The World on Blood: 8

Jonathan Nasaw, Author
Jonathan Nasaw, Author Dutton Books $22.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-525-94066-1
Mass Market Paperbound - 448 pages - 978-0-451-18658-4
Paperback - 448 pages - 978-0-451-98381-7
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With this wryly horrific riff on self-help programs, Nasaw (Shakedown Street, 1993) joins the burgeoning ranks of writers who pick up echoes of vampirism in the rhythms of everyday relationships. His bloodsuckers are respectable citizens of El Cerrito, Calif., who treat their thirst as an addiction they can kick through weekly meetings of Vampires Anonymous (V.A.), which recovering vampire Nick Santos conducts like any other 12-step program. Complications arise when Jamey Whistler, a member of V.A. who sees its approach as cultlike, secretly begins to undermine the organization. V.A. is by no means a new concept (Jeffrey McMahan made it the focus of his 1991 satire, Vampires Anonymous), but Nasaw uses it to address the bigger issue of the consequences of a permissive society. With great dexterity, he choreographs scenes of Nick and Jamey's vamp. vs. vamp tango around chapters from Nick's gestating book, The World on Blood, an account of gay vampire life in San Francisco's Castro district in the 1970s. V.A. is portrayed as Nick's sobering wake-up call from his promiscuous lifestyle, and America's rush toward self-help movements as the inevitable response to decades of hedonistic self-indulgence. Vivid characters who veer between the comic and the tragic keep the preachiness at bay, gleefully underscoring the irony of a society seemingly addicted to anti-addiction therapies. Literary Guild selection. (Apr.)
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