Friday, September 10, 2010

Vampire Haiku, (How), by Ryan Mecum

Vampire Haiku is Ryan Mecum's follow up to the hugely successful Zombie Haiku. As with his previous collection, Mecum again follows his protagonist through the infection and change into a monster, meting out the story in short bursts of seventeen syllables. With slick graphics and over the top production for a book of poetry, Mecum provides readers with yet another interesting read.

Vampire Haiku begins in the 17th century with William Butten, a passenger aboard the Mayflower, who is bitten by a fellow passenger, Katherine Carver, and becomes a vampire. Katherine is forced to leave, and William is forced to suffer through the New World alone. Mecum's narrative is laced with actual details from history, such as famous characters and dates, which help to envelope the reader in the fantasy which he constructs. William celebrates the first Thanksgiving, the Salem Witch Trials, the Boston Tea Party, and so on, clearly moving up and down the coast to keep his identity hidden from curious investigators.

Come the 19th century, William seems to have settled in Washington D.C. However, he makes it out to modern day Texas, and the Alamo, where he turns Davy Crocket into a vampire. Soon, however, the Civil War begins and William finds himself in Maryland, switching military allegiances and supping on "The Antietam leftovers."

Throughout the 19th and 20th centuries, William makes the acquaintances of some of the most famous names in United States history, from Emily Dickenson to P. T. Barnum, Babe Ruth to James Dean, and so on. Ultimately, he is reunited with his love Katherine, but with a surprise ending that will keep the attention of readers until the last page.

Critics will ultimately find two issues with Vampire Haiku. The first is the glaring anachronisms which pepper the manuscript, the largest being the concept in general. Haiku wasn't established as a form in Japan until the mid to late 17th century, nor titled haiku until the late 19th century, so there's no reason a Westerner would be writing haiku in 1620, nor would they call it that.

Furthermore, some of the lines seen out of place. For example, in 1620, Katherine explains to William that "tanning is bad," which doesn't make sense considering 17th century fashion, in which pale, if not white, skin was en vogue. The other issue is Mecum's interpretation of the term "haiku," which ignores many of the basic concepts which define haiku (seasonal reference, juxtaposition of humanity against nature, etc.) and focuses solely on syllable count, which many interpreters of haiku consider inappropriate in English.

However, many readers will forgive Mecum these glaring errors, as the book is clearly listed as "humor," and issues with historical accuracy and poetic quality can be written off as part of the joke. That being said, Vampire Haiku is not without its cringe moments, and there are a few places where readers will shudder. Readers interested in a quick, humorous vampire read that explores and reinvents United States history through a blood-sucking lens and challenges modern vampire stereotypes will really enjoy Ryan Mecum's Vampire Haiku.

Visit Buy it today.

Reviewed by Joshua Gage.

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