Sunday, October 05, 2008

Sookie Stackhouse, Charlaine Harris & Her Southern Vampire Series, HBO's Trueblood and Literary Space

I took most of the day off from work and entered what Ruth L. Hubbard called “literary space” in a 1969 research article. My territory was the world created by Charlaine Harris in her Southern Vampire series, which is receiving vast public attention since used as the basis for the HBO series Trueblood.

Sookie Stackhouse is the hero of this compelling world, which occupies a small corner of northern Louisiana. The tall, dark, handsome love interest in the first novel, Dead Until Dark, is the vampire Bill, who just happens to be dead – until dark.

I entered this steamy world from about 10 p.m. last night until 1 this afternoon, with some time out for sleep. The experience of so fully entering a fictional world that blots out the here-and-now reality set me to thinking about what makes the experience of watching the TV serial qualitatively different from reading the book.

Hubbard’s article (Inner Designs in Language Arts, volume 66) has shaped my thinking about the experience of reading long past the influence normally held by academic research. Hubbard interviewed seven- and nine-year-olds with open-ended questions. She found that children, like adults, enter into what she calls "literary space," defined as that mental area in which the story events feel as if they are happening to you even though you know they're not. It is a state of mind in which the distinction between oneself and the story blurs. It is characterized by complete concentration on the book that blocks out attention to the outside world, and the sense that what happens in the story "fells like" it is happening to you.

Obviously, I am influenced by my experience watching Trueblood, because a month ago I didn’t know who Charlaine Harris was. Now, I’ve read the first book and avidly await the arrival of the next four.

One way that the books are different from watching TV is that I can enter the literary space of the novels and occupy it for hours and hours.

I also enjoy imagining the characters, instead of seeing the writers' and directors' visual interpretations. Anna Paquin’s Sookie structured my imaginary Sookie, but my vampire Bill is as much influenced by Anne Rice’s Lestat as actor Stephen Moyer.

Rice’s vampire world became overly convoluted in Queen of the Damned and her writing overwrought. Tale of the Body Thief redeemed her quartet of Vampire Chronicles. Down-to-earth Sookie Stackhouse’s common sense will, hopefully, be a counterweight to Harris going in that direction. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to my next escape into the literary space that Harris has created.


Sylvia K said...

And that is exactly why I much prefer books to TV or movies! I love the way the story and the characters evolve and develop in my own mind rather than being dictated to by the other venue. Always glad to find another book lover and it is indeed a wonderful way to escape from reality for more than a half hour here and hour there on a screen.

Dogwalkmusings said...

Ah, literary space. Sounds like heaven. I think I need a good bit of time there myself!

cconz said...

thanks for stopping by my blog. i always appreiciate a commemt. Say, i love true blood. now i know it's a book. I'll have to check it out. I though oh, here we go another vampire show. But, i was so surprised. I loved it.

June Saville said...

Books are certainly precious. I do enjoy reading and writing short stories as well and have wondered how these would play out in the blogasphere. So in June I began my blog Journeys in Creative Writing with my original stuff, with interesting results.
I didn't expect an explosion of readers but a lot more people are coming than I would have thought, and I have been happy that the majority visit do come again - and often.
The differences in behaviour between nationalities is interesting.
The average visit is 7.54 minutes and an average of 2.52 pages viewed.
Australians actually spend an astonishing average of 11.32 minutes on site with 3.1 pages viewed.
The US, where I have a lot of visitors as well, comes in at 32 seconds and 1.33 pages. UK 1.19 seconds average for 1.60 pages.
I can understand that Australians would be more interested in my subject matter(being mostly Australian)than others, but the others do keep coming back ...
Human beings are a fascination.
June in Oz