Book Review: “The Southern Book Club’s Guide To Slaying Vampires” by Grady Hendrix

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Have you ever read the title of a book and thought: “This was made for me?” That’s what happened when I saw The Southern Book Club’s Guide To Slaying Vampires on a list of new books coming out in 2020. I was pretty sure that author Grady Hendrix had been watching me as I binged Buffy The Vampire Slayer, read any of Anne Rices’ vampire chronicles I could get through Interlibrary Loan, and attended my library team’s book club in a Southern state. In other words, I felt attacked.

Because apparently clever titles make me open my wallet, I bought The Southern Book Club’s Guide To Slaying Vampires as soon as it came back in stock (it was sold out instantly on indie bookstore websites). I waited two days with the book sitting on my desk at home because you’re supposed to quarantine books in case of COVID-19 traces. Finally, I curled up on the couch by my husband, cracked open the spine, and settled in. A few hours later, I slammed the book shut dramatically and told my husband everything about it. I don’t usually read books in one sitting unless I absolutely can’t put them down, and this was one of those special stories that actually lived up to its title and cover.

Spoiler-free summary before you read further: this novel is about exactly what the title says it’s about.

Mild spoilers ahead.

What The Southern Book Club’s Guide To Slaying Vampires gets right: This is one of those rare books where a man author actually wrote from the perspective of amazing women characters with understanding, wit, and great empathy. The main character, Patricia, was so relatable and heartbreaking as she shouldered all of the emotional labor (and literal physical security) for her household that I was pleasantly shocked to find out that the author was a man. Her sense of guilt that she’s not doing enough for everyone in her life was palpable. Yet as Patricia slowly makes strong friendships with the women in her book club and in her own home, she begins to emerge as a fiercely driven, free-thinking character that still has plenty of flaws. For a fictional character in a horror novel, she’s pretty real.

Patricia’s characterization shines against the foil of her husband, Carter, who acts as if Patricia is crazy, cheats on her repeatedly, and snuggles up to the main villain of the story just because he makes a lot of money. It’s frustrating to read about, but don’t worry- there is some justice. I’ll give Carter this- he made me hate him more than the actual vampire in this book; Carter is like the Umbridge of this novel.

This is not just a book about Southern true crime-loving women, although that part is definitely awesome and I 100% want to talk with them about Helter Skelter. This book tackles gentrification, racial injustice, sexism, gaslighting, and vampires all in one story, and it does this flawlessly. You will be thrilled, shocked, and horrified all at once. I certainly was.

What The Southern Book Club’s Guide To Slaying Vampires gets wrong: There are a few moments that seem a little tone-deaf. Racism thrives in the town’s community, and while it is addressed and called out as wrong, it is disappointing how the main black character, Mrs. Greene, has to save herself and the white women again and again without any help while her neighborhood suffers. There’s a big message here about acting like you can’t see the problems of others as long as you and your family are safe.

Who should read The Southern Book Club’s Guide To Slaying Vampires: If you’re a Southern lady in a book club with a bent for true crime, obviously pick this one up. However, men and non-Southern women will also enjoy this novel if they are fans of horror, suspense, vampires, and humor.

Who shouldn’t read The Southern Book Club’s Guide To Slaying Vampires: This novel is best for mature audiences.

 

The library doesn’t currently have this book, but you can request it through Interlibrary Loan once it is safe to do so, or you can check for it at your local library.

Content note: language, brief sexual scenes, emotional abuse, violence, racism, sexual assault, attempted suicide. Reader discretion is advised.

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “Pan’s Labyrinth”

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Pan’s Labyrinth is from the visionary and imaginative mind of writer and director Guillermo del Toro. This dark fantasy film is widely considered a masterpiece in bringing magical realism to the big screen.  Magical realism is loosely defined as adding fantastical or mythical elements into a story’s narrative when its setting is otherwise highly realistic fiction. Pan’s Labyrinth takes place in Francoist Spain in 1944. This was a dark and oppressive time period for common people living under fascism. The realistic setting is in contrast to the magic and wonder our protagonist experiences.

Ofeilia, played by Ivana Baquero, is an eleven-year-old girl who is traveling to the Spanish countryside with her mother Carmen (Airadna Gil) who is with child. They are going to live with Ofeilia’s stepfather Captain Vidal (Sergi Lopez). Captain Vidal is a vile and cruel man dedicated to the fascist cause of exterminating any resistance to the Spanish regime.

One night, Ofeilia discovers a fairy that leads her through an underground labyrinth, where she meets a mysterious goat-like forest creature called a Faun. He reveals to her that she may be a long lost princess of the underworld, but to return and be with her real family, she must go on a magical quest to prove her worth.  The quest is fraught with danger as she sneaks out of her house each night to complete the tasks, each one becoming stranger and more perilous than the next.

Pan’s Labyrinth is best described as a fairy tale for adults, as some of the scenes and real world problems are too intense for young children. The film itself is in Spanish, but the subtitles are done quite well and English speakers won’t feel as if they’re having to try and keep up. Pan’s Labyrinth was highly regarded by many to be one of the best films of 2006 and still holds a score on the website Rotten tomatoes of 95% with its critic’s consensus stating:  “Pan’s Labyrinth is Alice in Wonderland for grown-ups, with the horrors of both reality and fantasy blended together into an extraordinary, spellbinding fable.” The film would go on to win three Academy Awards for Best Cinematography, Best Art Direction and Best Makeup.

Pan’s Labyrinth is available at the Union University Library.

* This film is rated R for some graphic violence and some language.*

 

Matthew’s Monday Movie: “Jaws”

1975: it can be argued that this is the year that the first true “summer movie” was born, Jaws.  By the acclaimed Director Steven Spielberg, Jaws really cemented Spielberg as a first class director; this film would go on to become the highest grossing film up until Star Wars in 1977.

 Jaws taps into the most primitive and frightening aspects of survival: the fear of being hunted and of being prey. We humans are, no doubt, the top predators on land- our technology has made us so- however, in the deep depths of the ocean we are as out of our element as we are in space. This film represents the ultimate clash between man and beast. It’s a modern day Moby Dick.

This film stars Roy Scheider as Chief Martin Brody, a common man who finds himself in an ever escalating out-of-control situation. As a shark terrorizes the small touristy Island of Amity, it falls to Brody to come up with a plan to stop the ravenous monster. To do this, he enlists the help of Matt Hooper, a marine biologist played by Richard Dreyfuss. Hooper’s character is that of a logical man but sometimes over-confident in his abilities and technology to solve the problem.

The third member of the cast that sets out to eventually confront the shark is that of Captain Quint of the Orca, a shark fishing vessel. Quint is played by the famous English actor Robert Shaw. Quint’s character has a deep hatred of sharks and scoffs at others as they attempt to solve the problem. Eventually he offers his help in catching the mighty fish for ten thousand dollars.

One man who stands in sheer denial of the problems facing the island is Mayor Larry Vaughn, played by Murray Hamilton. Mayor Vaughn downplays the havoc the shark causes as freak accidents and is quick to believe that the problem has been dealt with when another larger shark is caught in its place. Vaughn cares only for the prospected tourism of the upcoming 4th of July and the money it will bring the Island.

The last main character of the film is that of the Great White shark itself. Originally a large mechanical shark was designed to be featured heavily in the film, but technical breakdowns made that impossible. Thus Spielberg was forced to take a minimalist approach to this horrific monster. This proved to be outstandingly successful idea, as the ominous and now famous score from the legendary John Williams brought the stalking beast to life. Many who have never seen the film know and recognize its theme “duunnn dunnn… duuuunnnn duun…” The audience soon learns that is the sound of impending doom.

Jaws is still recognized as the number one scariest movie of all time, since it had the very real effect of keeping people out of the water. It was immortalized in 2001 by the Library of Congress for preservation in the United States Film Registry because it was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

Jaws is rated PG, but don’t let that fool you- it features some graphic scenes of violence including (“spoiler alert!”) shark attacks and some language.

It can be checked out at our library here.

 

*written by Matthew Beyer

“Spooky” Classics for Friday the 13th

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Friday the 13th has long been mythologized as a day “fraught with peril” or “bad luck.” Over time, movie creators have turned Friday the 13th into a spooky holiday as well, with the famous 1980s horror movie franchise.

Whether or not you fear this day, it seems like the perfect chance to feature some of the library’s classic spooky novels. Check the list below for your favorite!

 

One of the original vampire tales, Dracula is a must for any fan of the horror genre. Bram Stoker’s story has inspired vampire myths and legends since its publication in 1897. Equal parts horror and mystery, you’ll be enthralled as you discover the secrets of Dracula and his life in the Carpathian Mountains.

 

Frankenstein was all over Union’s campus this past year, from art projects to the theatre production to the book being analyzed in classes. Whether you empathize more with the monster or with Victor Frankenstein, their strange and painful relationship will keep you turning the pages for more.

 

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Featuring famous stories such as “The Masque of the Red Death” and “The Tell-Tale Heart,” this collection spans Poe’s major works. Most of the stories can be read quickly, but their creepy settings and unhinged characters will remain with you long afterward.

 

This novella falls under many genres: mystery, horror, crime thriller. It’s a short but gripping read, and the familiar struggle of man vs. his inner desires is at the forefront of the plot.

 

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The Invisible Man is frightening simply because it allows a person do things- whatever he wants- completely unseen. Or perhaps it’s the imagery of the Invisible Man’s bandages, or his anger that will scare you…regardless, H.G. Wells knew how to craft a spooky story!

 

This list wouldn’t be complete without the household name of H.P. Lovecraft. Tales is a great compilation of his most chilling stories of monsters and indescribable terrors. Read “The Call of Cthulhu” to learn about an ancient creature and its siren call.

 

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Oscar Wilde’s wit and macabre sense of morality shine through in this brilliant story of a young man’s downfall. It’s another short read that packs a punch!

 

Before it was an award-winning musical, The Phantom of the Opera was an intriguing novel. Who is Christine’s mysterious tutor? Why do unfortunate incidents happen at the opera in Paris? If you’re a fan of the musical, you’ll have a hard time putting this book down.

 

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There are many more classics to discover on the library’s shelves or online- just search for your favorite by using our catalog!