Paul Bibeau tracks down Dracula and humorist Joseph Oâ’Connor gets serious
Paul Bibeau Sundays With Vlad (Three Rivers Press) Sundays with Vlad is, as befitting the subject, a strange book. With a mixture of autobiography, travel narrative, political history, social-science case studies, and literary criticism, Paul Bibeau examines the 20th-century interest in the count from Transylvania. Ever since Bram Stoker published Dracula in 1897, the long-toothed blood-sucker has been a part of popular culture, whether itâ’s Bela Lugosi in the 1931 film version or Count Chocula on the breakfast table. People seem to love the Drac.
Apparently there are many people who share Bibeauâ’s passion for the various incarnations of Vlad the Impaler. Seemingly, Bibeau talked to most of them for this almost-300-page text. At times the book presents too much informationâ"thereâ’s no way anyone will remember all the details that Bibeau uncovers. Fortunately, Bibeau, formerly an editor for Maxim magazine, writes clearly, and heâ’s witty and self-deprecating. Even when the vampire stories become tiresome, Bibeau remains entertaining. For instance, when discussing the trademark controversy between a beer in the Czech Republic called â“Budweisâ” and the American company Anheuser-Busch, Bibeau writes: â“Nobody, nobody at all, thinks American Budweiser tastes good. The people who own the company know that it sucks. The people who buy it know that it sucks. Bud is bad. Bud is what you drink when youâ’re out of Nyquil and paint thinner.â”
Bibeauâ’s sense of humor makes Sundays with Vlad worth reading. At the very least you might have a better understanding of the goth teenagers back at the mall. â" Shawn Oâ’Hare
Joseph Oâ’Connor Redemption Falls (Free Press) Irish novelist Joseph Oâ’Connorâ’s most recent novel, Redemption Falls, solidifies his reputation as one of Irelandâ’s finest contemporary authors. In the 1990s, Oâ’Connorâ"the brother of SinÃ©ad Oâ’Connorâ"was best known as a humorist. But in recent years heâ’s matured as a writer and his work now falls under the somewhat esoteric â“literary fictionâ” category.
In 2002â’s Star of the Sea, Oâ’Connor told, in historical and epic fashion, the story of a famine ship that brought the starving Irish to New York in 1847. There was little laughter in that book. However, it earned rave reviews and garnered the Dublin writer a slew of literary prizes. We can expect the same things to happen again with Redemption Falls.
The new novel is a loose sequel to Star of the Sea. Itâ’s focused on a variety of characters rebuilding a nation in the years following the U. S. Civil War. Eliza Dunne Mooney, who came across on the famine ship in Star of the Sea, is walking west from Baton Rouge, desperately searching for her younger brother Jeddo. She meets Cole â“Johnny Thundersâ” McLaurenson, a Tennessean with Irish roots and a propensity for violence. Jeddo Mooney ends up in Redemption Falls, in the lawless Mountain Territory, where he is taken in by James Con â“The Bladeâ” Oâ’Keefe, the townâ’s general and a former revolutionary hero in Ireland. Oâ’Keefe is a troubled man, burdened by his past and a combustible marriage to a New York socialite, Lucia-Cruz McLelland, who is not happy with life in the Wild West.
Redemption Falls is serious literature. Itâ’s not beach reading, and itâ’s not the kind of book you can read while watching television. Oâ’Connor tells the story in a variety of ways, using interviews, journal and diary entries, poems, folk and ballad song lyrics, photographs, and chapter headings that mimic the style of 19th-century newspapers. Oâ’Connor demands much of his readers, but the reward is an excellent book from one of Irelandâ’s best writers. The multiple voices telling the story, the attention to historical detail, and characters with emotional depth make Redemption Falls a story that stays with, and maybe even haunts, the reader. â" S.O.
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