Michael's Reviews > Dead Until Dark

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris
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Jul 08, 10

bookshelves: 2000s
Read from June 08 to 14, 2010

It has been said (I would tell you by who, but that would involve actual research) that Tolkein's most important contribution to literature is the Hobbit. (The race. Not the kid's book.) That said, I will with much pomp and ostentatiousness, say Charlaine Harris's biggest contribution to modern literature will be the Fangbanger. (Yes, I just compared Harris to Tolkein, in addition to totally exploiting the parentheses.)

I don't want to waste time telling you the storyline because you know it: steamy hot sex with bloodsucking corpses. And I DO mean sex; this ain't no Twilight shit. They gets it AAAWN, and they gets a little kinky. Other thing you should know about the plot: in this book, there IS a plot. Again, this ain't no Twilight shit.

But, here's my thinking about Fangbangers: Harris came into this vampire-as-sweet-boyfriend movement very early on, and she 'gets it' a bit more than Meyers does. In the happy world of Stephanie Meyers, the main thing vampires do is sparkle and look sexy doing it. But, in Harris's book, vampire actually KILL people. And these Fangbangers are people sexually drawn to these dangerous vampires. As a part of sex, they will let the vampires drink from them.

Why is this so damned relevant, you may ask. The fangbanger may be the central symbol of modern necromance novels: regular, mortal love is no longer enough of a turnon, and fangbangers need more. If we're fantasizing anyway, how about Mr./Mrs. Right can make you live forever, is stronger than ANYONE, and is a gentleman/lady of a kind they don't make anymore?

Of course, this leaves out the whole part about blood-sucking, and the way they may kill you. . . or maybe it doesn't. By virtue of being a misunderstood vampire, a guy can be a total bad boy at the SAME TIME that he is a knight in shining armor. He can be exceedingly dangerous, yes still be a cuddle-butt, because that danger is simply part of his nature. It's your normal roustabout romantic rogue, only WAY more sinister. And thus, way more exciting.

I don't think it's much of a coincidence that romantic vampires are a recent phenomenon. When vampires first became a part of the public consciousness, it was during the 1700's, and people believed in them. They were scary as fuck. People were dug up so it could be proved they hadn't risen from the dead. Vampires as erotic interests started pretty early, 'round about the middle of the 1700's. But vampires as a romantic lead? That is a modern American phenomena as far as I can tell.

And, uncoincidentally, modern Americans are more detached from violence than most peoples throughout history. I don't want to get all political, but we're in two wars right now, and some high schoolers I know didn't even REALIZE we were at war with Afghanistan until I told them. A couple months ago.

Fangbangers are naive materialists out of touch with reality. The fangbanger is fascinated by beauty and agelessness, at the expense of authenticity. The soul of a thing doesn't enter into it.

The Hobbit is the central symbol of Tolkein's universe: the common person who can change (and maybe save) the world. I believe the fangbanger to be an appropriate symbol for the necromance movement, and a fairly pertinent symbol for modern American decadence. (I'm not saying only the U.S. is guilty of this kind of decadence, but I suspect we are the most guilty.)*

Did I get too heavy on this one? I actually edited out about 5 paragraphs of political comparisons before posting this. Something about ridiculously popular books makes me want to analyze them with a bit more attention than I usually give 3-star books. I could’ve just said, “Fluffy entertainment, Fairly funny with interesting characters and hot sex, plus an Elvis cameo.” But. . . you know. I read it a couple weeks ago, and things marinated.

*: for further evidence, check out the following link:
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Reading Progress

06/11/2010 "This is way, way, way better than Twilight. I'm genuinely enjoying this one."

Comments (showing 1-45 of 45) (45 new)

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message 1: by Aerin (new)

Aerin Harris can't be as bad as Stephanie Meyers...right?

Well... technically that is a true statement, although it's far from implying that these books are "good" or "worth reading" or "won't make you want to beat your head against the nearest wall".


message 2: by Aerin (new)

Aerin I should add that my exposure to both Meyer and Harris consists of: 1) the Twilight movie, 2) True Blood (which is actually entertaining), and 3) skmming through my sister's copies of both series(eseses) while she wasn't looking. Maybe I just inadvertently skipped over the awesome parts.


Michael Very true, but for the love of god, they won't shut the fuck up until I read at least one of them. It's one of those lesser-of-two-evils things.

Besides, I'll be able to write a really scathing review of this one. That's much easier than trying to review a brilliant book like The Handmaid's Tale.


message 4: by Aerin (new)

Aerin Hm, good point. I also have found myself unable to write a review worthy of Handmaid's Tale.

Luckily I've managed to avoid being forced to read any vampire books by friends/family/colleagues, although some have tried their best to foist them on me. Possibly even worse, though, a classmate once forcibly lent me an entire series of those insipid Amish romance novels ("Give them a CHAAAAAANCE! They're my favorite books EVER!"). Since she wouldn't take no for an answer, I ended up keeping them for a semester and then surreptitiously returning them to the lost & found (her name was written in them, so hopefully they wound their way back to her) just to avoid having to admit to her I'd rather be dead than read something like that. Possibly this was horribly passive-aggressive on my part, but they were AMISH LOVE STORIES.


Michael Wow, Amish love stories? Golly gee, Aerin, I'm surprised you weren't all over that!

One of these ladies at work was telling me yesterday about the Left Behind books. I cringe just thinking about that series. I swear I'd get so pissed I'd look like the little girl from The Exorcist before I finished the first one. All I'm saying is, I found A Canticle for Liebowitz too preachy. I made it about twenty pages into the Bible before I started swearing and steaming and had to put it down, and that was when I was 14.

I tried to be diplomatic in turning down the opportunity to read Left Behind. I'm not sure how well I did.

Congrats on not giving into the vampire hype! You really aren't missing out on anything, other than the opportunity to write a smarmy review.

I've never seen any Amish love stories, but they sound like the cat's pajamas! The other day, my wife and I were browsing the Christian romance novel section at Half-Price Books and reading each other the back covers out loud, laughing ourselves silly...with some books, you're better off just reading the back cover and leaving it at that.


message 6: by [deleted user] (last edited Jun 04, 2010 03:11PM) (new)

Harris is not as bad as Stephanie Meyers, although I think that...*trailing off*....wait....WHUT? Amish Romance. The mind reels.

I'd say go for the Kitty the Werewolf books by Carrie Vaughn instead, and then act all snobby about vampires. My husband read a few of them, and they didn't make him die - actually, he rather liked them. Vaughn's gender stuff isn't nearly as regressive as Harris/Meyer either...WHUT?.... Amish romance?... still not through boggling.


message 7: by Aerin (last edited Jun 04, 2010 03:09PM) (new)

Aerin the Christian romance novel section at Half-Price Books

Yeah, the Amish ones are geared toward the same demographic, but are EVEN WORSE, because the whole appeal they're banking on is the fetishization of Amish culture. They're so PRIMITIVE! They're so PURE! They're so CLOSE TO GOD! Ick, ick, a million times ick. There's apparently a whole subgenre devoted to it. STAB ME IN THE EYEBALL.

But yeah, Left Behind might be even worse than that. Kirk Cameron was in the movie, which... pretty much says all that needs to be said. Yes, THIS Kirk Cameron: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2z-OLG....

(ugh, I suck at links today)


message 8: by [deleted user] (new)

I've really enjoyed Kirk's latter day douche-baggery. There's something kind of perfect about it. (Although I have never watched anything he's in - Steve Baldwin is pretty fun too - so stupid! and so earnest!)

P.S. Agreed on Canticle - I don't get why I'm the only one who dislikes that book - although I'm not sure it was the theology that did me in...Wandering Jew tho...I kind of hate that.


message 9: by [deleted user] (new)

P. other S. The link didn't work for me. :(


message 10: by Aerin (new)

Aerin Bah. I REALLY suck at links today. Google "kirk cameron banana" and see the YouTube insanity. According to Kirk, bananas are proof that God exists and evolution is crap, because bananas were clearly perfectly designed to fit into a human hand.

Yeah.


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

Aerin wrote: "Bah. I REALLY suck at links today. Google "kirk cameron banana" and see the YouTube insanity. According to Kirk, bananas are proof that God exists and evolution is crap, because bananas were cle..."

Wow! People usually go for the whole Beauty of the Eyeball thing, and not something so ripe for funny cartoons when they espouse their natural theology. *thinking hard about a theological banana peel joke*


message 12: by [deleted user] (new)

OMG! OMG! OMG! That whole video is one big freaking THAT'S WHAT SHE SAID JOKE WAITING TO HAPPEN.


message 13: by [deleted user] (new)

EASE OF ENTRY AHAHAHAHA


message 14: by Aerin (new)

Aerin I KNOW! I keep hoping it's some kind of self-parody, but... I am pretty sure it isn't!


Miriam Kind of like how the first couple Sookie books were funny because I thought the author was being tongue-in-cheek...


message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

Miriam wrote: "Kind of like how the first couple Sookie books were funny because I thought the author was being tongue-in-cheek..."

Yeah, like: was the scene where Vampire Bill tenderly removes the banana clip from Sookie's hair MEANT to be the comedy gold it is?


Kat Kennedy Michael I feel for you! I know I'm one of those people deeply submerged in the paranormal/urban fantasy genre but I would never inflict it on other poor souls!

I look forward to reading your review though. That's bound to be a crack up.

Ariel... Amish love stories? Must be more naive about the world then I thought! I had no idea that such things existed!


Michael I can't wait to watch the banana video...have to wait until I'm home, though. But, if that's the case, where are the finger indentations? And why aren't those finger indentations textured to make bananas incredibly hard to drop? And why are they so dangerous when their peels have been dropped on the ground?


message 19: by Aerin (new)

Aerin Ariel... Amish love stories? Must be more naive about the world then I thought! I had no idea that such things existed!

I'm not Ariel, but... ;)

I think (hope) they're a specifically American phenomenon, but they appear to be a kind of riff on the old and not-American-specific "noble savage" theme. Just reading the backs of the books she lent me made me feel incredibly icky.


message 20: by Aerin (new)

Aerin But, if that's the case, where are the finger indentations? And why aren't those finger indentations textured to make bananas incredibly hard to drop? And why are they so dangerous when their peels have been dropped on the ground?

Believe it or not, he ACTUALLY DOES TALK ABOUT the first two. The slippery peel thing, not so much. Presumably God made them slippery so that sinners would fall down and look silly. The righteous NEVER slip on banana peels!


Michael "Agreed on Canticle - I don't get why I'm the only one who dislikes that book - although I'm not sure it was the theology that did me in...Wandering Jew tho...I kind of hate that."

Yeah, that was annoying, too. I rant and rave about it in my review, but I couldn't stand the scene where the priest is getting all pissed off because, in addition to trying to save the people, those doctors are, in cases where the people are slowly dying painful deaths....putting them out of their misery! Because, by letting the doctors euthanize them, the people are committing some form of suicide...?

The author totally thinks this is devilish of the doctors. I felt the reverse.


Kat Kennedy Gah! Sorry Aerin! I wasn't paying attention!


message 23: by Aerin (new)

Aerin No problem! We share four out of five letters anyway.


Michael "...they appear to be a kind of riff on the old and not-American-specific "noble savage" theme."

Aerin, you seriously need to start painting with all the colors of the wind. Don't diss those Noble Savages. When you throw your garbage out the car window, you make them cry.

Is the Noble Savage basically the same thing as a Working Class Hero? Somehow more earthy and in touch with life than the upper crustys? The thought struck me just now that they're close to the same thing. Am I right?


message 25: by Aerin (new)

Aerin Aerin, you seriously need to start painting with all the colors of the wind. Don't diss those Noble Savages. When you throw your garbage out the car window, you make them cry.

Hee! Fun fact: The crying Indian was actually Italian American. Also, I'm not a historian or anything, but I am fairly sure Pocahontas never sang pop ballads in perfect English (GOD I HATE THAT MOVIE).

Is the Noble Savage basically the same thing as a Working Class Hero? Somehow more earthy and in touch with life than the upper crustys? The thought struck me just now that they're close to the same thing. Am I right?

Yeah, I'd agree they're related. They all involve an oppressed or marginalized group being fetishized by their oppressors as being more in touch with nature, or pure, or possessing innate wisdom of some sort. Heaps of racism and classism and ethnocentrism going on.


Miriam There are also Quaker romances. I think those and the Amish ones also have something to do with female purity? You know, opposed to secular romances where the women have sexual urges and maybe even flirt.


message 27: by Aerin (new)

Aerin I think those and the Amish ones also have something to do with female purity? You know, opposed to secular romances where the women have sexual urges and maybe even flirt.

Yup, and from the small sampling I've looked at, many of them are about American women who go to live with the Amish - they have family roots there or something - and discover how much happier it makes them to be pure and chaste and know a woman's place and submit to God (and to a handsome Amish man). How romantic!


message 28: by [deleted user] (new)

Aerin wrote: Yup, and from the small sampling I've looked at, many of them are about American women who go to live with the Amish - they have family roots there or something - and discover how much happier it makes them to be pure and chaste and know a woman's place and submit to God (and to a handsome Amish man). How romantic!

*facedesk*

The thing that makes me all weird is I have a close family member who is a nun, and I'm pretty sure she's a happier person than me, because she just doesn't have to think about her life choices at all. It's not that she doesn't think - she's a smart woman - but there's no self-doubt. Altho - there's absolutely no way, with my personality, I could submit to a life like that, and if I tried, I would die. Or someone else would.


message 29: by Aerin (new)

Aerin Yeah, in (Catholic girls') high school we had to take a "lifestyles" class. The three acceptable lifestyles for Catholic women: 1) single and celibate, 2) married and chaste, 3) nun. We toured the convent, and I was so ambivalent about the whole thing. On the one hand: yay communal living, yay sisterhood, yay living that way if that's your thing. On the other: nooooooo thank you, even without the troubling "must be a devout Catholic" requirement.

I don't have a problem with women choosing to be nuns, or choosing to submit to God or husband or whoever, as long as it's freely chosen. I wouldn't even have a problem with Amish romances, if they were written by Amish women, describing realistic experiences. It's the appropriation of their lifestyle by outsiders, and using it to create this fantasy that submission always equals happiness and virtue, that really makes me uncomfortable. So creepy.


Michael This is a total change of subject, and I say it not with any negative something-er-other, but I just happened to notice it and was amused. This is purely the reporting of scientific data.

Of all my reviews ever writ, the one with the most comments is currently my review of Twilight. Second? The Sookie Stackhouse book I haven't read yet. This is such a concrete verification of something we were discussing over in one of Manny's Harry Potter reviews the other day (which had a bunjillion comments and votes of course) that trendy pop literature reviews are the best way of getting votes and generating conversation.

I laughed when I noticed this, although I'm proud that a few of my reviews still have more votes than my mediocre Twilight review and my non-review of Sookie.


message 31: by Brad (new) - rated it 3 stars

Brad You're bang on about the pop culture stuff, although I find a declaration of vulgarity to come can improve the chances of other works. My second most voted for meta review is Lady Chatterly's Lover, which is totally due to my discussion of the c-word.


message 32: by [deleted user] (new)

I find also Horrible Overshare, Dismantling the Beloved Classic, and Pictures of Cute Things will garner votes. Things to think of, when writing your review.


Miriam Horrible Overshare, Dismantling the Beloved Classic, and Pictures of Cute Things

Quick, somebody confess his/her sexual obsession with Winnie the Pooh! Extra points for erotic drawings.


message 34: by [deleted user] (new)

Quick, somebody confess his/her sexual obsession with Winnie the Pooh! Extra points for erotic drawings."

Alas, that has already been done. And double alas, the erotic photography was taken down by goodreads.


Miriam Oh, dear.


Michael Thanks for all the suggestions, y'all...a vulgar oversharing, combined with a partial dismantling of Dracula, and pictures of some cute people dressed up in furry suits getting it on (vulgarity and cuteness united)...all wrapped up in a review of Dead Until Dark? Perhaps it make me vote king for a day! Whoopee!

Yes, and I love that Winnie-The-Pooh review. That's the one that made me "friend" Manny. Hilarious.


message 37: by Eh?Eh! (new)

Eh?Eh! What an excellent review! And a bit depressing that these Fangbangers represent a current cultural group with the wish fulfillment craziness and desensitization.


Michael Was my argument about the fangbangers clear? Or at least clear-ish? I rewrote it over and over again, trying to make it as clear in words as it is in my synapses.


message 39: by Eh?Eh! (new)

Eh?Eh! Are you testing me to see if I really read it? I did!

I think it's very clear. The Hobbit/fangbanger contrast is a great underlining. I wish we were more like Hobbits. It sometimes seems we're too cynical for wonder anymore.

...or did I miss your point?


Michael Nope, it sounds like you were spot-on! Yeah, being Hobbits wouldn't be a bad thing, other than the hairy feet. Don't know how I feel about the hairy feet, though.

"Are you testing me to see if I really read it? I did!"

C'mon, Eh!, I know you like to just shotgun votes haphazardly out into cyberspace!

I'm not one of those people saying the world is shittier than ever before. . . it has always been equally shitty. But, I do think materialism has saturated American culture more than at any point before. I may be slightly biased: I work in a very prissy area now, and one of our customers just got his 18-year-old daughter new boobs for her birthday. Because it's what she asked for. I know, right?


message 41: by Eh?Eh! (new)

Eh?Eh! one of our customers just got his 18-year-old daughter new boobs for her birthday. Because it's what she asked for.

Whoaaaaa....

I know, right?

...oh. Yes.


message 42: by [deleted user] (new)

It's funny, what is it about this vampire trash that makes one get all muse-y about the state of the world? I'm not bagging - I think this is awesome - but it's funny how these little goofy wish-fulfillment thingees about a sassy girl & her vampy man-friends end up saying a lot about contemporary politics, even when they are really not trying for that at all. I love the fangbangers thing - love it.


Miriam Harris came into this vampire-as-sweet-boyfriend movement very early on

Actually that had been going strong for at least a decade before Harris picked it up.


Michael "It's funny, what is it about this vampire trash that makes one get all muse-y about the state of the world?"

I don't know, but it sure does for a lot of us! Manny has written some reviews of the Twilight series that might qualify him to be Stephanie Meyers's psychologist.

For me, it's always fascinating when a lot of people are raving about something. I don't think I would've been so reflective about Dead Until Dark if it didn't have so many parallels to Twilight, which is of course the BIGGEST THING EVAH.

Every time I walk out of a movie theater after having seen a piece of shit like Gamer or Repo Men, I start waxing philosophical to Joy (my wife) about the severely lame way that Hollywood operates, and the way big budget movies are so often totally pathetic wastes of time. She invariably tells me to shut up and get over it.

But, like those stupid movies, Dead Until Dark seems to connect with the populace much more than Little Brother by Cory Doctorow, The Windup Girl, and any number of other amazing books of recent years. I think you, me, and a lot of other people on Goodreads can't help being curious about why people who read one book a year would choose this one out of all their options.

"Actually that had been going strong for at least a decade before Harris picked it up."

Whoa, really? I guess I just didn't start paying attention until it hit critical mass. What (or who) started it?


Miriam I'm not sure what started it, but I read this sort of book in middle school (20 years ago). L.J. Smith, Vivian Vande Velde, Annette Klause... And Laurel Hamilton's Anita Blake series, which has a lot of similarities with the Sookie books (female protagonist with a special talent, lots of sex, some mystery) started in 1993. I think a lot of these books can be traced back to Anne Rice's Vampire Lestat books in the 1980s, because although her vampires were certainly not good boyfriends they did widely popularize vampires as sex symbols.


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