Alison Bartlett

Always Hungry

In a reading culture where vampire stories have been commodified for an indiscriminate but devouring audience of teens, here finally is a remodeling of the genre for mature intelligent readers who prefer their vamps similarly mature, intelligent and endowed with the finer luxuries of life. Always Hungry is luscious in its attentiveness to the classic European sensibilities of Bette, one of the Originals, who seduces a willing Australian writer visiting Amsterdam to promote the award-winning translation of her book, Monstrous Women. The text takes pleasure, as will its readers, in such ironies, which are grounded in social commentary about monstrosity and the writing industry, fandom and fame, slippery genders and shifting categories of identity. The counter narrative involves a hermaphrodite antagonist campaigning to be taken seriously as a writer and as a social intervention into the binary categories of gender. The politics of LGBTI are queered further by the possibilities of eternity and feeding a hunger on a lunar cycle. Departing from the current trend of passive girls falling victim to hot teenage vampire boys, this work recasts the vamp tradition as relations between women that are sumptuous and satisfying, loyal and long-lasting. If mature educated women are the most prolific consumers of books, then this book should have a guaranteed readership. It is gothic fantasy that seduces with its language, creating a world of wealth and beauty, glamour and comfort, of silk and shathoosh, mature cheeses and fruit, exquisite crystal and sensual languorous satisfying sentences. Always Hungry is about hunger, desire, intimations to immortality through writing and reputation, the remaking of self and ideas through new knowledges and Ancient myth, viral information and ways of being eternally in the moment. It yokes high culture with elemental passions and destabilizes both. This is Baranay’s best work to date, showing her to be a writer of maturity and philosophical reflection embedded in a re-imagining of the conventions of this genre.

-Alison Bartlett