Monday, October 18, 2010

Two Vamps

Post by Jenny

Up until a few weeks ago, the only vampire novels I’d ever read were Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot. No Anne Rice. No Charlaine Harris. But I have nothing against vampires. If they didn’t make for complicated, compelling characters, no one would write about them. I just haven’t jumped on that particular bandwagon. (Or maybe hearse is more appropriate.)

But in honor of Banned Books Week, I decided to finally, finally, find out what the Twilight fuss is about. I’d not read any of the books, nor had I seen the movies. Because I don’t live in a cave in the Gobi Desert, however, I had heard and read opinions and reviews, some praising the book, some trashing it. My own take on it was somewhere in between. I’m not sure I would have pegged it as the cultural phenom it has become, but it was, for the most part, a fun read.

Then, finding myself in the mood for a spooky Halloween book, I came across another vampire bestseller: Let Me In by Swedish author John Ajvide Lindqvist. Like Twilight, it is a debut novel and has been made into a movie. Twice, actually—first in Sweden (Let the Right One In), and then here in the US (Let Me In). Though the main character, at age 12, is younger than the Twilight teenagers, this is anything but middle grade fiction. Lindqvist is frequently compared to Stephen King, so draw your own conclusions. I’ve not yet finished the book, and I can almost guarantee it’s not going to be a happy ending.

In comparing these books, I was struck by how the same basic premise—a young human who is attracted to a vampire of the opposite sex—could result in stories that are worlds apart. Two different authors, two different audiences, two very different reading experiences.

Sometimes when I’m in a bookstore, I look around at all the books and wonder how there can possibly be room for any more. Perhaps it’s true that there is nothing new under the sun. Voltaire wrote that “Originality is nothing but judicious imitation.” Likewise, Ezra Pound: “Utter originality is out of the question.”In the strictest sense, maybe they’re right. But writers are all different, and each of us brings something unique to the keyboard—even if the subject matter (vampires, in this instance) is hundreds of years old.

And isn’t that why we write…to tell the stories only we can tell?

2 comments:

bfav said...

I was entertained by Twilight but didn't love it (and didn't read any of her other books).

But I agree, most stories are just imitations of other stories. It's your own twist that makes it unique. Most of Shakespeare's plays were knock offs.

Jenny said...

Thanks, b. Do you suppose there's such a thing as an original imitation? I think there could be.

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