Friday, 4 February 2011

Devouring Notions

I'm still busy picking up tips on how to read better, or perhaps more precisely, how to give more thought to what is going on in the mind of the author with whose work I'm trying to engage. Today I have been learning that extremely useful life skill that not all vampires actually have pointed teeth and painful looking brow ridges. Oh no! Sometimes they are as normal looking as you and me. (Well me, anyway, my not being able to speak definitively for who might be reading this blog.)

Foster makes the point that there are ways of devouring an individual's life spirit other than draining them of their blood. What is more, the non-vampiric predator is often far more lethal precisely because their intentions are not immediately apparent. He calls on a number of texts I have to admit to not having read to support his claim but what came to mind immediately was the passage in Margaret Forster's Keeping the World Away that I quoted a couple of weeks ago where one of the characters says of Gwen John that she drained whoever she was with by the emotional demands she made on them without giving anything back in return. That surely is a sort of vampirism and one that makes me realise that I've actually come across a few blood suckers in disguise myself over the years.

Then there are those characters who assume that everyone is at their beck and call and that the whole world exists simply to do their bidding. My favourite would have to be Jane Austen's Lady Catherine de Burgh who would still be happily draining the life out of all and sundry had she not had the misfortune to run into Miss Elizabeth Bennett.

And there in lies an important distinction. When characters like these meet their Waterloo the outcome is comedy or at least a feeling on the part of the reader of a kind of triumph. When they have their way and we have to watch helplessly while a good person is destroyed as a result of their devilment, when an Iago brings an Othello to his untimely doom, then what we have is tragedy.

Give me a vampire I can recognise every time.



  1. Oh, yes, recognizable vampires, please. Oh, wait, no vampires at all! That's better :) I'm very curious to hear your final thoughts on the Foster book.

  2. Well Dorothy, does it not all depend on the vampire? I'll give house room to Angel any day of the week:)

  3. We just did Strindberg's Ghost Sonata in my European drama class, and it contains some fascinatingly unbloody vampires: an old man who sucks the life from those he is most interested in, even when he is trying to support them, and a chef who drains the life from the household instead of nourishing it. I think I got some major teacherly capital from my students for including a vampire play on the syllabus.

  4. Oh yes, SP, Strindberg loved his vampires, didn't he? I once played Laura in 'The Father' and she is a seriously devouring lady and absolutely wonderful to act.

  5. What an interesting post! I tried to read Foster last year and we just didn't get along. As for vampires, Miss Havisham from Great Expectations come immediately to mind.

  6. Oh yes, Stefanie, definitely Miss Havisham. And there must be others in Dickens. He would just love the idea. I must turn my mind that way.