The Mosquito Song, by M.L. Kennedy

 

There are a lot of nice things I could say about The Mosquito Song, written by fellow-U of Cer and Mathewsnik M.L. Kennedy.  It’s short and fast, which will make it nice for plains and trains and brief reprieves from wrestling a squirming toddler.  It’s cackle-inducingly funny, which is fine if you’re at home and only slightly awkward if you’re at a diner.  While the plot has a few hiccups — the ending seemed abrupt and a little baffling — the unique voice and fast-paced action make such complaints trivial by comparison.  Oh, yes, and the prose manages to be both spare and distinctive, as in that most economical of statements: “I do that thing.”  In the book, this phrase encompasses everything from opening a door to aggravated battery.  Also memorable: “I am too stupid to live.” A peculiar case for a vampire to make.

Ah!  But that’s the most important nice thing I’d like to say about The Mosquito Song.

It rehabilitates vampires.

If you’re anything like me, you grew up thinking vampires were badass.  From the time I read Dracula in 7th grade to the college course I took on “The Slavic Vampire,” I was something of a vampire nut, though I never went full goth over it.  There was no need to.  Vampires are lethal yet romantic, seemingly immortal and yet achingly vulnerable.  Their niche within the pop cultural supernatural is one of pain and paradox and self-conscious limitation.  As such, vampire stories are perfectly suited for the pathos (and bathos) of adolescence and young adulthood.

In the end, two things happened to me (and maybe to you, too).  First, I grew up and all those vampire stories just started looking a little… corny?  Overwrought?  They started to look like the things I disliked about myself as a young adult.  Second, the Twilight books came out, and oh, that hurt. How can a vampire sparkle?  And look like Justin Bieber?  And appeal to the same set of kids who buy Lisa Frank folders at RiteAid?  Gary Oldman’s Dracula was revolting and nauseating but it was Twilight that really made me sick to my stomach.  Vampires: I thought I had lost you forever.

The Mosquito Song or, more specifically, its vampire narrator is a solid antidote to Twilight overkill. The narrator strikes a tone I’ve never heard in a vampire story before. His acerbic, cynical voice is already a reprieve from all that vampiric self-loathing and earnesty… but this vampire is also playful.  He flirts his way across the Midwest, more bemused than outraged by his attackers, cheerfully amoral and yet never atavistic. When this refreshing voice is complemented by Kennedy’s distinctive prose, the end-result is a tongue-in-cheek pulp novella that nods to its debts while moving beyond them. It’ll appeal to readers who’ve outgrown the last pangs of puberty, and is an effective tonic chaser to those Stephanie Meyer wine coolers.

About

Connor Coyne is a novelist living and working in Flint, Michigan. His first novel, Hungry Rats has been hailed by Heartland prize-winner Jeffery Renard Allen as "an emotional and aesthetic tour de force." His second novel, Shattering Glass, has been praised by Gordon Young, author of Teardown: Memoir of a Vanishing City as "a hypnotic tale that is at once universal and otherworldly." Connor represented Flint's 7th Ward as its artist-in-residence for the National Endowment for the Arts' Our Town grant, through which artists engaged ward residents to produce creative work in service of the 2013 City of Flint Master Plan. Connor's work has been published in Santa Clara Review, Moria Poetry Zine, East Village Magazine, Flint Broadside, Moomers Journal of Moomers Studies, The Saturnine Detractor, and Qua. Connor lives in Flint's East Village, less than a mile from the house where he grew up.

Posted in book reviews, Criticism

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