Debbie's World of Books
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True Blood and Philosophy by William Irwin, George A. Dunn and Rebecca Housel

June 25th, 2010 by Debbie's World of Books


Source: Received for review

Publication Date: June 1, 2010

Publisher: Wiley

I give this book 3 out of 5 stars

Description from The first look at the philosophical issues behind Charlaine Harris’s New York Times bestsellers The Southern Vampire Mysteries and the True Blood television series

Teeming with complex, mythical characters in the shape of vampires, telepaths, shapeshifters, and the like, True Blood, the popular HBO series adapted from Charlaine Harris’s bestselling The Southern Vampire Mysteries, has a rich collection of themes to explore, from sex and romance to bigotry and violence to death and immortality. The goings-on in the mythical town of Bon Temps, Louisiana, where vampires satiate their blood lust and openly commingle with ordinary humans, present no shortages of juicy metaphysical morsels to sink your teeth into.

Now True Blood and Philosophy calls on the minds of some of history’s great thinkers to perform some philosophical bloodletting on such topics as Sookie and the metaphysics of mindreading; Maryann and sacrificial religion; werewolves, shapeshifters and personal identity; vampire politics, evil, desire, and much more.

I’ve been a big fan of Charlaine Harris’ Southern Vampire series and am in the process of catching up on the True Blood series so my interest was peaked when I was asked to review this book.  It was an interesting book and the best part are the examples pulled for each philosophical argument from the books and TV episodes.   Each chapter opens up with a quote from one of the characters are the perfect collection of one liners that make you laugh or remember why everyone enjoys the series so much.  The main down side was after awhile it started to sound repetitive.  Some of the quotes about coming out of the coffin/closet were used so often I started to skim over those parts.  The best part were the questions it brings up that makes the reader started arguing the various sides of each question asked like should vampires be granted the same rights as other US citizens or when does a vampire have the right to change someone else into a vampire.

Check out the introduction of the book here:

Introduction: “If a Tree Falls in the Woods, It’s Still a Tree — Ain’t It?”
Edited by George A. Dunn and Rebecca Housel with series editor William Irwin,
Editors of True Blood and Philosophy: We Wanna Think Bad Things with You (The Blackwell Philosophy and Pop Culture Series)

When Amy Burley gives Jason Stackhouse a quick tutorial on the “circle of life” (you know, squirrels eating nuts, snakes eating squirrels, and so on), using the decor of Merlotte’s as a visual aid, he exclaims, ”Jesus Christ, I want to lick your mind!” Our boy Jason may be better known in Bon Temps for his good looks and “sex abilities,” but it’s phrases like “lick your mind” that draw fans to True Blood‘s most earnest, if sometimes tragically misguided, seeker of life’s meaning and purpose (or at least his life’s meaning and purpose). In fact, “lick your mind” perfectly captures the blend of smarts and sensuality in the brilliant, sexually charged HBO series that inspired us to produce the book you hold in your hands, True Blood and Philosophy.

It all started with Charlaine Harris‘s Dead until Dark, published in 2001, which launched her series of critically acclaimed, best-selling supernatural mystery novels and introduced the world to a most unlikely sleuth, an attractive Louisiana barmaid and mind reader named Sookie Stackhouse. Harris’s work caught the attention of Alan Ball, the award-winning screenwriter and director, who built his reputation on dark and daring works like American Beauty and Six Feet Under. With a healthy dose of edgy humor and deep compassion for his characters’ frailties and foibles, Ball made a career of boldly delving into taboo subjects like death and transgressive sexuality, creating works that were brazen both in their unabashed carnality and in raising tough questions about the human condition. True Blood, Ball’s adaptation of Harris’s Southern Vampire Mystery novels, takes the same mind-licking approach as those earlier works. In the world of True Blood, as in the pages of Harris’s novels, we encounter a wonderful array of richly drawn characters struggling to make sense of their bewildering world and their own sometimes equally bewildering desires and hungers. For those of us who hunger for insight and understanding, their stories offer a lavish banquet of philosophical morsels into which we can sink our proverbial fangs and from which we can draw both sustenance and delight.

As it turns out, philosophy has a lot in common with True Blood. Like the vampires, shapeshifters, and other supernatural beings that pass through Bon Temps, philosophers are often regarded as deviant characters due to their habit of overturning expectations and tempting us to think outside conventional boundaries. Like True Blood‘s mind-reading detective Sookie Stackhouse, philosophers are unafraid to venture into dark corners of the human mind, where they sometimes unearth uncomfortable truths that others prefer to leave buried. And like the indomitable Jason Stackhouse, many philosophers engage in a quest for the meaning of life that often seems quixotic, an interminable pursuit that’s been known to lead us down more than a few blind alleys — as Jason himself can testify. But like True Blood and Harris’s novels, the philosophical quest can also be one of life’s most delectable pleasures. Don’t take our word for it, though. You hold the evidence in your hands.

When you surrender to the lure of True Blood and Philosophy, it won’t cost you a drop of blood, but your perception of reality may be expanded and enriched so dramatically that you’ll wonder whether you somehow ingested V-Juice. Okay, maybe that’s too much to expect. But we are confident that your enjoyment of True Blood will be considerably enhanced by the time you spend with us pondering some of the more perplexing philosophical quandaries raised by the supernatural adventures of Sookie and her paranormal pals. For example, “pro-living” crusaders like the Reverend Steve Newlin denounce vampires as unnatural, but what does that really mean? If it’s just another way of saying that vampires are evil, then why does evil exist in the first place? And can vampires — or any other creatures for that matter — be considered inherently evil?

Beyond these classic questions about the nature of evil, True Blood offers a fresh spin on the vampire genre that opens a rich vein of new philosophical queries. In the world envisioned by Ball and Harris, those conundrums-on-legs we call vampires have “come out of the coffin” and are attempting to live openly alongside human beings. Given the imbalance of power between human beings and vampires (who, in addition to superhuman strength and speed, also have a troubling knack for “glamouring” humans out of their free will), can humans and vampires belong to the same political community and participate in society as equals? Are the plights of gays and other minorities similar to the situation of True Blood‘s vampires as they come out of the coffin and claim their place in the sun — um, better make that in the shade? The perennial evils of hatred, bigotry, and scapegoating — those not-so-supernatural scourges of our species — appear in a fresh light when their victims and perpetrators include not only ordinary human beings, but also vampires, shapeshifters, “fang-bangers,” fanatical disciples of the Fellowship of the Sun, and, last but not least, a maenad as beguiling as she is depraved.

And let’s not forget that the same show that stimulates our thinking with such succulent moral and metaphysical quandaries is also a wickedly sexy romp through the perilous precincts of love and lust. Could True Blood possibly have something to teach us about the paths and impediments to erotic fulfillment? Granted, most of us probably have desires considerably tamer than those of the more colorful denizens of Bon Temps, but still . . .

We don’t promise that True Blood and Philosophy will supply the conclusive answers to all of these questions — or even to Jason’s classic mindblower, “If a tree falls in the woods, it’s still a tree-ain’t it?” Philosophers have been debating questions like these since long before Godric was a twinkle in his maker’s eye, and every answer has been shadowed by some doubt. It’s the questioning itself that’s mind-licking good. So invite us across your threshold. We want to think bad things with you!

Posted in 3 Star Books, Books, Non-fiction

3 Responses

  1. Pam

    What a ridiculous premise for a book.

  2. Ashley

    I’m reading this right now and I think that so far I see how you are right about the repetition. A lot of the points are made so many times that it gets a bit boring. I think that some of the arguments are interesting though.

  3. dsuzuki

    Come on Pam, you had to see this coming :)
    Ashley-yes, some interesting arguments but it was a bit of a stretch to fill up an entire book.

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