Reading is FUNdamental

It might be a bit of an understatement, but I love to read. It’s one of my favorite activities. On average, I read two or three books a week. Sometimes I do it to keep the brain firing but mostly it’s just flat-out fun. To me, there’s really nothing better than curling up with a book that takes me to faraway places with interesting characters, especially after a hard day at work.

One of my favorite genres is horror. I know, I know. Very relaxing, Wendy. I like the modern classics. Stephen King and H.P. Lovecraft are a couple of my favorite scribes, but I’ll give just about any horror author a decent shot at winning me over. Mysteries—both hardcore authors like Alex Kava or whimsical writers like McCall Smith—can often be found on my nightstand. Agatha Christie is a true favorite. Then there’s science fiction, another favorite. Old, new, it doesn’t matter. I read it all. Even genre-bending authors like Kay Hooper who intertwines mystery-thrillers with a psychic/supernatural twist can be really fun. As hard as it might be to reconcile this next one given what you know about me, I do enjoy Jane Austen as well.  And yes, I’m also a comic book nerd. I know. Big surprise there, I know.

Even though I am a legit, full-grown adult I have not escaped the blast radius of the cataclysmic Young Adult boom either. Harry Potter?  Yep, I’ve read them too.  Look down on them if you must, but I don’t believe that everything you read has to be on par with Dickens. I’d heard that some parents kept their kids from reading these delightful books because they thought it celebrated witchcraft and their kids would turn into Satan-lovers or something ridiculous like that.  That was a minority of parents and I’m thankful for that because that book series single-handedly got an entire generation absolutely bonkers on reading again. It was great. The books couldn’t come out fast enough and the kids were thrilled to be READING!  Imagine that!? READING of all things!  And parents were trying to squash that. I just don’t understand some people.

At a time when the fear that iPhones and tablets and PSPs and social media were going to rot the brains of our youth, the Harry Potter collection got them reinvigorated on flipping through paper pages. They were reading. Not posting or updating or following or pinning. And I totally get why. I freakin’ loved those books. And they were not all easy reads as one might expect. J.K. Rowling did not hold back on the drama, the emotions, or the suspense. These novels were super exciting in spite of, or maybe because of, the emotional roller-coaster the author put us devoted readers on, and worthy of all the accolades they received.

A few people I know pointed out, as if I didn’t know, that—gasp—those are kids’ books. Their eyebrows would arch as they not so silently judged my reading selections. This air of pretentiousness is starting to pervade our literature choices and I just want to say, let’s not get too snobby, people.

Take book clubs for example. If you’ve ever joined a book group, you know that they usually don’t read “fun” books. No light romances or whimsical mysteries or horror novels for them. Heaven forbid they admit that they like a fun story more than some bloated philosophical 3,000 page masterpiece that takes forever to get through.

No disrespect to Tolstoy of Dostoevsky or Nobokov, but I don’t quite get why a club would choose a book where it’s hard to really understand the “point” behind them even after you’ve read them twice or even three times (but you say you do just so you don’t look stupid in book club)! Yeah, yeah, yeah, they’re classics. They deserve their place in the annals of great literature, but I’m just going to say it: No one really enjoys these books. The problem is that most people in book clubs only say they do so their peers won’t look down on them or think they’re “reading challenged.”

That last paragraph was not just all speculation. I belonged to a book club back in the day. It was mind-numbingly boring. I gave it a good college try though hoping it would broaden my horizons but I only lasted a couple of books. The material they chose was sooo stale. To my credit, or discredit – however you want to view it – I could read the material…easily…I just didn’t want to.  I know, I know, that sounds like something a toddler would say, but oh well. Why read something you’re not going to enjoy? Before bowing out I did notice that no one else in the club seemed to relish the book list either. Yet no one spoke up and said, “Can we please just pick out something fun to read?”

I think it’s high time we remove the snobbishness. I say, if you’re reading, that’s great! It doesn’t matter what you’re reading just so as long as you’re enjoying it because it’s supposed to be a truly relaxing hobby. So, please, read anything. Read comic books or Stephen King or J.K. Rowling or Danielle Steele. Just have fun doing it.

Reading builds the mind and offers an escape from everyday life. While it’s good to learn and improve yourself by stretching your comfort zone, there’s no reason why it always has to be overly challenging or arduous. You should never sulk or heavy sigh when you think about the book you’re about to crack open. Read a book that’s fun sometimes instead of always choosing material that hurts your brain. And don’t let others bring you down for what you read.  Ever.

Remember: Reading should be FUNdamental!

girl reading

Where have all the vampires gone?

Maybe I’m old school, but I just can’t buy into the new trend of vampires that are everywhere on TV and in movies these days. You know what I’m talking about. The sexy, brooding bloodsuckers that wear designer clothes like skinny jeans and leather jackets. Or no clothes at all to better show off their hairless pecs and abs. Their hair is all shiny from the Shisheido mousse they’ve slathered all over their head to get that spiky just-out-of-bed-and-oh-so-handsome look perfected.

Twilight, True Blood, Vampire Diaries…they may be entertaining, but they’re all posers as far as I’m concerned. “Hip” is not a word that should be used to define vampires. Sure, the characters in these shows are charming and sexy, but they’re supposed to also be fierce, narcissistic, predatory, and dangerous, just as vampires are meant to be.  Vampires aren’t meant to be shallow shells of an Abercrombie commercial with fangs thrown in.  Following a vampire should be unsettling and titillating, not just the latter.  Who does this best? In modern-day, it’s Anne Rice of course, the Queen of the Damned (See what I did there?  Nice reference, right??)

Lestat and Louis, these are the archetypes I always return to when I think of the perfect portrayal of this mythical and terrifying species of monster. Rice keeps these two more closely related to the characteristics held by the legendary Dracula and vampires from past eras. By that I mean that the focus of their identities is placed more on their malevolent charm, their perspective that humans are just prey to be taken down like how a lion stalks weak gazelle on the Serengeti.

Louis leans a bit more on the side of brooding, which many of these new Emo vampires rely heavily on to make hearts flutter (the damaged soul syndrome that high school girls are helpless to resist) but he still embodies what a vampire should be. And Lestat…well… he is, in my humble opinion, the ultimate vampire. He is always on the hunt, always seeing fresh meat when he eyes a human, always ready to kill, whereas the majority of True Blood vampires (for example) are only truly fierce when they have to be. When they’re not hungry they’re just hanging out at the bar playing pool, mixing with human society, and shooting out smoldering gazes left and right as if their blood lust is a switch that can be turned off and on with ease.  Indeed, Eric Northman is the only one in True Blood with the characteristics worthy of a vampire.

I desperately want a t.v. series or movie that harkens back to the age-old vampire legends. While I don’t hate Twilight, I also don’t count it as part of the vampire genre. I mean, come on. And True Blood, while enjoyable, is more like a soap opera that often runs off the rails (werewolves, shape shifters, goddesses, fairies, they pack in a lot). The movie Interview with the Vampire was decent enough and I truly enjoyed watching Lestat leap off the pages and onto the screen. But in the book (and we all know books are so much better than their motion picture counterparts), Anne Rice’s artistic combination of Lestat’s fierce, predatory charm and the despondent, soul-searching nature of Louis (who was himself capable of great violence) sparked an epic vampire tale. Now if we can just get that translated to an HBO or Showtime series, I’d be in heaven.

What I’d love to see is a return to this ruthless vampire archetype. I want the danger of being in their presence. I want to understand the despair of immortality. I want to see ferocity again. The genre is getting neutered thanks to this YA trend and it needs to grow its fangs back.

a must read for vampire fans

a must read for vampire fans