Sheridan Le Fanu – Madam Crowl’s Ghost & Other Stories / In A Glass Darkly Wordsworth Editions – 2006 and 2008
Here are two collections of short stories from one of my favourite writers. I would recommend the Oxford edition of In A Glass Darkly, as that one contains nice notes at the back. Wordsworth editions are bare bones and rarely contain annotation. They are cheap however, and I own quite a few of them.
In A Glass Darkly is the better of the two collections. It’s been a few years since I read it, but I distinctly remember the joy I felt when the evil monkey appeared the first story. It’s also great because it contains lesbian vampires in a vampire story that predates Dracula. I think my favourite story in here is the novella: The Room in Le Dragon Volant. It’s not as spooky as the others, but I really like Le Fanu’s writing
Madam Crowl’s Ghost is a nice collection of ghost stories compiled by none other than M.R James. I read this one more recently, but I read the first two stories on a transatlantic flight and didn’t end up enjoying them as much as I would have were I to read them on the couch at midnight with a cup of peppermint tea. The stories in here are collected from different sources, and the quality and tone varies quite a bit. Some are great though, and most of them are set in Ireland. You can imagine my sheer delight on finding a story in here about a man from my hometown who shares my name. I loved this book, but the other collection is probably a better place to start if you haven’t read Le Fanu before.
The Vampire Bible – ???
Temple of the Vampire – 1989
The Satanic Bible – Anton Lavey Avon – 1969
I’ve just finished reading The Vampire Bible from the Temple of the Vampire. I’m going to talk a little about that and a little about the Satanic Bible. I want to get LaVey out of the way early on.
I am glad that I bought my copy of the Vampire Bible in a parking lot, off some dude from craigslist. I sure would feel like a dummy if I had given the person who wrote this tripe any of my money.
To join the Temple of the Vampire, you have to buy a copy of this book from them. I would hope that they also give you extra material to make sense of it, or maybe call you up to explain the crazy nonsense that’s included. The book doesn’t even include a definition of what they mean by ‘vampire’. The vampires described are non-violent vampires who don’t murder or drink blood. These vampires just float about in the astral realm, giving thanks to the undead gods and sucking life-force from their prey. It’s not very clear as to what effect this floating has on the vampire’s prey though, and the book specifically says that it doesn’t harm them. That sounds like a pathetic vampire to me.
The content is an awkward mix of instruction and fantasy. The book states that its contents are based in fantasy, yet it prohibits any kind of violence. If this is all fantasy, why shouldn’t I swally down the blood of my enemies? At least the Satanic Bible has some balls and tells you to ‘SMASH’ people that you don’t like. My favourite part of the entire book was the second item on the the list of things that suggest that you are in the presence of the Undead:
“2. Tingling sensations in the fingertips”
Perhaps the author has gotten mixed up. These vampires sound a lot like fairies to me.
The Vampire Bible is dumb. Like the Satanic Bible, it makes no effort to emulate the actual Bible in any way. Unlike the Satanic Bible, it’s not even remotely clever. I actually enjoyed reading the LaVey’s Bible. It’s camp and silly, but there is some actual reasoning behind it. You get the feeling that he actually believed in some of what he was writing. There’s not an ounce of reasoning behind anything written by Vlad, or whoever the fuck shat out the Vampire Bible. The ideas in the Satanic Bible are obviously not completely original, but I think that LaVey did a decent job of synthesizing them into an entertaining whole.
Coincidentally, perhaps my least favourite part of the Satanic Bible (apart from the silly Enochian bits) was the section on Psychic Vampires. It seemed like it was a metaphor for something that had happened in LaVey’s own private life that was too embarrassing to clarify but too upsetting for him to leave out completely. It’s funny looking back at that section now and reading the lines: Psychic vampires are individuals who drain others of their vital energy… They fill no useful purpose in our lives. Perhaps he was in contact with some of the members from the Temple of the Vampire! Well, actually… probably not; the Satanic Bible was written 20 years before the Temple was founded.
Anyways, to conclude, I’m giving the Vampire Bible a generous 3/10. It looks and sounds pretty cool as long as you don’t take the time to actually read it. It’s not nearly as spooky as it could have been. The Satanic Bible gets a 7/10 for being good hellish fun. Even if you don’t like the writing, this book is worth owning just for the sweet portrait of LaVey on the back.