BOOK REVIEW: The Gentleviewer's Obsessive Guide to Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Second Edition)

You may have noticed on your perusal through our fair blog that I am something of a Buffy the Vampire Slayer fan. It might have been my bio that gave it away or perhaps the fact that I am currently engaged in re-watching the entire series and writing about it. It's a show that built up a cult following over time and those fans have remained devoted ever since. Buffy destroyed the town and left our screens, nearly eleven yeas ago to the day, but, as Kathleen Mattson's exhaustive new book proves, there is still a huge appetite there for all things Sunnydale.

One such area is the growing academic criticism around the show. Often praised for its witty and insightful explorations of gender issues, Buffy has become a locus for students and academics of television and cultural studies. Mattson's The Gentleviewer's Obsessive Guide is an excellent resource for Buffy scholars, an extensive and easy-to-use guide to every single episode of the series, including the unaired pitch pilot. The format allows you to dip in and out of the guide as you see fit or to simply track down who wrote which episode. Clear, concise and very readable, the book is everything a reference guide needs to be.

Whilst my own love for Buffy hasn't quite extended to academic research (give it time, folks), the guide has already proven highly informative for my ongoing project. The clear and concise way in which information is presented ensures an easy navigation to the episode of your choice and a whole host of tidbits along the way. I struggle with reading things online and whilst sites like the Buffy Wikia are useful, there's nothing quite like having an actual book in your hand. I'm with Giles on that one. The guide therefore has the added advantage of being physical presence in this Buffy fan's life, within reach and without slow loading times.

A feature that I found particularly interesting was Mattson's decision to include a section on character and relationship arcs from the series. Buffy, Willow, Xander, Giles, Angel, Spike and Anya each get their own section in which Mattson maps out their respective character arcs and the episodes that slot in alongside this. There are also lists which outline the key relationship paths such as Buffy and Angel or Willow and Tara. This decision offers an interesting way in which to view the series and one in which meaning may be changed or certain events made more or less significant. In doing so, Mattson provides viewers with a suggested alternate viewing that puts a whole new spin on a series already known so well. You could pick out your favourite character and just trace their journey throughout the series, following these paths and losing all the filler.

As an academic resource, it is clearly excellent, but it also remains accessible for people who are just plain trivia nuts. Reminiscent of The Watcher's Guides, a series of books produced alongside the show, the individual chapter sections offer a breakdown on different aspects of the episode from the music to behind the scenes facts and quotations. For example, the entry for the third season episode, The Prom, points out that it is Sarah Michelle Gellar's favourite episode (closely followed by Hush and The Body, if you're interested) before pointing out the references to Robert Frost's poem Stopping By Woods on a Snowy Evening

I consider myself fairly up to date on my Buffy trivia, but Mattson's book is so detailed and encompassing that she has picked out things I'd not spotted. It's a book to pour over and absorb, to glance at when needed or to simply track down a song that you heard in that episode one time. Whether you're simply a fan or a scholar looking for a handy reference guide, The Gentleviewer's Obsessive Guide to Buffy the Vampire Slayer offers all things to all people. It's now always at my side when writing my next Buffy post.

You can out more information about The Gentleviewer's Obsessive Guide to Buffy the Vampire Slayer on the Facebook page here. The book itself is available on Amazon here. As a fellow obsessive, I cannot recommend it enough.

- Becky

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