May 16, 2010
Little Vampire Women hit bookstores this month, another one of those mash-ups of a classic, this one penned by Lynn Messina. I’m not going to bark and whine my reason for not reading it, like I’ve done about Seth Grahame-Smith’s mash-up of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. My resistance is old news. I just want to use the idea of the demon March sisters as an introduction for admitting I tried to read Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, currently a New York Times best-seller, and can’t get myself to finish it. I’m bored.
As Grahame-Smith recounts Lincoln’s life, he inserts the presence and influence of vampires into events. In other words, we learn Lincoln’s father was killed by Shawnee Indians when plowing his fields and his mother and her great-aunt and great-uncle died from a fatal illness but — hold on — later it’s revealed they really died at the hands of a vampire. And those slaves in leg-irons trying to take Lincoln’s boat on the Mississippi? They don’t have a plantation owner on their heels. They’re running from a vampire.
In the spring issue of N+1, UCLA professor Mark McGurl discusses the current zombie literary craze in “The Zombie Renaissance.” Regarding Grahame-Smith’s mash-up efforts in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, McGurl supports my aforementioned point when he writes, “…Grahame-Smith merely tacks the equivalent of ‘and zombies’ onto various parts of Austen’s public domain text and calls it a day.”
McGurl delves into the ‘why’ of the “strangely appealing” zombie phenomenon in books not only concerning the Austen mash-up but also Max Brooks’ The Zombie Survival Guide and World War Z. He explores the philosophical zombie and the plodding zombie, and I like his thoughts about allegory. I also like his reference of the mash-up as “a sort of Trojan horse” gaining entry to great literature. I’ve thought of it in less esoteric terms, as the booze that makes a cumbersome party fun.
I watched a YouTube video of John Matteson, Louisa May Alcott’s Pulitzer Prize winning biographer, moderating a discussion about Little Women mash-ups in “Monster Throwdown: Vampires, Werewolves and Louisa May Alcott.” Here I learned Alcott wasn’t averse to ghoulishness, having written “blood and thunder tales” under a pseudonym.
Matteson plays a game with the audience called Alcott or Faux-cott in which he reads selections from Alcott’s scary tales interspersed with selections from mash-ups, including Porter Grand’s Little Women and Werewolves also published this month, to find out if the audience can distinguish between the two. (See for yourself. The style nuances and some of the words give it away.)
So here I am rambling about essays and videos about zombies and vampires that help define this popular literary trend. Meanwhile my bookmark is stuck at page 145 (out of 336 pages) in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. I nag myself to finish the darn thing, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. I keep picking up another book. I guess the “and vampires” booze doesn’t give me a buzz, even though everyone else at this Lincoln party is having a blast.