20.5.11

Book Quote Friday: Disguising the Big Stuff behind Vampires and Wolves

     I know, the last thing the world needs is another book blogger talking about vampires and werewolves. I’ll say it here: this is not a post about Twilight or any other YA adult vampire series. Nope, what I’m about to talk about here is the sexy older sister of those series, who’s had a couple of bad marriages, owns a gun maybe and has more than a few [emotional] scars. She is also hilarious and terrifying and has some big things to say about some big ol’ things. Yep, you guessed it: I’m talking about Charlaine HarrisSookie Stackhouse series.
 
Dead Until Dark Southern Vampire Mysteries, No. 1     Now, I bow down to the original fans; I’m just one of those groupies who jumped on it after watching 'True Blood', the dramatisation of the series, on TV. I started with the ‘True Blood’ omnibus of books as a gift and then rampaged my way through the rest, palms against the glass, waiting for the latest delivery; HOWEVER, I do not yet own 'Dead Reckoning', so no spoilers please! (Although it’ll be mere days). Anyway, suffice to say, I love them, as do many others. They’re witty, caustic, incisive and romantic as hell, but, most importantly, they talk about real things. Try this on for size:
   
     ‘Bill and Clancy watched with expressionless faces. They were obviously ready to handle trouble, but all seemed to be going well at the Great Reveal. The vampires’ Great Revelation night hadn’t gone so smoothly, because it was the first in the series of shocks mainstream society would feel in the years to come. Gradually vampires had come to be a recognized part of America, though their citizenship still had certain limitations…
  
     …Thoughts were churning around in Arlene’s brain like lottery balls in the popper. It was hard to tell which one would surface first.
     “Jesus, strike him dead!” said Arlene, boiling over. The hate ball had landed on top.
     A few people said, “Oh, Arlene!” …but they were all listening.
     “This goes against God and nature,” Arlene said in a loud, angry voice. Her dyed red hair shook with vehemence. “You-all want your kids round this kind of thing?”
     “Our kids have always been around this kind of thing,” Holly said equally loudly. “We just didn’t know it. And they ain’t come to any harm.” She rose to her feet, too.
     “God will get us if we don’t strike them down,” Arlene said, pointing to Tray dramatically. By now, her face was as red as her hair. Whit was looking at her approvingly. “You don’t understand! We’re all going to hell if we don’t take the world back from them! Look who they got standing there to keep us humans in line!” Her finger swung around to indicate Bill and Clancy, though since they’d resumed their chairs she lost a few points.
     I set my tray on the bar and took a step away, my hands clenched in fists. “We all get along here in Bon Temps,” I said, keeping my voice calm and level. “You seem to be the only one upset, Arlene.”

 
     To put this into context, Bill and Clancy are vampires who ‘came out of the coffin’ with all the others a couple years before, and in this scene, the werewolves and ‘shifters’ are doing the same thing, flanked by the vampires who already know the risks associated with self-revelation in the not-so-liberal-minded Deep South. Arlene, the character having a religious fit to the pride of her bigoted boyfriend, has just found out her boss and a couple of her friends can change into animals at will.

      Now, looking at the language involved, what does it remind you of? Homophobia, maybe? Anti-semitism? Post-slavery racism? It ain’t a coincidence that it’s all set in Louisiana, after all. Religious extremism? A hundred other hideous human prejudices and a whole lot of other things besides?

Dead Reckoning (Sookie Stackhouse, Book 11)     You’d be right there. Almost every issue in this series bumps against a real human issue with a precedent and a dirty past. Just to list a few more (just off the top of my head), there’s speciesism, issues of citizenship, the denial and covenants of basic human rights; there’s definitions of humanity, criticism of organised religion, scientific naturalism, ambivalent feminism; scapegoats, sacrifice and alternative sexual practices. The whole tapestry if you will, dealt with in a reasoned, satirical and adult manner. And that’s why I love these books so much (apart from Eric Northman, of course): hidden behind the supernatural smokescreen, you’ve got the whole of nasty, small-minded, difficult-to-talk-about humanity, right there on a plate, but entertainment-ised by some deeply hot supernatural beings and the most beautiful characterisation of a telepathic cocktail waitress that you are ever likely to find.

      Just realised this week is the trailer for Season 4 of ‘True Blood’, which looks awesome but won’t be coming to the UK for AGES. FOR EVER. Ugh. If you live in the US, maybe be sorry that Charlaine Harris finds so much to criticise in your country (although all of it travels), but do rejoice in the fact that you have first look at HBO.




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