Dead Until Dark

A couple of very literate friends of mine took me into their confidence recently. Their secret? They couldn't stop reading Charlaine Harris' Sookie Stackhouse series of vampire novels. They knew it was wrong but they couldn't stop. So I wasn't entirely surprised when, for my birthday, they made a gift of the first four books, battered and worn the way that mass-market paperbacks should be. Less than a week after that, stuck at home with a cold, I started this, the first book. I was only a few pages in when I took a sip of tea and then came across the phrase "fang-banger," and I nearly spat out my drink. After a full minute of laughter, I sighed and knew that I, too, had fallen victim to this series.

Sookie Stackhouse works as a waitress in a bar in small-town Louisiana, living with her grandmother and keeping few friends. She never dates, even though she's in her mid-twenties and is reasonably attractive. Why? Well, Sookie is seen as a bit of a local crazy because she can read minds (which she and some townsfolk refer to as her disability, if they refer to it at all). Since she's mostly concentrating on keeping out the multitude of thoughts around her, she likes her job at the bar because it keeps her busy. Then, one day, the vampire arrives and her life changes. (Now, you might think that the arrival of a vampire in town would be cause for alarm, but apparently vampires have been legally recognized in this novel's world. While they're not exactly a common occurrence -- especially in small-town Louisiana, but then, they are close to New Orleans -- they aren't cause for panic, either. I thought of likening it to the civil rights era, as though a black man walked into a white bar, but no, the vampire is cause for even less of a stir. Sure, there's some curiosity and a bit of prejudice, but not nearly as much as one might think.) For Sookie, the vampire's arrival is even more meaningful because finally, here is someone whose thoughts she cannot hear, and she's immediately smitten.

There are a few things that struck me about these. (1) It's the first time in a long time that I've read a novel where the heroine is not well-educated. I certainly wouldn't say she isn't smart, but she makes no excuses for her lack of education and the fact that she enjoys her job as a waitress. I'm not quite sure what to make of it yet. (2) These are incredibly more sexual than I was expecting. I haven't watched True Blood, the series based on these, and I didn't check out anything about them before I started to read, so that's my own fault for stumbling blindly into it there. (3) I had to look up what a banana clip was and why it was so important for the author to keep citing it so specifically as what Sookie was sticking in her hair... and I still don't understand why it was so important.

Now, these are not deep novels. (Even though I've only read the first at this point, I feel I can still make this statement without it coming back to haunt me.) There's a reason why they feel so at home in their mass-market paperback binding. They're light and fun reading, perfect for vacations or for those stuck at home with a cold. I finished this in a matter of hours and feel sure that I'll get to the next one soon. But there's no doubt, I'll definitely be continuing to read the series.

And one more thing. "Fang-banger"? The whole series might have been crafted around this phrase and I wouldn't care. It's kind of priceless.

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