Vampires are long still the rage . . .
Zach Baron writes for the NYT of the novelist Justin Cronin in a review headlined "The Passage of Justin Cronin," thereby making a double play with the novel's title, The Passage. In the IHT, however, where I first read the review, the headline reads as "The reluctant vampire writer," an ironic allusion to the title of Roman Polanski's old film The Fearless Vampire Killers, I suppose. Anyway, Baron's review appears in the Times on October 4, 2012, and he notes that Cronin only reluctantly concedes that he's written a vampire novel:
Cronin, by all appearances, is an unlikely heir to America's genre-fiction throne. He has an M.F.A. from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and a PEN/Hemingway Award for his book "Mary and O'Neil," a meditative novel about love and loss told in a series of short stories. He has never read any of the "Twilight" books -- "I'm kind of not the demographic," he says. And "The Passage" is not only, or even primarily, about vampires: it spans nearly a hundred years and contains dozens of vividly voiced characters, from gruff, lonely F.B.I. agents and quasi-mystical nuns to chemically neutered pedophile janitors supervising shady government operations hundreds of feet underground. When he started formulating the book, he explains, the "vampire boom had not yet occurred."What? Not yet the boom? Was he working on this even prior to Bram Stoker's Dracula? That'd put him at well over a hundred, yet he looks awfully young! Is Cronin himself a vampire? That could explain his reluctance to draw attention to himself as a vampire writer.
Justin Cronin is still a bit sensitive about the word "vampire." Yes, the supernatural bad guys in his sprawling, 766-page novel, "The Passage" -- about death-row inmates infected by the United States military with a rare Bolivian jungle virus, afflicting them with superhuman strength and a lust for human blood -- are recognizable as very close cousins of the fanged creatures who've torn a bloody swath through American pop culture . . .Oh, I see, one more thing to blame America for . . . vampires. Well, then, I blame Baron the messenger for an abusive use of "supernatural" and "afflicted"! Be that all as it may, Cronin's sensitivity speaks volumes (two so far), though less about his putative status as a blood brother to the undead than about the hesitancy of a serious writer at getting caught up into a popular genre (though he seems not to have done quite that, either).
But he's made a lot of sudden money, "close to $3.75 million," and rather abruptly. Not a bad price for relinquishing one's sensitive hesitation about being famous as a quasi-genre writer.
Perhaps I really should play up the vampire aspect of my novella . . .