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Books, Films

Why Twilight’s Stephenie Meyer can bite me

**WARNING: this blog post may contain some distinctly lame toothy-related puns

Modern day vampires?

What is it about all these modern Vampires?

Is it just me or are they a little bit wet? Take the Twilight ‘saga’ for example (and what a saga it is).

All that pent up teenage lust and angst, all that moaning (not in a good way) and the longing for something to happen… and that’s just the audience.

I’m sorry, but lots of over-egged CGI, running up trees, macho teenagers with their top tops off (in a teenage way), a miserably sour-faced female lead and some crappy back story about the battle between vampires and werewolves (zzzzz, haven’t we been there before?), does not a good-Vampire-story make.

They never actually do anything vampire-ish. Get on with it.

Bite someone properly for fecks sake.

Someone lent me a copy of the first Twilight book by Stephanie Meyer. I read the first chapter and chucked it away (and I never throw books away).

Seriously. I have never read such a badly written, annoyingly and undeservedly successful book since the Da Vinci Code… and that’s saying something.

Meyer says she’s a Morman and member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints and as such apparently acknowledges that her faith has influenced her work; for example she makes an effort to stay away from subjects such as sex.

No sex? Sorry love, but have you even read Dracula? It’s one of the most sexually charged novels in gothic literature. Vampires are all about the sex.

Not that they ever actually have sex of course. They just bite each other and drink lots of blood. But if you’ve ever seen any half decent Vampire film, you’ll know that this constitutes Vampire-sex. Lots of moaning, groaning and eye-rolling etc

Except for the Twilight books. No sex there. Not even a nibble.

Just lots of implied frustration derived from teenage abstinence and ‘hey let’s not talk about it anyway’ sex.

But hey, it’s a free world. Write what you want.

Just don’t call it a Vampire novel.

Think I’m being harsh?

Well, if you really want to understand where I’m coming from – and indeed where Vampires come from – then you need to go back to the summer of 1816.

The poet Lord Byron, his friend John Polidori, another famous poet Percy Shelley and his wife Mary Shelley were all staying at a villa on Lake Geneva. They were kept indoors by the terrible weather and severe storms and so, the legend has it, the group spent three days telling ghost stories and (fortunately for us) wrote them down over the following days.

The result? Two stories which would go on to influence popular modern culture. Firstly “The Vampyre” by John Polidori, a short story which he apparently wrote in “three idle mornings”.

And secondly, but perhaps more famously, Frankenstien by Mary Shelley. (All that lightening clearly made an impression and left its mark on her imagination).

“The Vampyre” was published as a short story in a London magazine and was later acclaimed as the first story to successfully fuse the various elements of vampirism folklore into a coherent tale.

And it was actually Polidori who turned the Vampire into the form that is most known for; an aristocratic monster who feeds off high society (not completely unlike that other lovable modern day monster, Hannibal Lector).

Hannibal: modern day Vampire?

Jump forward to the late 1890’s and gothic literature is all the rage in the UK.

Frankenstein and Wuthering Heights had both been published to great success and both challenged ‘modern day’ understanding of love, humanity and passion.

Not just because of their content, but also because both were written by women who, in their separate ways, dared to challenge convention, either through the manner in which they lived their lives or through the stories they told.

Stephenie Meyer, take note.

It was at this time that a certain Bram Stoker was working as a business manager at London Lyceum theatre (currently showing The Lion King… ahem).  He supplemented his income by writing short stories for publication as well as working as a newspaper reporter.

Stoker had spent months researching the ancient folklore of eastern Europe and became intrigued by the name Dracul; the surname of the Vlad family of Wallachia (now Southern Romania).

Dracul, Stoker discovered, can mean both ‘dragon‘ and ‘the devil“. It captured his imagination and Count Dracula was born; A combination of the Vampire myth and the influence of Vlad III Dracul, who history would rename as Vlad the Impaler, due to his nasty habit of killing his opponants by… well, impaling them. Presumably on something sharp.

Vlad the Impaler. Handy with a stick.

When Dracula was published in 1897 it wasn’t immediately a runaway best seller but, believe it or not, we have the Daily Mail to thank for it’s enduring success.

The Daily Mail was apparently overflowing in its praise, claiming it was a better work of fiction that Frankenstien or Wuthering Heights, and that Bram Stoker was a better writer than Mary Shelley, Edgar Allan Poe and Emily Bronte put together.

Which goes to show that even in 1897 the Daily Mail was capable to spewing out a remarkable load of crap; Whilst it’s undoubtedly a classic, it’s not better than the premise of a Shelley-Poe-Bronte combo.

But the reviews boosted sales of the book and it quickly became a bestseller, secured it’s publication in America and becoming one of the most famous books in all gothic literature.  So it’s all good. Stoker even got invited to the White House. Twice.

I’m not going to insult Mr Stoker’s memory by trying to sum up exactly why it’s so fantastic, but it is. All I’ll say is that it’s passionate, scary, gruesome, lustful, terrifying, erotic, a magnificently paced adventure and, above all, gob-smackingly original.

Twilight it aint.

Let’s remind ourselves of a typical Twilight moment:

The phrase; “What a bunch of high school crap” springs to mind.

Now let’s remind ourselves of what Dracula was all about to begin with. Forgive the dodgy English accents, and listen to the words.

To Francis Ford Copoola’s credit, he used a lot of the original wording from the novel and despite the heavy melodrama, he succeeded in capturing the passion, love, eroticism and violence of the novel.

“Join me in eternal life. I want to be what you are, I want to see what you see, I want to love what you love. Take me away from all this death…”

So if you want to know what a decent vampire story reads like, do yourself a favour; buy yourself a copy of Bram Stoker’s Dracula and enjoy some proper literature.

And if it’s 2-for-1, pick up a copy of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein whilst you’re at it. I promise you a stompingly good read. You could do a lot worse.

Twilight, for example.

I’ll leave you with one final point: Someone recently told me that each of the Twilight books is based on a Jane Austen novel.

Jane Austen? Vampires?

Hmmm. Bite me.

Eliza desperately wanted to stop chewing her lip...



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