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May 20, 2009


Vampire lady smackdown

Charlaine Harris in her officeStephenie Meyer

The Times has a great feature today on Charlaine Harris, the middle-aged southern lady who writes the Sookie Stackhouse series of novels that has become the basis for HBO's True Blood series, the show about dirty, sexy, campy vampires that stars Anna Paquin. This lady has got it going on.

I'm coming in really late in the game, here. I've never read any of her books, and I haven't seen True Blood. I also haven't read any of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight books, or seen the movie that came out a few months ago. My opinion is based solely on this one article and the press about the books and tv/movie adaptations. But next time I'm taking a really long flight or recovering from dental surgery and need a vampire soap opera potboiler, I'm picking up Sookie Stackhouse.

Both Sookie and the Twilight series have been wildly popular. The latest Sookie novel, Dead and Gone, came out last week and debuted at number one. Twilight has sold one hundred billion copies (actually 42 million) and preteens everywhere went completely mental for the movie.

But from what I can tell, Sookie has it all over Bella Swan and the Twilight crew. She's a waitress in a rural Louisiana bar, she's kind of trashy, she can read minds, and she likes to have freaky swamp sex with vampires. The TV show itself sounds like it unfortunately abandoned its pulpy roots to devolve into a misguided metaphor for identity politics. I love this quote from Slate's review: "its ideas (about race, gender, sexual orientation, what have you) simmer on the artsy-fartsy backburner while blood and lust boil away in the low-culture pot up front." The opening credits are good and nasty.

Meanwhile, Twilight's main character, Bella Swan, looks wan and ineffectual, and her relationship with her vampire boyfriend involves a lot of pained chastity. I like Kristen Stewart in Panic Room and Adventureland, so I hope she doesn't get trapped playing bad gothy damsel in distress roles in this series for too long. A few months ago Stephen King said in an interview that Stephenie Meyer "can't write worth a damn."

Here are a few good bits from the Times article on Charlaine Harris. In addition to the latest one, she's also written 25 other books, including an earlier series about a librarian-turned-sleuth, and another "more violent and sexually explicit storyline" about a cleaning lady who investigates murders.

"It was just a huge relief that I finally hit on the right character and the right publisher," said Ms. Harris. Or, as she put it more succinctly, with a cackle that evoked a paranormal creature: "I had this real neener-neener-neener moment."

She had always wanted to write about vampires. From the outset, she wanted to set the story in the prosaic trailer-park and strip-mall landscape of northern Louisiana, to distinguish it from the gothic opulence of Anne Rice’s New Orleans.

Driving last week along a tree-lined country road dotted by an occasional horse farm or a row of abandoned chicken coops, Ms. Harris said it was how she imagined the road to Sookie’s house. Ideas for characters come from all over the place. "Every trip to Wal-Mart is an inspiration," she said.

I already love her.

categories: Books, Culture, Movies, TV
posted by amy at 10:54 PM | #

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I really liked the Twilight books. It was so obvious that the vampire stuff was all a big metaphor for sex... Bella literally begs for it throughout the first two books. Reading that series, it made me laugh to think that it was published for pre-teens and that adults think there is an abstinence lesson in there. I bet the kids are hip to the real message of Twilight! The movie, however, sucked (pun intended, but the movie was still bad).

And I wanted to like Tru Blood, but can't get into it. Maybe I should read the books instead...

Posted by: msosostris at May 21, 2009 10:46 AM

Vampire? That's a dealbreaker.

Posted by: T-Rock at May 21, 2009 2:21 PM

So the first few Twilight books are all about teenage sex, but in this case "teenage sex" is represented by Bella hanging around with a vampire who doesn't have sex with her or drink her blood or anything? Until they get married later, right?

Doesn't sound that racy. But I agree with you, I'm sure kids can identify with the main teenage character begging for it and being agonizingly frustrated.

Posted by: amy at May 22, 2009 2:25 PM

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