NPR contributor Nuzum (Parental Advisory: Music Censorship in America, 2001) humorously sinks his teeth into the elusive, enshrouded world of vampirism.
He launches his quest for immersion in vampirism with a clumsy attempt to drink his own blood from a shot glass. Then he watches every vampire movie ever made—605 in all. Conclusion? “They suck.” Attempting “to understand what it means to be a vampire,” he spends a thankless weekend playing one in a local haunted house. At home in Washington, D.C., Nuzum conducts an unrevealing interview with a wily group of self-declared vampires initially contacted via Meetup.com. In California, a plucky guide who calls herself Countess Mina—“Mina Harker from the novel…turned into a vampire and then sent to San Francisco by Count Dracula himself”—energetically dispels “a lot of Hollywood’s lies” in her vampire-themed tours. Nuzum joins an eclectic group hosted by former child actor Butch Patrick, who played Eddie Munster on TV, for a trek through the ominous castles and monasteries of central Romania to discover the real history of torturous prince Vlad Dracula. Wife Katherine comes along on a brisk jaunt to England to view historic Highgate Cemetery and the significant Whitby Abbey. Less interesting are visits to the topless vampire revue Bite in Las Vegas and a party thrown by the curiously aloof “vampyre society of greater New York,” aka the Court of Lazarus. Nor do Nuzum’s frequent detours from bats and fangs to address issues like AIDS, bareback sex, Netflix, etc., really gel with all the blood facts, word origins and extensive meditations on Bram Stoker and his Dracula. Still, you have to admire a guy who adroitly plods through episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and a Dark Shadows convention, all the while disbursing such random footnotes as, “there never was anyone named Count Dracula.”
Chatty, breezy and often hilarious: an enjoyable reminder that it’s best not to take things like the “blood-sucking undead” too seriously.