I was talking to a Very Dear Friend Who Shall Remain Nameless To Protect Her Pleasure Reading Habits recently about the Southern Vampire mysteries, on which True Blood is based. One of the things we agreed on that we really liked about the books is that the main character, the tough-but-adorable Sookie Stackhouse, is self-educated. Given that Sookie is supernatural herself, and rather lusciously attractive to a range of smokin' vampires and shape-shifters, that's perhaps not the thing that should most make her stand out, but it's an oddly appealing characteristic.
Sookie is, for those not in the know (but not remotely a spoiler), a telepath. Charlaine Harris, to her credit, treats this extremely sensibly (something she actually does well with most of her supernatural creations
). Sookie works as a barmaid, because the job only requires so much attention, and it's awfully hard to concentrate when other people's thoughts keep running through your consciousness like radio stations coming in and out of tune. She couldn't swing college, because trying to nail down coursework when you're surrounded by insane adolescents newly turned on to independence was, um, distracting. She doesn't have a lot of money, so she doesn't really travel. As a result, what Sookie knows about the world, she basically learned herself.
That, I think, is rather refreshing. We're so used to the idea that everyone goes to college, even though it may not remotely make sense
, that the way Sookie looks at the world, the information she has and doesn't have, makes for a different lens on her already relatively different universe. I think it's worth a reminder for educated readers who treat the books as if they're a bit of an embarrassment that having gone to college has much less to do with intelligence than with circumstances. And Sookie's enjoyment of things like a nice dress, or an expanded perspective on the universe, are a reminder that information is useful, and can even be joyful. That's not to say the books are a scold, or anything. They're a lot of sexy fun. And they're smart, just not in a conventional, measurable way. Sookie may not be the Gossip Girl kids, and thank goodness. Life's more interesting when everyone's not obsessed with going to Columbia. Would you be when there were vampires to date, and supernatural wars to win?
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is a culture writer with The Washington Post