Normally I would delete my old review and write another one, but my previous review is so epically bad that I want to show myself how far I’ve come not only as a writer but as a critic as well. (Wow… that sounded pompous as fuck. I mean, I know I’m awesome, but that shit’s uncalled for.) Anyfuck, if you want a good laugh, read on after the final judgment for my original review… *cringes*
The Traveling Vampire Show has long been on my Top 20 Reads of All Time. Going into this reread, I was scared that would change. I’ve grown quite a bit, must’ve put on at least forty pounds since my last first read of this one. All jokes aside, the last time I visited Laymon’s Vampire Show, I was not a father. Shit, I hadn’t even met the woman who would become my wife. I had a pretty significant drug addiction, but, oddly enough, I remember almost everything that happens within these pages. I didn’t expect that to be the case.
This book reminds me so much of my childhood: from vicious neighborhood dogs, to a foul-mouthed, constantly-horny best friend, and a gal pal that would become a first girlfriend. The book captures perfectly how fucking annoying it is to be sixteen and in possession of a penis. Things pop up at the most inopportune times and inject themselves into the situation. Ladies, imagine your vagina prolapsing anytime it feels like it. You’re just walking down the street, wearing a skirt, it’s laundry day and you don’t have your favorite neon-yellow Simpson’s thong on, when all of a sudden, you’re dragging your baby-maker behind you. That would be awkward right?
(I’m laughing so hard right now. My apologies.)
Okay, so getting a boner in public isn’t anything like that, but it is annoying. Some of us guys realize early that a woman’s body is her own and not our entitled-ass’ free-rein playground. We can be invited to play, but it’s not our property. I think this book touches on that subject. I appreciate that Laymon, who was known for writing consistently about rape, wrote something that touched upon male sexuality in a positive light. Yes, some of us are rapey as fuck. Some of us are douche-tastic semen balloons just waiting to explode on the next pair of tits that walks by. Most certainly, if a man rapes a woman, it is ALWAYS the man’s fault. Yet some of us respect women. Some of us understand that you’re a person first and a gender second. And, although we love looking when you dress up, we understand that that doesn’t mean were are entitled to see what’s underneath. All that is what sets this book apart from most of Laymon’s work. Sure, Rusty is a deviant little shit. But Dwight is constantly worried about what his dick is doing at any given moment, and his respect for Lee and Slim is real, even if he does like to look and fantasize. Dwight is a teenage boy. A damn well-written teenage boy. Rusty is not the norm, but there are plenty of Rustys in the world. That’s liable to offend some. But at least it’s honest.
All that is what I feel The Traveling Vampire Show is truly about – the uncontrollable aspect of our sexuality and the beast within. That perception is not always reality, is something else Laymon tackles. The title suggests this is a book about vampires, but it doesn’t have anything to do with vampires. It has to do with being a teenage boy. Know that going in, and you should be fine.
Finally, the ending is one of my favorite endings of all time. I would say it’s easily in my top five, but would hazard a guess that it’s actually in my top three. It comes out of nowhere, like a brick to the face. Damn powerful.
In summation: The Traveling Vampire Show is still one of my favorite novels. Having grown up, I appreciate it even more. I remember being a teenage boy, and it’s nothing to be romanticized. We’re all idiots until about thirty, but even then, some of us never grow out of the boner-in-public stage.
Final Judgment: That ending tho.
This is, by far, Laymon's best work. I have read EVERYTHING the man ever wrote before he died in 2001. Next to Stephen King, no one has played a bigger role in molding me into the writer I have become. Laymon is not for everyone. He's a minimalist, never verbose, and can drum up a shock a minute while still developing characters. He has a penchant for borderline porn. If you're a prude, do not pick Laymon up. If blood and gore aren't your thing, STAY AWAY!
What I love about The Traveling Vampire Show, has nothing to do with vampires. Because, in fact, the book doesn't have any vampires in it until the last couple pages. Not being a fan of vampires, but a fanatic of Laymons, I decided to read this anyway.
This book is about the kids Laymon draws so well. Period. Their youthful adventures rival that of any youngsters King has EVER written about. I will forever be a fan of Richard Laymon because of this book. Even when he's bad, he's still rather good.
***** 5 Stars