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The Vampire Tapestry

A 1980 vampire novel written by Suzy McKee Charnas.

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A beautiful reweaving of the vampire mythos

  • May 21, 2010
Rating:
+5
The Vampire Tapestry
by Suzy McKee Charnas
1980
285 pages

Told in four sections as the vampire Dr. Edward Weyland interacts with four different sets of lives, The Vampire Tapestry paints the portrait of a being foreign to our human thinking and feeling, and at the same time a creature we can relate to. But what allows us to relate to the cold and rather unlikeable Dr. Weyland is the very human quality of empathy that the vampire himself does not possess. Or, if he does have any interest in human beings as something other than a food source, it’s always trumped by the instinct for survival.

Charnas examines what kind of a creature a real vampire might be like; how it survives for centuries, how develops its protective coloration in order to blend with human society. The vampire does this not out of any need other than to have ready access to his food source. This creature is a pure predator and we are the prey.  He does not, as he says himself, “confuse sex with feeding.”

Charnas creates a believable biology and mode of functioning that is coldly logical with no energy wasted on warm relationships or the pursuit of pleasure. Dr. Weyland’s impressive career, his sexual conquests, his social contacts are all means to one end: survival

This vision of the vampire is one of the most reductionist I’ve seen in literature in terms of needs and desires. The vampire only needs one thing: to be able to feed. All other goals exist in service of that one function.  Even the truly monstrous vampires like Stephen King’s Kurt Barlow of Salem’s Lot seemed to take some delight in his own evilness.  Weyland seems indifferent, and because of that, even less human.

As cold and dispassionate as Dr. Weyland is, several of the other characters in the book are not terribly sympathetic themselves.  They are certainly well done and wholly believable, but not especially likable. For those who are sympathetic, I found myself pulling for them to make a deeper connection with Dr. Weyland, to get in there and dredge up that buried treasure of humanity in him. Charnas remains consistent with her vampire’s characterization, though. We don’t ever get that triumphant, “Ah ha! I knew there was a human being in there somewhere!”  A tiny flicker of possibility at times, but in the end he is inhuman and there is no “there” to go to.

In Dr. Weyland’s interactions with the “bad guys” we see the human predators that would prey upon the predator.  Here we feel the greatest empathy for the vampire’s plight and how he is victimized, but we are reminded that he’s not likely to return the favor.

I loved this book for its revealing characterization as Weyland moves through life, taking what he needs, touching others but only rarely being touched himself. When he is touched by those he inadvertently comes to care about he is able to walk away, save himself the emotional pain that would only encumber him. There’s a sort of pervasive melancholy in all of that and maybe we could draw some kind of analogy for ourselves and our human failing to connect as deeply with others as we might. But as humans we will feel the pain of that disconnection, where the inhuman Dr. Weyland is able to evade it, or perhaps never really feel it at all.



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May 24, 2010
this sounds real good! Thank you for sharing, Esmeraude!
May 24, 2010
Certainly! I really liked it even as he kept disappointing me for not crossing that divide...which of course would have been a terrible idea and turned the whole thing into a one more angst-ridden yearning-for-what-he-cannot -have-vampire tale.
 
May 21, 2010
Again, nicely done. You're really exposing people to some obscure books here.
May 22, 2010
Thank you! I've been riffing off of Margo Adler's list, plus grabbing others' recommendations and the stack of books on my bedstand is terrifying. Not cuz vampires are so scary. I'm afraid it's gonna fall over and kill me some night.  
May 22, 2010
If you're killed by a stack of vampire books, does that turn you into one... Nah, I wouldn't try it to find out.
May 24, 2010
I think I may be getting a little too deeply into this cuz my first thought was, "Oh hey, that'd be kinda cool..."
 
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Donna G Omo ()
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Iwrite when Ican get out of my own way.
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Author: Suzy McKee Charnas
Genre: Horror, Fiction, Dark Fantasy
Publisher: Simon & Schuster, Tor, Forge
Date Published: July 1980
ISBN: 0671254154
Format: Novel
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