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The People’s Vampire

There’s a nice long article in this month’s Harpers about vampire belief and lore in the present day Balkans.

Unlike his Western relation–that handsome, aristocratic, mirror-wary antihero–the Balkan vampire is typically confined to living and hunting among the laboring classes … Also a Western conceit is the vampire’s pallor; whereas female vampires are beautiful and white-robed, most firsthand accounts indicated that male vampires are ruddy, corpulent peasants, whose affect–once unearthed–is that of a freshly gorged mosquito.

Lots of good stuff about rural vampire-hunting, a legendary Serbian horror movie about an evil butterfly, the post-Tito return of the Devil, and why there are no goats in the nativity. On sparkly Western vampires, the author has this:

The Americanized vampire is the ultimate fantasy for a nation in decline: the person who has been able to take it all with him when he dies, who has outlived the vagaries of civilization itself. Having abandoned the culture that forged him, moreover, he deceives us into thinking that he has moved beyond being what he always has been–a disease. Now the plague he spreads is a therapeutic fantasy in which an embarrassment of wealth and youth and hedonism is acceptable as long as its beneficiary is equipped with the right intentions. We have forgotten to be afraid because … we are willing to believe that a weapon of evil, in the right hands, can be transformed into an instrument of good.

–Téa Obreht, “Twilight of the Vampires,” Harper’s, November 2010.

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The City and The City

The making of Ephemicropolis from Peter Root on Vimeo.

O. Henry, “The Duel” (1910):

Your opponent is the City. You must do battle with it from the time the ferry-boat lands you on the island until either it is yours or it has conquered you. The battle is to decide whether you shall become a New Yorker or turn the rankest outlander and Philistine. You must be one or the other. You cannot remain neutral.

John Berger, “Keeping a Rendezvous” (1987):

Every city has a sex and an age which have nothing to do with demography. Rome is feminine. So is Odessa. London is a teenager, an urchin, and in this hasn’t changed since the time of Dickens. Paris, I believe, is a man in his twenties in love with an older woman.

To which some droll New Yorker replied: “Albany is an old man in a deli, trying to send back soup.”

Walt Whitman, “Song of the Broad Axe” (1856):

The great city is that which has the greatest men and women. If it be a few ragged huts it is still the greatest city in the whole world.

All yoinked from the most recent Lapham’s Quarterly.

London, Ontario is of course a student with Ugg boots and big sunglasses. (I kid because I love.)