This sassy review was published in The Poetry Project Newsletter, July 1998
Mina Harker is a vampire who has come a long way.-From Dracula’s swoony prize to the 1990’s, where she has come into awareness of herself as predator — and likes it. Dodie too likes being embodied by this lusty intellectual, and together they are an inspiring duo, smart super-girls of millennial lust who managed to make it through fads of French feminism and the Marquis de Sade with a sense of humor.
The narrative (to which Dodie and Mina wholeheartedly submit) is revealed through letters which Mina is writing to her friends– some new, and others, like Van Helsing (the good Doctor) and Quincey (the trans-fusion cowboy) who she knew from her Bram Stoker days. Dodie is happily married to KK (Kevin Killian, in real life too) and it is a good thing that their relationship is open to transgressions, because once Mina takes possession of Dodie every encounter is a potential fuck and every object is a simile the narrative passes through, loaded with semen and all the other juices. A libido battle is raging, but in this case everyone wins (particularly KK who is often on the receiving end.)
Although the undead Mina doesn’t need George Bataille treading on her turf, he says it succinctly: “Two things are inevitable; we cannot avoid dying nor can we avoid bursting through our barriers, and they are the same.”
Barriers are bursting all over the place in this book, right down to its narrative structure. The page is an open vortex upon which the narrative is not something with a beginning, middle, and end. Rather, it is a series of frames that intersect and run together, into which the characters themselves have been framed– for they are aware that they exist only in Dodie’s act of writing. Mina writes:
…I dream I’m being fucked in a park with a dildo, surrounded by a vast expanse of green bordered with shrubs and maples … getting away safely means finding the right distance…people in the midst of picnics and volleyball freeze then somebody presses the buttons on their shoulders and slowly they turn towards me… I am the dumb fuck at the center of their gaze… a lubricated tool pistons my snatch raw– it won’t quit til I come– and I never will … not exactly a writer’s block, more like cabin fever… Dodie framed me DAVID it’s growing cold the margins come rumbling in EEEK! (163)
Mina a.k.a. Dodie masters humor with a lushness of language which is lusty, blunt, and sharp as a vampire’s two front teeth. Mina is the mistress of misplaced metaphors: “His cock curled back on itself like a question mark” or “While KK and Dodie play out the story of the big O, I go to the movies– the hot stuffy theater is packed as a jar of raspberry jam a thousand seeds suspended in dark cinematic go, my vagina the rubescent core.”
This is humor that builds and builds, then turns back around to head in another direction. Just like the story itself, every paragraph is a micro-organism/(gasm) of the book’s larger narrative structure, which reflects Dracula and from there every other reference and source that inspired it: horror movies, poets and Drew Barrymore, to name a few.
Death and sex are inextricably linked (remember Bataille?)–for in that final moment, out of the final breath, we have given it all up to the devouring, unpredictable other. Mina, being dead, knows that better than anyone, and writes:
“Sex and Death: you and I write about them as if our lives depended on it.”
But rest assured, this book is no lugubrious Marguerite Duras, wallowing through the labyrinth of passion and desire, confronted only by the bleak and interminable void. Or rather, this is the wallowing through of passion and desire (etc.) but without the universalizing speculations of what is death and what is writing; what is female desire and what is the violence of the page. Mina, again, says it all: “only during sex did he feel real COCK– BALLS– FUCK– SLURP… I came in spasms that cramped my subjectivity”
So George, Marguerite, and Luce, stick your neck out for the bite– this is the subjectivity of the subject who spreads it for the page, is aware that she is being read by a reader who is aware that he/she is reading, and is conscious that “she I am Mina Harker a sexy construct a trope a simulated force of nature Dodie’s embarrassment a vortex of urges swirling around a void.”
The book is a narrative surrounded by mirrors, like the bedroom of Sade’s Philosophy of the Bedroom in which “everything is visible, no part of the body can remain hidden: everything must be seen…so many delicious tableaux wherewith lewdness waxes drunk and which soon drives it to its climax.” Mina shows us everything, from every angle: Dodie in her flannel pajamas, Dodie in the morning, on the couch, eating dinner with KK (and most other things about KK), details from her lovers’ various techniques. Since Mina is writing her letters through Dodie, the book is the autobiography of both–but the genre will never be the same.
The question of who is the fictional character and who is the writer becomes as blurry as the difference between reality and fantasy. This is an autobiography where the stories of everyday life are told with a pinhole’s precision–and the fantasies, dreams, and images from TV or movies that inevitably are a part of everyday life are all woven in as well.
Mina can go off into a fantasy while Dodie is having sex–and visa versa, so who really knows who is having sex with who? In the end, it doesn’t really matter, because it is not the plot that saves this book but the (cum)ulation of all the plots from all the sources that come together in a epic feast of quotidian details and cultural commentary. Pornography, vivacity, humor, and satire—The Letters of Mina Harker has it all.