These dark tales help lift gloom of modern life
by Barbara Anderson

The Salem News
Thursday, September 2, 2010

My family sent me four postcards from their camping vacation in the Northwest. There were pictures of mountain wildflowers sent from Kootenay Lake in British Columbia, the Athabasca Glacier and bears from Alberta, and, back in the USA, a twilight beach scene from Forks, Wash.

Make that a "Twilight" beach scene. My 9-year-old grandchildren had special vacation requests: Aidan needed a place to skateboard down mountain paths, and Maya wanted to visit the vampirish place where Hollywood filmed her favorite books by Stephenie Meyer.

I understood this, as I always wanted to visit the New Orleans Garden District where Ann Rice's vampire, Lestat, hung out.

When I was visiting their Nevada home in May, I introduced the twins to the CW's (Channel 56 here in Boston) "Vampire Diaries," just ending its first year.

I explained that "Stefan's brother Damon appears to be the villain of the series, but we could be surprised; Elena looks exactly like the brothers' love interest in the 19th century, who is now a vampire; Bonnie is Elena's best friend and a witch. Pay attention, kids, or how are you going to continue watching this after I go home?"

The twins were raised without television, except for the piece of furniture that played movies from the rental store. But the family got cable last year to watch the Olympics.

I thought the parental no-TV-and-commercialism decision was somewhat extreme at first, but came to appreciate it as so many offerings, especially reality TV, got more and more weird during the early years of their lives.

However, it was relaxing last winter not having to watch the Olympics with a clicker at the ready, taking out the commercials, while recording gymnastics and snowboarding for them. Now my grandson, clicker attached to hand, takes out all commercials while flipping channels at a speed I thought impossible to human fingers.

"Aidan, go back to the CW, the show's on again. If I have to come over there ...! Give me that clicker!"

No, I'm not afraid that vampire shows will scare them. I caught them watching an "Animal Planet" segment about a pet panther ripping off his owner's scalp.

They've read about and seen the Dementors who inhabit Harry Potter's world. These are the scariest creatures in literature, eating happiness, draining all hope from the human consciousness, rather like the Obama administration, but we don't talk politics with the children, at least when their parents are around.

I think "The Vampire Diaries" may have actually been a bit tame for them. I'm glad they don't have HBO because I wouldn't want them watching "True Blood" instead. That one's too bloody and intense even for me, not to mention complicated. Watching vampires, shapeshifters, and werewolves interacting, fine; but now we find out Sookie's a fairy? (OK, maybe I do watch it sometimes.)

I really like "Moonlight," the other CW series about a vampire cop. It's currently in reruns to get viewers acquainted with the leading actor who will be starring this fall in the remake of "Hawaii Five-0," so I'm watching it for the second time, immediately after watching summer reruns of "Vampire Diaries."

I think I just miss Lestat, my favorite literary protagonist, who retired from vampirism after becoming a Christian or something and was last seen curled up on a marble floor, asleep.

I do have a new favorite literary protagonist, similarly strange, in Lisbeth Salander of the Stieg Larsson series, which starts with "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." I'm eternally grateful to Bob Hugo, owner of the Spirit of '76 bookstore in Marblehead, for recommending this to me as it began its word-of-mouth journey through the fiction-reading public.

Though Chip makes fun of me for always handing him "the best book I've ever read," he liked the series too; and my son is just starting it. Not for the twins, yet; much too dark, too much about the real evil in the world which who knew? resides in socialist Sweden.

Though not about vampires, the "Girl" books clarify to me why I love the living dead, like Lisbeth. They are survivors, who enjoy life amidst the darkness of their circumstances.

In "Tale of the Body Thief," Lestat makes his existential statement: "Our tiny planet ... held together not by will or faith or communal ambition but by some dreamy capacity of the world's millions to be oblivious to life's tragedies and sink again and again into happiness as if happiness were as natural to all beings as hunger. ... I was too full of joy and dark bitter triumph. I was Lestat, drifting between heaven and hell, and content to be so."

I am content to know that sharing my favorite books with my grandchildren gives me a touch of vampire-like immortality. Someday Maya will inherit my Rice books, along with "Anne of Green Gables" and the Janet Ivanovich novels.

Aidan reads well, too, and especially liked "The Lightning Thief," about Greek gods in modern times, which I sent him after enjoying it myself. But Greek gods are a subject for another column, after the Revolution 2010 election banishes the Dementors and brings back real hope.

The comments made and opinions expressed in her columns are those of Barbara Anderson
and do not necessarily reflect those of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

Barbara Anderson is executive director of Citizens for Limited Taxation. Her column appears weekly in the Salem News and other Eagle Tribune newspapers; bi-weekly in the Tinytown Gazette; and occasionally in the Lowell Sun, Providence (RI) Journal and other newspapers.

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