Friday, May 14, 2010

Review Reviewed

Andrew's awesome review of Mark Collins Jenkins' Vampire Forensics: Uncovering the Origins of an Enduring Legend (2010) makes some very valid points about my own take on the book:
Friend of the blog, Anthony Hogg, has mentioned this book at his blog and, whilst his opinion of it improved, at first he lamented the fact that the book seems to stroll through the same old areas of investigation. However, the difference between myself and Anthony is that my study of the genre has been more media orientated, whilst he has a strong background in examining the folklore/traditional aspects of the genre. As such I found the opening of the book to be a well written refresher on things I had read before and certainly a useful source for those starting their exploration of the myths behind the media.
I freely admit to being more into the folklore/historical angle of vampires. That's one of the reasons I get a big kick out of Niels' blog. Andrew's comment highlights the different approaches/levels of interest found in the field. In terms I vampirology, I've covered different approaches elsewhere.

The beauty of vampire study, is that they're so damn varied. As I've previously pointed out (byway of David Lavery) Buffy Studies, alone, has about fifty "disciplines, methods, and/or approaches". That's right: fifty. I can never get over that figure.

So, even though I'll occasionally lament that there just aren't enough books written on the historical/folkloric angle, I'll never say that they're the only angle that should be taken. We all have our own biases, after all. And the vampire, as a figure of study, exists beyond such a narrow template.

That said, I still stand by my comments on Jenkins' book. The majority of books on vampires take the expansive backdrop of the Vampire and paint on the same canvas. Yes, we Count Dracula was (partly) based on Vlad. Yeah, Polidori satirised Byron for The Vampyre. The Paole case kick-started interest in vampires in Western Europe? Ok, we got it. And gee whiz, aren't certain spirits, gods and monsters of other cultures awfully similar to vampires? Heard it before.

Give me something new. Something different. Discuss areas not usually covered by the multitude of other writers out there! That's why I find myself increasingly drawn to the obscure stuff.

When I pick up a book like Vampire Forensics, I expect it to do what it says on the tin: give me a detailed analysis of the vampire myth. Concentrate on the specific writings, places, belief systems where this manifested. I don't need a transcendent stroll through the mythologies and burial practices of other cultures. If I wanted that, I could read Summers. And have.

Give me vampires!

Keep in mind, I'm not saying Jenkins wrote a bad book. It's actually quite good in its own right. My frustration stems from being waylaid by its title. Maybe my bias is too strong. Regardless, I don't think there's much justification in giving such minor coverage to the actual vampire itself. And by "actual", yes, I mean the one of folklore and history. I know this flies in the face of the what-is-a-vampire question I left open-ended, but come on, give me a break.

Without the vampire of these dark regions, there would be none of the fictional literature and flicks lapped up by so many. There would be no vampire subculture. No fandom. Nothing. All I ask is that it be given a little more prominence; especially in a book examining "forensics". End rant.

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