Because I do not claim to be in any position to deliver a professional literary critique, I reserve the freedom to begin this review by answering the most basic question–did I like it?
I enjoyed this book immensely on so many levels!
The first aspect of this work that I fixated on was the format. It is primarily written in third-person omniscient, however it has excerpts from Abe’s journals peppered throughout. As I have structured my novel similarly, I appreciate the daunting task of writing directly from your character in the hyper-personal gambit of a journal. In fact, I was experiencing so much anxiety about writing from two of my male characters’ perspective, I was motivated to begin interviewing some of my wonderful man-friends in attempts to gain some legitimate empathy. It was therefore galvanizing to be reading at leisure a book which was directly contributing to my own work. I certainly need more experience with the way an intelligent, articulate man analyzes his own thoughts and emotions.
The introduction was wonderfully imagined and directly involved the author himself as the primary character. Seth is approached by Abe’s primary vampire influence, Henry, and charged with Mr. Lincoln’s notebooks and the directive to disperse the truth by compiling a biography. The plot moves along comfortably, beginning with Abe as a small boy and ending shortly after his assassination. Throughout, the reader finds adept descriptions of Lincoln’s visage, his first love and loss, his progression through politics, and of course vibrant, violent scenes from his development as a Vampire Hunter. The only quarrel I have with the plot is in the ending (isn’t it always?). Henry makes an executive decision after Lincoln’s death which is shamefully contrary to Abe’s wishes; he inducts him into the world of the undead because “some men are just too interesting to die” (Grahame-Smith 336). However, Abe had many times in life rejected Henry’s offer to resurrect his first love and multiple children which succumbed to an early death. In fact, Abe and Henry had a violent falling out three-quarters of the way through the book over such an offer and hadn’t spoken since that altercation. However, the reader finds in the last pages Henry and Abe, garbed in dark clothes and glasses, listening to Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his famous address. It’s a wonderful concept that Abe would hear his own address cited in Rev. King’s opening lines, but the means to that end didn’t uphold the values and mutual respect built between the man and the vampire throughout the book. In fact, I can imagine that the 98 years between Abe’s death/resurrection and the I Have a Dream speech, Abe would have been attempting to take vengeance on Henry for his trespass. The amicable, picturesque ending seems contrived.
I have two thematic take-aways: one that a speaker is believable because he believes, and two, the inherent loneliness of a human existence.
A member of the audience at one of Abe’s stirring speeches relates ,”I have heard celebrated orators who could start thunders of applause without changing any man’s opinion. Mr. Lincoln’s eloquence was of the higher type, which produced conviction in others because of the conviction of the speaker himself” (Grahame-Smith 215). This resonates with another quote by Benjamin Zander that I’ve been communing with recently: “One of the characteristics of a leader is that he won’t doubt for one moment about the capacity of the people he’s leading to realize whatever he’s dreaming.” The concept calls for me to know what I believe in, because speaking whether in a public forum or in private, is representing my ability to inspire myself.
“In solitude we are least alone” (Grahame-Smith 160) is the inscription Abe leaves on the coffin of his first love, Anne Rutledge. She has been killed in retaliation by a vampire, and of course Abe endures a deep depression as a result. I love this quote because it so succinctly captures the ineffable individual experience of life, and the paradoxical feelings as a result. It doesn’t indicate that the quality of being alone is essentially negative, and I find that uplifting. My initial interpretation of this quote was the loss of identity in obsessive love. Often one can feel that his or her own identity loses meaning without the input of the object of their affection. I’m sure most people are familiar with the quote “I was more alone with you than without you” (UAL). I think that comes from that sense of insignificance when you elevate someone to the heights of obsession. However, another paradoxical interpretation of the same quote is that in solitude i find i am surrounded by grief, anger, disappointment…etc, so in fact I am rich in society. Perhaps Abe’s direct meaning, however, was to indicate the spiritual vacancy of Anne’s body advertises her heavenly communion.
In summary, the writing was tremendous, the characters were and inspiring, the plot was a spectacular marriage of fact and fiction. I highly recommend this read.
1) Grahame-Smit, Seth. Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter. New York, NY, 2010.
2) Zander, Benjamin, ed. Ted: Ideas Worth Spreading Feb 2008.
3) At Large, Universe. A Fictional Anthology of Depressing Cliches. Everywhere, Earth, Always.