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April 2000

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FICTION
VITTORIO THE VAMPIRE
Ann Rice
Knopf


   Anne Rice describes her latest novel as a vampire version of Romeo and Juliet. While her story is entertaining, the comparison to the Bard of Stratford finds the Belle of New Orleans's characters lacking Shakespeare's depth. Both are fans of Florence, but Rice provides interesting period descriptions while Shakespeare tells us almost nothing about the city. Then again, Shakespeare was never a novelist and Rice was never a playwright, though they are both erotic.
   Vittorio the Vampire is the second book in Rice's New Tales of the Vampires series. Each book stands alone and they're intended to be about Vampires removed from Lestat's circle of suckers. As Pandora did in her book, Vittorio tells the tale of ho he lost his family and was initiated into a vampire clan. He's a bit of a spoiled whiner, but as ever, Rice excels at creating interesting period surroundings, which compensate for her character's shallowness. Vittorio is pursued and caught by the lonely vixen vamp, Ursula.
   Far from serving up a Juliet, Rice spends a lot of time describing Ursula's appearance and lust, which constitute a poor character. The brief appearance of the historical figure of Fra Filippo is richer in its few pages than most of the other characters. As added spice to her already seasoned world, Rice feeds us Angels in this go round. The angels are intriguing enough to guarantee a repeat performance in another book.
   Anne Rice's style has been to provide the reader with a mystery, or some interesting question that needs answering, and then to draw us through her story, tantalizing us with hints. Her conclusions are either cliffhangers or doorstops. With the Tales of the New Vampires, her style has evolved into following characters through each discovery as it happens, resulting in an entertaining tale that is an improvement over the old carrot on a stick approach. Anne Rice freaks may have trouble adapting to their Dark Queen's stylistic shift, but readers hungry for some light, entertaining trash will come away satisfied and maybe hungry for more.

Jack Sanderson
reprinted with permission Hero Magazine


COMIX & ART BOOKS
CRASS ART AND OTHER PRE POST-MODERNIST
Gee Vaucher
AK Press


    Gee Vaucher was responsible for much of Crass' slogans, posters and album covers (the band and record label). She has finally released an extremely glossy and beautiful portfolio/historical book --it's almost like a visual "dear diary" of sorts and more fascinating then even that. Relevant and astonishingly accurate pencil drawings, Gouaches galore, Collages a-plenty, and tons of paintings are gathered around and about this book and they tell tales of dishonesty in human society, people trapped in the poison webs of the corporations as their brains are chained to the media mains and much, much more. We worth the price you have to pay. You will never come across a more honest and talented artist than Gee Vaucher ever again.

Carlos "Cake" Nunez



PEARL
Poems by Vincent Katz
Painting by Tabboo!
powerHouse Books


    Suddenly, I was back in childhood, disconcerted to find myself pouring over a new book, unable to get any satisfaction out of the text but enjoying the hell out of the illustrations. Collections of urban poetry often employ photographed cityscapes, possibly because streets and buildings can be tough to detail otherwise. But with the paintings of Pearl (powerHouse Books, 1998) illustrator Tabboo! has managed to capture something magical.
    He has caught the flavor of the urban landscape - so much so that you can almost taste the rain. Here we have a city at twilight, in a rainstorm - windows glinting, tiny bursts of light in a haze of low clouds. There are skylines, streets and buildings sketched fast with a loose hand, in pale ink. A church thrown up against an angry sky, at what might be about six o'clock in the morning, in watercolor. And a pale moon, drifting in and out of clouds, over buildings furred with snow. This is vital, breathtaking work.
    But Vincent Katz's poetry doesn't make good on the promise of the Tabboo! paintings.
    "Blow - I'm not going to blow it this time/Though my step is treaded in error./When I look at the wreck of my life/it all went wrong years ago./I've poured out my life to this city./City's got to give something back soon."
   No, it doesn't.
    The wreck of the good ship Vincent Katz has given us a lot of incongruous metaphor, gratuitous expletives and woefully fragmented prose, which has been given line breaks to make it more "poetical". The writing is loose, poorly constructed, general without universality and obscure without the depth or conviction that can make contemporary urban poetry worth tackling.
    This work resembles a collection of personal scribbling and jots, such any poet might hastily inscribe in spiral books - the ones we employ to preserve ideas and impressions caught on the wing. Too bad that this material consists primarily of self -indulgent recollections and clichés as predictable as ripped jeans.
    For example: "What is vaster, the impediment of night sky/or one's own terrible longing?... You must be elegant,/but elegant means contemporary." I don't know what dictionary Mr. Katz has been sharpening his claws on, but elegant does not imply contemporary. And then we have "I pick up Eileen's book and listen/to cracks in the ceiling. Every/now and then it takes two to/tangle the thread of awareness,/or is it just being of the city?"
    My favorite: "...her odor/succumbed to daily expenses, as/women move nearer the secular/flame of manhood. Their marching/crunching cries are redemptive/and recall our men falling/at Grenoble. A noble event,/but one failing to elicit sympathy..."
    This just about nails it, ladies and gentlemen. What we have here is a failure to elicit sympathy. Seventy glossy, hard-bound pages of it. The poetry is practically unreadable; however, there are the Tabboo! paintings, which more than justify the cost of the book. My advice? Go back to your childhood. Skip the words, and enjoy the pictures.

Erica Erdman



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