a house, the owner dead and rotting in the hallway. In his pocket he finds a key. When he uses the key in the front door, he is taken to whatever time … Continue reading

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Beautiful Twilight I have read a bit of young adult (YA) fiction in my life, more that I remember since I’ve been an adult than a young adult. Most of my exposure to YA is vicariously through my students. Every … Continue reading