Joseph Young’s NAME

I posted this video for the line, “You gotta pay your dues before you pay the rent,” but watching it now and digging it, I’m struck by how the whole thing applies to Joseph Young’s new novel, NAME. Not the tone or the shots from Lollapalooza, but all those crowd scenes juxtaposed with Mark Ibold looking all lonely has its parallels. So just watch that video but listen to Bauhaus and right there you’ve made the movie adaptation of Joe’s book.

Dues paid, Joe wrote NAME last month to pay next month’s rent. You can buy the book for a donation of at least $10 to this cause. Well, hell, that’s cool, and pretty cheap for a 25,000 word novel. That it was written in a matter of weeks, to me, makes it even better. Look what this guy can do.

I’ve read NAME. It’s about a vampire named Robert who is as ill-suited for vampiring as he was for regular life. He’s just not that well-adjusted. He falls in love with this girl, Lena, who was severely beaten by her bf, Daniel aka the rabbit, a sicko human built for antagonizing Robert. In order to save the girl after her beating, Robert turns her. Lena’s a much better vampire than he is, though, and Robert can’t keep up with her boldness and intelligence. But when Robert fails to kill the rabbit, Lena turns him into a vampire. Now, on top of his awkwardness, Robert also has to deal with the blood-sucking version of the rabbit and his gang of villains.

The vampire stuff is the main thing, but the book is also about loneliness and confusion, I think, and seeing society as a tasty group of beauty in contrast to oneself. Then biting everyone in the neck.

(The awesome cover was drawn by John Dermot Woods.)

Because we’re friends, I know that Joe isn’t a vampire scholar or even a big fan, and that he didn’t watch or read any of the current crop of stories on the subject. How could he? He came up with the idea on July 7 — not a lot of time to read Twilight in there. Ignorance of True Blood and Twilight and Ann Rice seems like the best approach for furthering a genre that has been explored and turned for hundreds of years. It becomes about more than the rules or the tradition. On the other hand, this opens itself to all sorts of criticism — like about whether or not vampires can go outside in the daytime, or how often they need to feed. But personally I think those kinds of conversations add to the fun.

Even if the book wasn’t written in a month, and didn’t have the spin of publish-to-pay-rent, I think there’s a lot to like about NAME. Of course I think so — I like his writing enough to have published Easter Rabbit. But what really gets me excited is that Joe is rejecting the notion that writers can’t get paid. Or at least he’s putting it to the test, and I think he’s right on the money. And when it comes to vampire novels, here’s some tried-and-true advice: if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.