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Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter

Since 2008 and the publication of "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies," historical mash-ups (literary or otherwise)with pop culture seem to have become a growing trend, the latest example of which is the novel, Abraham Lincoln, Vampire Hunter.
Observes Time magazine, “In 2008, Jason Rekulak, an editor at a small Philadelphia publishing house, had the bright idea to combine classic works of literature with pop-culture tropes for fun and profit. He phoned Seth Grahame-Smith, a.k.a. the luckiest freelancer in the world, and told him to write Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Grahame-Smith did--in two months flat--and it sold more than a million copies. Now it's being made into a movie starring Natalie Portman. The success of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies kicked off a literary land grab, with publishers rushing spin-offs and clones of the quote-unquote original to press. (Note to self: Clone With the Wind? A Room of One's Clone? A-clone-ment?) As for Grahame-Smith, he turned around and sold a novel called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter to a large New York City publisher for a sum rumored to be in the mid--six figures. Bennett Cerf, founder of Random House, once remarked that the most surefire best seller imaginable would be a book called Lincoln's Doctor's Dog. He was close....

“The conceit of Abraham Lincoln is that Grahame-Smith--his very name is a mashup!--has come into possession of Lincoln's secret diaries detailing his life as a stalker of vampires. As a frontiersboy, Lincoln loses his mother to the undead and swears lifelong vengeance. A giant among men--he was 6 ft. 4 in. (1.9 m) tall--Lincoln adopts the ax, that most American of edged weapons, as the tool of his trade, hiding it inside his signature long black coat. From there, Grahame-Smith scrolls forward through Lincoln's life, concocting a vampiric explanation for its every bump and wrinkle. The death of Lincoln's grandfather Abraham? Vampire. The death of his first love, Ann Rutledge? Vampire. Civil War? Vampires. He doesn't explicitly state that Millard Fillmore was a vampire, but I have my suspicions...

“Grahame-Smith isn't just lucky. He's a lively, fluent writer with a sharp sense of tone and pace. And as in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, the mashup is not as arbitrary as it first seems. Vampirism is a metaphor for slavery: like slave owners, vampires live off the blood of others. The fit is actually a little too neat. Once the connection is made, it feels obvious, and neither slavery nor vampirism reveals anything in particular about the other. One could imagine a richer, subtler treatment of the subject, in which the two horrors multiply each other rather than cancel each other out. The institution of slavery revealed something about the true face of young America, something unspeakable, but literalizing it in the form of a vampire turns out to not get us any closer to understanding what it is. Then again, if one were seeking richness and subtlety, one wouldn't be reading a book called Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

Entertainment Weekly is obviously less enthused about the tome, offering, "Thanks to P&P&Z, a delicious mutant book craze was born. But then opportunists infested the territory. Written by a lesser scribe, the second Austen parody, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, just lay there like a dead squid. It's nice to see plucky Grahame-Smith retake his turf.
But that still leaves us with a trivial book, clinging to a fad past its prime-a labored send-up that refracts the life story of one of the most important, famous, and minutely analyzed figures in all of American history through a cockeyed and ultimately foolish lens. (Lincoln's mentor in all things bloody is revealed to be a good-guy vampire named Henry.) In 300-plus pages of textbook biography, alternating with flowery passages from Lincoln's purported journal, we learn that all the usual historical bad guys were vampires. Fangs for nothing. C+"
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