Belated Presents

Whenever someone asks me what I want for Christmas or my birthday, I respond with “Books.” And by “Books”, I of course mean vampire non-fiction. They rarely listen. Even if they do, buying for me is not an easy task considering my the breadth of my collection.

Jo (last mentioned here) understands, though, which is why she gives me cash to buy them. However, to make such gifts (slightly) more personal, I get her to order them through her own online accounts. The following books were bought as belated Christmas/birthday presents on June 27 via Book Depository.

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If you’re in the US or the UK, you get free shipping if you order a certain amount of books. I don’t have that luxury as an Aussie resident—especially when you factor in currency exchange rates, which can get a little crazy. That’s why I love Book Depository. They provide free shipping. For everything. Worldwide.

I’ll now take the opportunity to elaborate on why I wanted these items and give a little overview on them based on (very) cursory readings. Each entry is prefigured by the date the book arrived in my mailbox. The title links go straight to their Book Depository listings.


July 9

The Vampire Goes to College: Essays on Teaching with the Undead / Lisa A. Nevárez (ed.)

This book featured in the first instalment of “Upcoming Books” for this blog. I wrote, “this is the book I’m looking forward to most on this list. I’m interested in the idea of using vampires as a teaching aid”. There’s more to it than that. This book highlight the interdisciplinary nature of vampire studies. In that respect, it could well be one of the greatest vampire books ever published.

It features an essay by Heide Crawford called “”But why do they have fangs?” The Cultural History of the Vampire as a Teaching Strategy in the Literature Classroom”, an excellent primer on versing students with historic texts and establishing “fixed points”—as my friend, Amelia Mah, calls them—of vampire characteristics. Here’s a list of its other essays.

I would recommend this book for anyone teaching vampire courses, wanting to start one or wanting to study one. This should be an essential addition to college library collections and your own.


July 10

The Rise of the Vampire / Erik Butler

This one featured as an “Upcoming Book” way back in 2012. This was an essential addition due to my familiarity with Butler’s previous work, Metamorphoses of the Vampire in Literature and Film: Cultural Transformations in Europe, 1732-1933 (2010).

The difference between that book and this one, is that the academic language has been toned down somewhat, but it’s still incredibly informative. The introduction gives a brief history of vampirism, but also gives itself enough space to discuss intriguing political aspects in the Arnod Paole case.

It’s a much easier read than Metamorphoses, but doesn’t skimp on (almost) subversive analysis. You’ll enjoy it and learn something new, too. This is what mainstream vampire books should be like. More, please.


July 11

Fanpire: The Twilight Saga and the Women Who Love It / Tanya Erzen

I’ve had my eye on this one for a long time. We can’t underestimate the cultural impact Twilight had not only on vampire circles (why else do you people still make jokes about “sparkly” vampires?), but on mainstream culture, too. Look at all the buzz around the upcoming 50 Shades of Grey movie—based on an incredibly successful novel that began life as Twilight fan-fic. This shit resonates.

The question is, why? I’ve already accumulated a decent amount of books about the Twilight Saga (never read them, though), but many lack the personal touch journalistic books tend to. That’s why this one interests me. That said, yesterday, I came upon the greatest summary of the series I’ve read so far:

Look, I get it. When Twilight first came out, I was right there on the front lines, man, hating the shit out of that book and writing goofy jokes about it for my college newspaper (because I was so, so cool in college). But, about a year ago, I had a revelation: It’s not fair to judge Twilight as a story, because that’s not what it is. It’s just porn. It’s emotional porn for girls. That’s fine. I don’t judge my porn by its plot or whether or not its hilariously, disgustingly sexist, so there’s no reason people who enjoy Twilight should either. Besides, it’s not like anyone’s pretending it’s a serious thing. Including the people who made it. (Sargent 2014)

Now when you factor in poor writing, widespread popularity and the fact that it actually spawned another S & M franchise, “emotional porn” is the best description I’ve ever come across.


July 16

Written in Blood: A Cultural History of the British Vampire / Paul Adams

Yep, this is another one I’ve had my eye on for a while. I like the “British Vampire” angle. Culturally specific works—even in Britain, where the vampire is certainly not “native”—are ripe for honed exploration. However, this is a mainstream work, published by The History Press. Would it be too generic for my liking? Funnily enough, the tipping point for me buying it was something David Farrant said on his blog:

I would like to extend an invitation on behalf of The Spooky Isles to all readers of my ‘The Human Touch’ Blog to attend the launch of Paul’s forthcoming book ‘Written in Blood – A Cultural History of the British Vampire’, on July 12th. There will be a short introduction to Paul’s book by myself, which I was asked to contribute in light of my central involvement in the Highgate ‘vampire’ case when it first hit the headlines in 1970, and my continued research into the genuine phenomena which inspired this particular vampire myth over the proceeding 44 years (to date!). I believe that Paul also wants me to do a short interview about psychic research and my own views on ‘vampires’. Although I am a psychic investigator, and not ‘Britain’s Number One Psychic’ (anyone who promotes themselves in such ways would obviously be inviting scepticism regarding their claims, especially where these are fantastical! ), I feel that I can confidently predict that Paul’s book will ‘go down a storm’ when it hits the shelves. It is a ground breaking work, and his handling of the Highgate ‘vampire’ case has been very objective, unlike many stories which have appeared in the popular press. The number of books which have featured this case over the years is astonishing – as is the space they take up in my flat, as people tend to send these to me either because I have contributed or for my general interest. However it is rare to find a text upon this subject which pushes the envelope (or goes the extra mile, however one chooses to phrase it), and presents the facts in a cohesive and fresh style, but above all accurately. (2014)

Now, when David ladles effusive praise for someone who’s written about his involvement in the Highgate Vampire case, it means a) he’s friends with them, b) he gets off lightly in their writing in contrast with Sean Manchester, his arch-nemesis.¹

Indeed, Farrant’s silly “Although I am a psychic investigator, and not ‘Britain’s Number One Psychic’ (anyone who promotes themselves in such ways would obviously be inviting scepticism regarding their claims, especially where these are fantastical!” comment is actually one of his atypically passive-aggressive jibes at his former friend, Manchester, who used to parade under the “Britain’s Number One Psychic” moniker in the 1980s.

Nonetheless, I took a punt on Adams’ book. And you know what? I was pleasantly surprised. Not only does Adams give a pretty balanced treatment of the case, but he’s obviously put effort in with digging up sources, too; his coverage of the Croglin Vampire case is another stand-out. So, give this book a shot. I’m glad I did.


Note

¹ A notable exception is Kai Roberts, who David lavished with praise, despite the author’s insistence that

It is almost impossible to present an accurate record of the Highgate Vampire drama because – in the opinion of this author, at least – the two principal players [Sean Manchester and David Farrant] have consistently proved to be unreliable witnesses, repeatedly altering or embellishing their recollection of events, often in an attempt to undermine each other’s credibility. (Roberts 2011, 91)

You have to wonder whether he actually bothered reading the thing before praising it, or the notorious publicity hound was just happy seeing his name in lights.


References

Farrant, David. 2014. “The Launch of Written In Blood – By Paul Adams.” The Human Touch, June 3. Accessed July 31, 2014. http://davidfarrant.org/TheHumanTouch/the-launch-of-written-in-blood-by-paul-adams/.

Roberts, Kai. 2011. Grave Concerns: The Follies and Folklore of Robin Hood’s Final Resting Place. Bideford, UK: CFZ Press.

Sargent, J. F. 2014. “5 Behind-the-Scenes Features That Show Why Movies Went Wrong.” Cracked, July 29. Accessed July 30, 2014. http://www.cracked.com/blog/5-behind-the-scenes-features-that-show-why-movies-went-wrong/.

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2 thoughts on “Belated Presents

  1. Pingback: ASMSG Horror-Thriller Emagazine – Belated Presents

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