Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A Little Something Unbearable…

A Touch of Dead (Sookie Stackhouse: The Complete Stories)Two o’clock on a Saturday and where do I find myself? In a women’s clothing store, waiting for my dear fiancée to try on a few pairs of brown dress pants. What does a man do in a women’s clothing store? He waits, occupying himself with anything that he can find to distract himself from the misery that is sitting in a women’s clothing store on an otherwise beautiful spring day. And so, the time had come for me to acquaint myself with Miss Sookie Stackhouse. You see, my fiancée is a True Blood fan, one among a legion of fans by my understanding, and so like many True Blood fans, she has decided to read the series from which True Blood was derived.

Now, if you are among the few who has read some of my earlier blog entries, you’ll remember that the last unbearable thing that my fiancée dropped upon my lap was equally paranormal, and equally cringe worthy. I am speaking, of course, of the Twilight books, Stephanie Meyer’s saga of strange creatures with strange addictions to sorry excuses for humanity. That’s right, Bella Swan, I still think you’re a dimbulb. I was never much for the Team Edward versus Team Jacob argument. I was always on Team You-Both-Could-Do-Much-Better. But this is a new beast altogether. Sookie Stackhouse has her own skills, her own vampires, her own dog man, her own messy home life. And I am not reading the entire series. It’s enough for me that I have passed by the television a few times while she was watching an episode.

No, my meeting with Sookie is due to an acute oversight on my part: leaving the house without sufficient reading material. I make a point of always keeping something to read from or write upon whenever I go out. This is primarily to prepare me for just such a situation as this one, the unplanned visit to pick up a pair of pants, or shoes, or a blouse, or just to browse for the sheer joy of it. As long as I have something to occupy myself with, I know I can persevere through whatever is thrown my way. Yet, on this particular Saturday, as we pulled into a parking space and prepared to disembark, what did I find behind me? Nothing. Well, the near equivalent of nothing. Just the volume of Sookie Stackhouse short stories that my fiancée recently checked out but neglected to remove from my backseat. Desperate times. I picked up the book and trudged into the store.

The book was in large print, not because my fiancée needed it, but because that was the only edition the library had available. That was fine by me though. If there’s one quirk I don’t take issue with, it’s the publisher that takes unnecessary pity on my eyes. Aside from that, it turned a 300 page book into a much more manageable burden should I become strangely enthralled. So I cracked it open to the beginning and dove in. Around me, my fiancée began draping pants that she wanted to try on. I become a human coat rack in stores. It’s okay. I’ve happily resigned myself to this lot in life. She’s more than worth the slight indignity.

I started reading a story about a trio of fairies who suspect that one of their own has been slain by a coworker at a strip club. This is not exactly my choice of material, but it’s better than price stickers and clothing labels. They’ve rounded up their collection of suspects and tied them up in various parts of the house. Sookie, who reads minds (but apparently doesn’t see the moneymaking potential therein, since she works as a waitress at a dive bar), has been brought in to interrogate the suspects. After cross-examining one after another, each with their own backlog of reasonable suspicion, Sookie uses her powers of deduction to piece together a plot that pins the club owner with premeditated murder by lemon juice. Oh boy, I think. Fairy murder by lemon juice doesn’t bode well for what’s to come.

The next story is of the vampire persuasion. It centers on the coming of who else but Count Dracula, and via a few slightly funny “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” references it builds a story around a vampire holiday, of all things. It ends with a vampire being staked by Sookie while other vampires, werewolves and werepanthers (that’s right, I said werepanthers) all look on. Oh my, maybe the clothing labels would have been better. But I keep reading, and horror of horrors, I am getting hooked. I manage to blow through the third story, a story centered on another vampire who killed Sookie’s long-lost vampire cousin, before my fiancee picks out her pants, and I am started on number four by the time we exit the store. Maybe there’s something to this paranormal escapade after all.

So you’d think that after leaving the store and returning home to my room-o-literature, I should be ready to set aside Sookie’s stories and get back to the high-quality books I normally read, but you’d be wrong. I keep on keeping on. In fact, I read the final two stories before dinner. Story four involves some simple detective-style storytelling focused on an insurance agent who dabbles in magic to increase his clients’ luck. I’d hardly even call it a story as much as an inconclusive yet colorful anecdote. Story five is a shameful attempt at paranormal harlequin writing. Basically, the story boils down to a lonely Sookie looking for a little lovin' and finding it in the arms of an abandoned werewolf. Then, because everything isn't odd enough, it turns out that the werewolf was only a shifter/actor hired to give the required lovin' by Sookie's recently discovered fairy great-grandfather as a Christmas gift. Yet I still manage to zone out everyone, everything, even through the fairy grandparent hiring his human granddaughter her own prostitute. Even my fiancée seems a bit peeved with me before I’m through, though when I read a book like this she does offer me some leniency.

So, I have fallen prey to Sookie Stackhouse. I don’t have any desire to read the other stories. I’ll leave them to the masses. But for one day at least I have to admit that I became a Sookie faithful. She helped me through something unbearable, even if the reprieve she offered might have been every bit as unbearable under other circumstances. I guess I owe her one.

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