Monday, November 12, 2007

Pg. 99: Paul Bibeau's "Sundays with Vlad"

The current feature at the Page 99 Test: Paul Bibeau's Sundays with Vlad: From Pennsylvania to Transylvania, One Man's Quest to Live in the World of the Undead.

About the book, from the official website:
At eight years old, Paul Bibeau had the footie pj’s scared off of him when his sister sprang out of a crawlspace in the dark wearing plastic fangs. It was the start of a lifelong fascination with vampires. Now a “grownup” journalist, he embarks on a quest to discover the story of how a second-rate Wallachian Prince named Vlad, inaccurately recounted in an odd little 19th century book by some guy named Stoker, became such a pervasive cultural icon.

Bibeau’s search for answers takes us on a rollicking journey that begins in Romania, as — on his honeymoon, no less — we visit the rubble of Vlad’s real castle and examine the mystery of the Count’s missing body, learning why his head might lie at the bottom of a well, smelling vaguely of Honey Smacks.

But those are just the first steps on a ride that traces Drac’s diaspora through the centuries. Soon Bibeau finds himself visiting live-action role playing conventions, learning the virtues of tight leather pants and eye shadow, chatting with a man who ran for governor of Minnesota on an “impalement” platform, and marching in a parade dressed as a bulb of garlic. Along the way, we meet journalists, Dracula experts, Transylvanian hookers, Bela Lugosi’s son … and some folks who actually like to snack on fresh human blood.

With a mixture of reverence, humor, and you-are-there reporting, Sundays with Vlad shines new light on the story of how Dracula has seeped into every corner of mass culture, becoming at once a multi-billion dollar industry, a touchstone for millions of goths and fantasy roleplayers, and. In doing so, it illuminates a fascinating underground society that usually only comes out at night — and shows us that they might not be so different from us after all.
Among the early praise for Sundays with Vlad:
"Halloween may be over, but this book is a nice surprise for lovers of vampire horror, bizarro travelogues and the science of kitsch. Bibeau has an easily readable journalism style that gets to the meat of the subject while also cracking great jokes.... It’s almost always interesting when authors devote an entire book to an offbeat topic and see it through with personal interaction ... and Sundays with Vlad is another one of those. Bibeau pays equal attention to the historical and the literary vampires, making his trip one well worth taking."
Rod Lott, Bookgasm

"[O]ne hell of an absolutely hilarious book.... Even though [Bibeau's] commentary is laced with sarcastic humor, he keeps the reader informed and educated about the real versus the myths and fiction. It is apparent that he knows whereof he speaks and that this is a subject that he obviously cares about very much."
Elizabeth Headrick

"The book is a fine combination of travelogue, memoir, and investigative reporting.... My favorite chapter is “Spirit of ’76,” in which Bibeau describes his visit to the Rosenbach Museum in Philadelphia. It starts with a hilarious account of his participation in the Museum’s annual Dracula parade (Bibeau decided to go as a clove of garlic), then moves to a serious examination of two important holdings of the Museum itself: one of the 15th-century German pamphlets about Vlad, and Stoker’s working notes for Dracula. He succeeds in separating the two (as indeed they must be separated) and carefully traces the exact nature of the “connection” between the two Draculas. Bravo!"
Elizabeth Miller
Sundays with Vlad was a "Pick of the Week" in Parade magazine, October 28, 2007.

Read an excerpt from Sundays with Vlad, and learn more about the book and author at the Sundays with Vlad website and Paul Bibeau's blog.

The Page 99 Test: Sundays with Vlad.

--Marshal Zeringue