Skip to content

The Vampire Tapestry

by Suzy McKee Charnas
1980

I bought The Vampire Tapestry pretty much on the strength of the blurbs. Stephen King has a glowing quote on the cover and some enthusiastic reviewer gushed that it had surpassed Bram Stoker’s Dracula itself. In read it, I wasn’t quite as moved as the reviewers, but I did find it an intriguing read.

The Vampire Tapestry is the story of Dr. Edward Weyland. When the novel opens, he is a highly successful and enigmatic professor at a college on the East coast. He is an expert in dreams and is carrying out a long-term and ambitious research project about the archetypal imagery of dreams. Everyone at the college is mesmerized by Weyland—everyone except Katje, the widow of another professor at Weyland. Growing up in South Africa gives her just enough of a different perspective to see that Weyland is not what he seems and that he is, in fact, a ferocious predator. The novel itself unfolds from there, with each chapter detailing each new facet in his life as he works to survive and keep his true identity secret.

The novel itself was ok. A couple of chapters were much stronger and more interesting than others. For example, in chapter 2, Weyland has been captured by thugs and is held prisoner in a shoddy New York apartment. His captors begin to charge money for people to see their “real vampire,” and Weyland eventually falls under the scrutiny of a power-mad satanist who wishes to offer up Weyland as a ritual sacrifice. Weyland’s only companion at this time is a boy in the 9th grade who suffers from the manipulation of his greedy and brutal uncle, the thug who runs the vampire show, and the indifference of his separated parents. The conversations between Weyland and Mark are great and it is painful to see Mark slowly learning about human evil as the night for the sacrifice approaches. Mark’s desperate desire to free Weyland but powerlessness to do so becomes an extension of Mark’s desire to free himself from the violence and evil in his own life. Chapter 3, the one for which Charnas won a Nebula, is also wonderful and is an exploration of Weyland’s dark psyche. Weyland is forced into therapy as a condition of returning to his professorship and in a gutsy gambit, he tells his therapist that he believes he is a vampire. The therapist, of course, sees this as a symptom of mental illness, something she is supposed to cure. And Weyland is certainly not there because he wants to learn about himself. The two play an extensive cat-and-mouse game to see who will be the one in the position of power in their relationship and the therapist is routinely crushed and almost destroyed by the revelations that Weyland makes during their sessions. And really, this is the true strength of The Vampire Tapestry – it is driven purely by the force of Weyland’s personality and the way in which he changes as he interacts more and more with humans.

If you’re tired of pretty boy vampires, Weyland is certainly an excellent remedy.