Thursday, October 18, 2007

"There are terrible spirits, ghosts, in the air of America."

{Etching for The Inferno by Gustave Doré}

So said D. H. Lawrence in a 1924 piece on Edgar Allan Poe. One would think that Lawrence ought to know a thing or two about vampires. He suffered from tuberculosis, the disease often thought to be at the root of a lot of vampire lore, and he was relentlessly concerned with issues of sex, power, the will, and transgresion, concepts that are central to vampire stories. Who knows--maybe Lawrence even was a vampire? Maybe I should ask Geoff Dyer what he thinks?

Jean-Jacques Rousseau, on the other hand, was a determined skeptic, taking up the topic in a letter to Christophe de Beaumont, Archbishop of Paris, in 1763:
If there is in the world one attested story it is that of the Vampires. Nothing is missing: proces-verbaux, certificates from Notabilities, Surgeons, Priests, Magistrates. The juridical proof is most complete. With all this, who believes in Vampires? Shall we all be damned for not having belived?

I found both the above quotes in The Oxford Book of the Supernatural (1994), which is edited by D. J. Enright and, like any Enright production, is jammed full of endlessly quotable stuff. Sadly, it's out of print, but it's readily available used. I'll probably try to steal more from it between now and Hallowe'en, but for today I'll just give you Enright's rundown of some reported causes of vampirism:
The sins and misfortunes reckoned to lead to the condition have included some weird items: committing suicide, of course, but also working on Sundays, smoking on holy days, drinking to excess, and having sexual intercourse with one's grandmother; more innocently, those born on Christmas Day are doomed to the same fate in punishment of their mothers' presumptuousness in conceiving on the same day as the Virgin Mary.
Though I don't know any . . . ahem . . . grandmotherfuckers, a couple of other items on that list, if accurate, would lead me to conclude that there must be more vampires out there than I had previously thought.

Do you think that buzzing a vampire into the foyer counts as inviting him in? The Wikipedia is unhelpfully silent on the topic. Methinks I'll eschew the buzzer at least until Hallowe'en has passed. And regardless, I'm going to have to be more careful about whom I invite over to our baseball open house.

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