Zombies and werewolves and monsters, Oh My!

25Mar10

I was reading Selena Chambers March post, Stay Tombed: Is Monster Lit Worth Unearthing? on bookslut today, and it was a lot of fun. It did convince me that I want to read A. E. Moorat’s Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter, which would be something of a new genre for me.

First edition cover (Wikipedia)

So what do monsters represent in monster lit and what do they represent in kidlit? OK. That’s asking for a huge and meaningless generality of an answer, because they do have nuanced meanings in different books, of course.

What about vampires? I haven’t read the Twilight series, and though I’ve read Interview with . . . I don’t remember enough of it to look at it critically without a thorough reread. I do remember Bram Stoker’s Dracula, and I remember M. T. Anderson’s Thirsty.

I could be wrong, but I guess most of you have read Dracula, so I won’t recap that story in any detail. It is a classic, and Harker’s harrowing escape followed by Lucy’s slow death, the revelation that she has become a vampire and is murdering children, the hunt for her and the confrontation with her husband ratchet up the tension in a way modern horror novel can only aspire to. It can’t be too much of a shock that Dracula’s slow draining of Lucy’s life and his sharing of blood with Mina are, gasp!, sexually layered metaphors.

In Anderson’s Thirsty, the protagonist turns into a vampire.

The first sentence in the prologue to Thirsty lets the reader know where she is. “In the spring, there are vampires in the wind.” This is not the world as the reader knows and understands it. This is a place where vampires are. “People see them scuffling along by the side of country roads.” But this is not a place far from the reader, either. It is close enough. Vampires wear “things they have taken off bodies or bought on sale.” Here is a point of contact with the reader’s world. Mundane. Bought on sale. The protagonist listens to the news to find out where the vampires are. Rituals to keep the vampire god at bay are held at a Texaco station and a White Hen Pantry. Suddenly, the reader is not as safe as she would like to be. This is close to her world.

from Amazon

Other things disturb. Thirsty is written in present tense, not the narrative past tense. Past tense tells the reader that the narrator survived to tell the story, survived the journey she now follows him on. Thirsty is also written in first person, so the reader is there inside the protagonist no matter what happens . . .. Even the protagonist’s name, when the reader finally learns it, is disturbing: Chris. Chris has Christ-like overtones, and Christ was crucified for the sins of humanity, to save humanity. Does this, the reader wonders, foreshadow a major theme of the novel? Well, duh.

More on this tomorrow.

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