Thursday, May 17, 2012

Reviewing Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter AND what do vampires mean

Hello fellow geeks and nerds, Jarys here.
I just finished a very interesting book, by the name of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. Go back and reread that title for me, please, I want to make sure your mind has every possible opportunity to drudge up presupposed ideas of the book. You may think the author brought forth a trashy and over dramatic pulp action novel, in which the 16th president takes every impossible leap of logic and character development to become a totally awesome vampire hunter. You’d be wrong, though I would not blame you for thinking thus.
The author, who also wrote Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, takes care to research Lincoln’s life through various quotes and biographies. I found the added story to be neatly woven among historical fact, much of which I was amused to remember from High School and college. Lincoln’s morose character and lively wit shine through. His famed success in street brawling, interstate career changes, and thoughts on slavery are all used to support a “Secret vampire hunting career”.       
In fact, the relationship between slavery and vampirism is one of the key elements of the story. Without giving too much away, Abe learns of this relationship the same day he famously saw his first slave auction in New Orleans, allowing the emotional impact of one (upon his collected quotes and correspondences) to make real the other. The creepy idolization of the Vampiric condition (by which immortality, murder, and hedonism is romanticized) becomes a metaphor for the horrifying dehumanization of the institution of slavery (in which people are bought and kept as property, sexually objectified, and their dignity ignored). The excesses and aristocracy of the Antebellum South have often been a favorite setting for American Vampire stories; this book seeks to explain this within such a world through cultural and political rhetoric that I found very well thought out. Abraham’s perspective as a non vocal abolitionist is used to explore the Vampiric myth which does quite well as a metaphor.
I have long thought about the symbolism that I take from vampire stories, why I find them fascinating, though am typically disgusted by the vampiric condition. To me vampires are an easy metaphor for the aristocracy and the fear they engender in lower classes. Like aristocrats, vampires are obsessed with their bloodlines, and wield economic and social advantage, having increased these over a long period of time. Anti aristocratic rhetoric depicts them as parasites, living off of the work of others, just as vampires live off of the blood of others. Not only are many of the most famous vampiric characters aristocrats, but most vampires have a cultured sense of “cool”, and are often written to draw victims in by their glamorous lifestyle. Vampires wield incredible martial power, like the aristocrats of old, and can bring death and destruction down on lesser mortals. They are the essence of the elite, and the loss of empathy through power.
          It is idealistically believed that class has no place in American society, but never was this less true than the Antebellum South. Affluent salve owning families lived off of large parcels of land, amassing wealth that established dynasties, many of which are still important in Southern high society today. One’s family heritage was very important to rich Southerners, as we can see in the writing of Mark Twain. Without having to work, slave owners hosted balls, warred with one another, and generally lived a life of relaxation. These Aristocratic themes been tied to vampirism since at least the writing of Ann Rice.
          While I amuse myself by pretending to write a paper on these themes, I won’t have readers leave with the idea that the book is purely intellectual. There are a number of excellent fight scenes, emotional moments in which the losses of Lincoln’s life are depicted as the consequence of his hunting, and incredibly witty lines (many of which Lincoln actually said).
          I highly recommend this book to the armchair historian, conspiracy theorist, or vampire fan.  I ate it up in record time. 

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