Hey! I read a book, for fun!


Whilst unwinding the past few days, I picked up some light reading, a horror story, The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires. Recommended!

I was concerned when I started because the protagonists weren’t people I immediately empathized with: it’s a group of Southern ladies, somewhat upscale, getting together to discuss Great Novels in a monthly book club while sipping tea from the good china. But then it splinters, and a subgroup decides they’d rather discuss grisly true crime books, and then a vampire moves in down the street. You’d think they’d be primed to recognize the behavior of a serial killer, even a supernatural one, but it instead triggers some intense internal conflicts. A good Southern matron is always polite, even to blood-sucking fiends. When the stress gets too intense, one of them suggests her strategy: vacuum the drapes. Work twice as hard to keep the house clean and proper, because that’s the women’s job. Their husbands are all useless, even joining in money-making deals with the vampire, who has quite a bit of capital, all cash, stuffed into gym bags.

Also, at first, the vampire focuses on eating young black children in the poor part of town, so it’s easy to close their eyes to the horror…until he starts eyeing their children. Then, finally, they wake up to the sexism and racism in their traditional lives, and band together to fight the evil.

Over half the novel is about social consciousness and how blind they were to their own failings, which evil exploited and flourished upon, so my fellow social justice warriors will appreciate it even as you get pissed off at the characters screwing up because getting their kids into a good school was a higher priority than dealing with the blood-sucker in their midst. But there is also stuff for horror fans in there: the vampire is the slimy repulsive kind who summons rats, not sparkly at all (although he seems to blend in well with Southern bidnessmen), and there is a fair bit of gore and death and even undead rape, so it does get somewhat squicky, especially near the climax. There is also a scene where they explore the vampire’s attic in which the author dwells a bit too much on how awful all the spiders are, so it’s not quite perfect.

If you’re on a beach or on a plane, though, it’s a fast entertaining read, but only if you like the horror genre. It doesn’t compromise on the vampire nightmare stuff, and also doesn’t condescend to the Southern ladies in the story. They’re tough, and they do what needs to be done in the end.

Comments

  1. weylguy says

    With the exception of a few fiction works (like Shakespeare’s plays, Bradbury’s short stories or Nabokov’s Lolita), I find works of fiction to be a total waste of time, much like playing video games. I read a lot of technical stuff, mainly to glean the information I’m interested in, but I rarely read an entire text book. How anyone with Myers’ work load and time constraints can find the time to read nonsense is beyond my comprehension. Slaying vampires?! Oh come on.

  2. Randall Slonaker says

    @weylguy-As a young boy, reading fiction expanded my mind, and taught me that there was a great big, exciting world out there, beyond the confines of my little, mostly white neighborhood, and my white, Christian family. It also taught me that this great big world we live in during the present era was shaped by the events of the past. Perhaps most importantly, reading fiction teaches empathy and understanding for others, including (or perhaps, especially) those who are different from us.
    If you find these sorts of things to be wastes of time, that says far more about you than it does good fiction, let alone those of us who promote and appreciate it.

  3. PaulBC says

    Randall Slonaker@4 I agree with the point that it’s good to have metaphors and language for things that happen in life. OTOH, it’s sort of sad to think that anyone would read fiction primarily because HBR says it’ll make them more effective in business.

  4. PaulBC says

    Reading aside, I got a lot out of watching the complete series of Buffy with my kids a few years ago. It’s not about vampires per se, but about how human beings respond to moral quandaries. It has its silly moments too, but fiction is a means to explore ideas without having to say “Bzzzt! Wrong answer.” all the time.

  5. stroppy says

    When I first heard of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, I thought it was something to strenuously avoid, but I started watching it when nothing else was on. I was glad I did. It fulfilled some requirements I have for this kind of fiction, namely it didn’t take itself too seriously and it had an underlying sense of humor. Anything that can make me smile or laugh is gold to me, because otherwise life sucks and then you die.

    A plug here for “Orphan Black” for a whole lot of reasons (including humor and as a sort of master class in production) which raises a philosophical question about nature and nurture and plays out various scenarios on that theme.

  6. JustaTech says

    Hey weylguy @1, why was that necessary? Dr Myer expressed enjoyment in an activity that hurt no one. Why do you have to act like this was a bad thing?
    If you don’t like to read, that’s fine.

    But why do you have to act like all storytelling is a waste of time? It’s how people relate to others.

    (The next time someone denigrates an activity that you enjoy, remember that feeling and ask yourself why you wanted to inflict it on others.)

  7. says

    Well, I for one am truly impressed by your stunning intellect, superior grasp of what’s important, and outstanding time management skills, weylguy @1, and don’t let anyone tell you that you come across as a pretentious wet blanket. You probably don’t even own a television either and I find that admirable.

  8. PaulBC says

    I’m unsure whether weylguy@1 was serious or tongue in cheek. His list of exceptions is arbitrary and oddly specific. Maybe some clarification is needed here. Granted, if it was intended as sarcasm, it didn’t land that way.

  9. blf says

    The mildly deranged penguin points out “technical works” are often fiction (well, fictional). Latest example is the instructions for unblocking a certain on-line account, which references (and even purports to show (in a fuzzy image)) a totally non-existent facility. Focusing on “technical works” for experts, there’s this thing called “Errata”, some of which can be astonishing. (A certain incident with the redundant power transfer switch to a multi-million dollar server springs to mind… broadly, the instructions, description, and diagram were all incorrect / inconsistent, and practically ensured the server would go down in the event one of the two independent power sources failed, exactly the situation the transfer switch was supposed to prevent.)

  10. garysturgess says

    To misquote Dead Poet’s society, work, technical manuals, and the like are all noble pursuits, and necessary to sustain life*, but fiction and enjoyment: these are what we stay alive for.

    *Under capitalism, anyway.

  11. says

    PaulBC@8

    I used to watch a lot of Star Trek, from TNG up to Enterprise. In my recollection, a lot of the really good episodes were actually about moral choices.

  12. Skeptic Jackal says

    weylguy @1

    I find works of fiction to be a total waste of time, much like playing video games

    “Sadness” and “perplexity” do not even start to describe my reaction to such an attitude.
    I guess you’re not interested in knowing that Ursula K. LeGuin had to say about the role of fiction in the current society, then:

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