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Bottomfeeder by B.H. Fingerman

Bottomfeeder (edition 2007)

by B.H. Fingerman

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766158,327 (3.75)23
Authors:B.H. Fingerman
Info:M Press (2007), Edition: 1st M Press Ed, Paperback, 268 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:fiction, read in 2012

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Bottomfeeder by Bob Fingerman


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You know that scene at the end of Interview With the Vampire's film version where Lestat takes over the journalist's car? As he adjusts his lace sleeves, he notices Louis's voice on the cassette tape, and says, "Oh, Louis, Louis. Still whining, Louis. Have you heard enough? I've had to listen to that for centuries." That's the way I felt about Bottomfeeder. Oh, Philip, Philip. Still whining, Philip. For 200+ pages. It's safe to say that I've heard enough.

Bottomfeeder tells the story of Phil Merman, a Jewish vampire who is suffering a midlife crisis. Turned at 27 by an unknown attacker, Phil is now 54--half of his life spent as a mortal, half amongst the undead. After his inability to explain his new lifestyle to his wife or his (now deceased) parents, Phil has led a circumspect, solitary existence. He works at night for a photo archive (typically archiving photos of grisly crime scenes), lives in modest accommodations, and only hunts for the criminal and deviant elements among the homeless population. He's never sought out others like him and has rejected all human relationships--with the exception of Shelley, a sad alcoholic whose friendship Phil can't quite shake.

All of this changes when Phil meets Eddie Frye, another vampire who introduces Phil to vampire society--from bacchanalian bloodbaths, to a home for special needs vampires, to vampire group therapy. Suddenly Phil finds himself craving something other than blood: interaction with his own kind. As the friendship between Phil and Eddie solidifies, his relationship with Shelley deteriorates with potentially dangerous consequences.

I get what Fingerman was going for here--a vampire novel that is not the prototypical, romanticized vampire story most audiences have come to expect. And I do admire him for challenging these traditions. The lives led by his vampires are probably more realistic in terms of what vampirism would really mean. The isolation, loneliness, and compromised moral code are the tip of the iceberg (or fang, however you want to look at it). There's also the heightened senses, which are not pleasant. With heightened smell, sight, and taste, Phil becomes uncomfortably aware of how disgusting humans are. He can smell the unpleasant odors beneath the deodorants and fragrances; see the dry skin, stray hairs, and pimples as though through a magnifying glass; he can taste the layers of I-don't-want-to-tell-you-what-but-Fingerman-will on the necks of his unwashed victims. It would be like if you were put in a pen full of shit-smeared cattle and told to wander around until you found one you actually wanted to eat for dinner.

And that was an aspect of the novel I did not enjoy in the least. This novel triggered my gag reflexes far more often than I care to admit. I'm not talking about the blood and gore--that I can take. But Fingerman takes great joy in describing every ashy ass crack, every piss sodden newspaper, every used condom. I swear that every 10 or so pages he would bring in some hygienically challenged crazy person just to catalog every disgusting bodily function possible. Or he would have the main character step on a fluid filled condom. Apparently, New York is a condom-strewn wonderland.

The one thing that did keep my attention is the dark humor throughout which made Phil's voice engaging, when he wasn't whining about his circumstances. And I must say that, although I had one major plot twist figured out that factored into Phil's unnatural origins, it still led to an amazingly apropos ending.

Cross posted at This Insignificant Cinder ( )
  snat | Jul 22, 2013 |
Phil Merman is an ordinary guy from Queens, well-educated, but not exactly what you'd call classy. Oh, and he's a vampire. He didn't ask for that particular lifestyle and isn't happy about it, or about much of anything else, but he gets by OK. Mostly he preys on criminals and derelicts and manages to morally justify it to himself. Not necessarily all that convincingly, but, hey, a guy's gotta eat.

This novel plays around with a few familiar vampire tropes in some interesting ways. The ludicrous contrast between the effete, decadent, aristocratic, Anne Rice-y vampires Phil meets and his own seedy existence, for example, is rather amusing. Bottomfeeder isn't completely reinventing the vampire genre or anything, but it does come at it from a slightly unusual angle and offers a lot of dark humor with its violence and gore, and the result is entertaining enough. The plot is far too slight, though, with nothing much happening up until the end, when we get a sudden twist that's somehow simultaneously both unsurprising and far-fetched. On the whole, it felt to me more like a good setup for a story than an actual good story. ( )
  bragan | Dec 1, 2012 |
A darkly humorous, modern twist on the vampire story. Phil Merman is immortal, but hates his life. A middle-aged man in the body of a twenty-seven year old, he has no family or friends, except the deeply creepy and persistent Shelley Poole, and works part time digitally archiving old photographs of violent deaths. He feeds on the sly, venturing out into the bowels of New York to prey on the dregs of society, because he figures homeless people and drug dealers will never be missed. Such is his depressing existence until he meets Eddie Frye, an older and better connected vampire who introduces him to more of their 'kind' in the city, and then life really starts to get complicated for Phil.

The vampire in fiction enjoys the same immortality as the legendary bloodsuckers themselves, from Dracula to Twlight - there will always be a market for such novels, so it's fun to read wry interpretations of the classic tale every now and again. Phil Merman is a miserable vampire - he didn't want to be 'turned', misses his wife, hates his job, and really detests having to feed on the great unwashed to assuage his conscience, such as it is: 'I was never part of the rah-rah , up with people pep squad, but I used to have some empathy. The late great Bill Hicks once described humanity as, "a virus with shoes". Maybe so. But to paraphrase the Beef Council, "[Human]. It's what's for dinner." ' Neither does he understand the appeal of immortality, which is the one supposed advantage of vampirism that I can never understand - who wants to live forever? He's just getting along, living by himself, working at night, and getting more bitter and twisted with every unchanging year. Phil's running commentary on his pathetic existence is smart, snappy and observant, however, sort of like hard-boiled narrators Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe gone over to the dark side. St-st-stuttering Shelley is more of a comic book creation, and his obsession with Phil is rather predictable, but then Phil's reaction, and not the action itself, makes this such an entertaining novel. Eddie the mentor also amused me greatly. ( )
  AdonisGuilfoyle | May 22, 2011 |
This was an in-depth look at a modern day vampire trying to etch out a living in New York City. A bit of a whiner, Phil finds immortality has many drawbacks and isn’t the smooth sailing he has been led to believe by books and movies. He misses the sun, having to go out only at night. He finds it difficult to continue in his normal life as he looks 27 but is 54, people are starting to notice that he looks too young. His family have finally passed on, after years of looking at him strangely, disgust and horror slowly dawning on their faces. Feeding is both time consuming and difficult, he has been trying to limit himself to feeding every other day and picking on the homeless, or setting himself up to be mugged and turning on the mugger.

New friends are hard to make and old friends have disappeared from his life. Except for one old friend, his weirdo friend Shelly that he wishes would go away. Instead he appears at the worst times and clings to him like a leech.

Then things change when he meets Eddy, a fellow vampire. Eddy becomes his guide through the dark and twisted underbelly of vampire life in New York City. One of the things I took from this book is that people are strange, whether they are vampires or not. And New York City is the Mecca towards which strange people gravitate.

A different look at vampires. Inventive, darkly humorous and sadly depressing, yet a very intriguing genre read that actually is original. ( )
2 vote DeltaQueen50 | Oct 29, 2010 |
I saw this book on LT, and had to get it. I am a sucker for vampire stories, of all flavors, and this looked interesting.

This story is set in the modern day, and the flavor is hardboiled and sardonic. The first couple chapters are very funny, in a dark and disgusting way.

The POV is an accidental vampire, Phil Merman, who lives in NYC. He doesn't know what happened to make him into one. It took him a while to figure out his problems (burning in day light, can't eat food, weight loss, general deterioration).

Before becoming a vampire he was married and had a full time job. He lost both, and his normal life when he changed. He also eventually lost the love and respect of his parents: he couldn't visit during the day, ever; he lost his wife; he doesn't have a decent job; he doesn't age - they think he wastes all his time and money on his appearance.

Phil is in his 50s (56 ?) and looks only 27, the age he was when turned. When the book opens he is working part time for an agency that takes hardcopy news photos and digitizes them. Phil gets the gory, nasty ones, sometimes even ones of people he killed. He has a very clinical professional view of the death and dismemberment he sees in the shots. Most photos are of the dregs of society, the bottom.

Besides trying to live as normal a life as possible, he hunts for food, and for answers about what happened to him. He tries to hunt only the marginal, the criminal, the violent, people who won't be missed and whose removal may even be a benefit to society. He makes sure to kill them, because he thinks his attacker didn't finish him off and that turned him. Phil doesn't want to create any vampires. It makes him a bottomfeeder, and he is surrounded by carnage, both professionally and personally.

There is a great deal of disgusting description of those at the bottom. Not just the killing but the conditions they live in, and their physical condition.

One night, in a bar, he is approached by another vampire. He has lived 30 odd years as a vampire, and never seen another of his own kind. Eddie Frye opens up Phil's life. He takes him around to various other groups of vampires, all of whom have different lifestyles. As the reader you get a glimpse of some of the other vampire lifestyle cliches, and a new twist: vampire day care.

Most of the book seems to be more a slice of life story than one with a specific goal or aim. As the book winds down there are some events that end up driving the story and the ending. There is a twist and a sad ending. Phil solves the mystery of his becoming a vampire.

I liked the writing, the humor and the characters. The main character was reflective, and bitter, but not whiny. The make-believe of being a vampire was blended well into real life. I did wish in the middle that there was more of a goal to the story. It seemed to be just work, hunt, socialize, and repeat, and I wanted something more. I didn't think the visits to the different vampire groups really added anything, it was just a way to add decadence to the story.

Fingerman used the modern-traditional version (religion doesn't work, and no changing into mist or animals, no mind control) of vampires, and he did it well.

I enjoyed it and it reminded me of Huston's books, though not as raw, and the POV vampire here was more of a nerd than hard and cool. ( )
  FicusFan | Sep 27, 2009 |
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