Monday, April 12, 2010

Book Review: Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, by Seth Grahame-Smith

I can't believe that I'm about to say this, but...

I had fun reading this book. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter comes to us from the author of the pop-culture-acclaimed Pride & Prejudice & Zombies and Sense & Sensibility & Sea Monsters, but whereas those two books take Jane Austen's novels and insert new material to drastically change the feel and environment of the novels, Grahame-Smith does something more innovative with Abraham Lincoln.

He spoofs the genre of historical biography, and he lampoons the pseudo-novelistic styles of biographers such as Doris Kearns Godwin and David McCullough. What results is a very grave-sounding narrative that tracks Abraham Lincoln through his early days and childhood, adolescence and adulthood, and presidency and assassination.

To be fair, it's not a particularly well-written book, but it's fun. We learn, in Grahame-Smith's reinvention of the famous president, that Honest Abe had a bit of a dishonest streak to him, one that had the very honorable inspiration of driving vampires from the woodwork and attempting to end their control over human life. To this end, he trains at night, studies, reads, forges letters, and hones his skill with his trusty axe. And through these ventures, he makes a number of allies, including a pale and distraught young poet by the name of Edgar Allan Poe. Like Lincoln, Poe has encountered vampires, and they confide in each other their knowledge of the undead.

So obviously, this book isn't to be taken seriously, but it's amusing precisely because Grahame-Smith writes the book as if it is serious. If anything, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter reminds us that those scholars who offer these seemingly monumental accounts of famous lives are still telling stories. And we're not reading the capital-t Truth so much as we are the author's vision of how this life went, one event at a time.


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