Thursday, 6 September 2012

Love in Vein

This book, which is a collection of vampire erotica, should have been called "Love in Vain". I have had it on my bookshelf for a few years now, and had only bought it because Poppy Z. Brite was the editor. Big mistake. But let me elaborate while repenting on the error of my ways.

There are twenty stories in the book, exploring the vampire myth. I'll begin by saying that this book is NOT erotica. The erotic element is almost absent or dealt with in a passing manner. Most stories are about vampires of one sort or another. Two of the stories (In the Greenhouse, Delicious Antique Whore) could be describing someone's reaction to experimental drugs; that is the only explanation I can find for the fact they are so disjointed, nonsensical and boring. Sorry about that, but honestly, I can’t make sense of them at all.

Another three stories (Queen of the Night, Do Not Hasten to Bid Me Adieu, The Final Fete of Abba Adi) are experiments in writing, as the authors must have aimed at something, but what they have written achieves nothing, not even meaning in some cases. Why choose a narrating style that makes no sense and forces the reader wonder what it is that they are reading, I'll never know. It does not make the author a misunderstood genius, part of a secret ‘elite’. Not concluding the story in an understandable manner doesn't make the story dark and mysterious. It just makes readers scratch their heads with bafflement. Maybe those authors should write only for other like-minded authors, as well as read such literature exclusively. The genre would be called inimeningitis, as those writing it seem to be in the initial stages of meningitis. This would explain the confusion, continual jumps from present to future and past (due to fever), lack of understandable plot and endless ramblings. It would also explain why those reading it feel like they have meningitis at full blast, hence the headache and disorientation.

Stories that never managed to be concluded in an adequate manner or pull all the threads together in a satisfying way:
White Chapel, A Slow Red Whisper of Sand. Good material, not so good storytelling.

Stories that honestly tried to say something original but were condemned by clich├ęs and bad writing and/or plot:
Empty Vessels, The Marriage, In this Soul of a Woman, Love Me Forever, Elixir, From Hunger.

It should also be noted that many of the previous ones aim at shock value, something that undermines them even more.

And now (thank Gods!) some stories of note:

Geraldine is original and adequately written, although near the end is a little unrealistic and a bit too cheesy for my taste. Generally speaking, I enjoyed this one, although I did not feel it broadened my literary horizons. Compared of course with some of the previous, it shines like a masterpiece.

Triptych di Amore is pseudo-historical and also one of the few notable stories that have a beginning, a middle and an end. The ending is left open to possibilities. I wish it was a little shorter though. It tired me at parts.

And the Horses Hiss at Midnight was also interesting although written in an unusual style. Much like a nightly trip under the pale light of the moon. One is not guided by sight as much as touch, and imagination is called upon to fill the gaps vision cannot cover. But its dreamy, vague quality may tire some readers.

The Gift of Neptune is unusual, weird, funny, disgusting and sad at the same time. I really loved it although it appears to be inconclusive. In reality it concludes at its very beginning. Sarcasm, care, apathy and cynicism mix in equal parts in it and the fantasy element just adds to the whole.

The Alchemy of the Throat deals with castrati that I love as a subject. Well written, blasphemous, tender and sad, it speaks about the death of a whole era, and of how this ending sometimes is the only thing that can offer meaning.

Cafe Endless: Spring Rain was my second favourite. I loved how it depicts the differences between the Japanese and the American culture and mentality, as well as the language used. The story happens in Japan and the end does not let down the chosen subject.

My personal favourite was Cherry. It has to do with dreams, obsessions, rebirth and discoveries, and how the saviour we yearn for is sometimes none other than ourselves. It's sharp, smart and modern and reeks of the despair of a whole generation that could neither go back nor move on. Loved this one.

All in all, I was disappointed from this book. They say Love in Vein 2 is much better... But I am not sure if I want to risk and buy it in anything else than a very cheap second hand paperback.