I was expounding on my love of Dracula to my poor long-suffering mother yesterday, and realized I should probably confine my effusions to a more opt-i...moreI was expounding on my love of Dracula to my poor long-suffering mother yesterday, and realized I should probably confine my effusions to a more opt-in format.
I first read Dracula as a teenager, breathlessly turning pages of a library edition late at night while coyotes howled around the little bungalow where I was staying alone. Even as an adult, in less conducive conditions, the story holds up for me.
It is in deadly earnest, and the emotions are grand, the stakes high: if you can't put your cynicism aside, it probably isn't for you. It builds slowly, accumulating unease and unearthliness, until you reach the first vertiginous climax -- and then again, you return to normalcy, waiting to be slowly, sickly drawn to the next dramatic break in the fabric of the world. It takes a while to reach a breakneck pace, but it's well worth it.
I'd call Dracula an anxious book. Not just tense, or thrilling, but profoundly anxious. As a teenager, I found the Victorian anxiety about carnality and sex dripping from the pages interesting: Jonathan's revulsion from the incongruously lush lips of the Count, the menace of the castle ladies, and above all the hectic loveliness of Lucy. It's a terrifically clear look into the Victorian psyche, bringing the cultural subtext so close to the surface it pulses like an exposed vein.
As an adult, I've enjoyed the other thematic obsessions: the clash of science/technology/modernity with magic/superstition/occult; the West versus the East; the train and the typewriter set against ancestral earth and the evil eye; the pagan versus the holy; eternal carnal life at the cost of the heavenly beyond.
Perhaps others who aren't English majors, history readers, or obsessed with Victorian foibles and fables won't find those contrasts as compelling as I do, or greet the intrusion of shorthand, typewriters and railroad time tables with the same affection. But these themes play out on characters we care about, for all their occasional preciousness: the slightly fussy Jonathan, the garrulous Lucy, the careful and self-reliant Mina. They play out in deliciously high drama, memorable scenes, iconic images. A hundred years of progress and easing (or replacement) of cultural neuroses can't rob Dracula of its charm, its pathos, or its terror.
P.S. To audiobook readers: A multitude of unabridged productions exist, many of them with multiple readers to bring the diaries and letters of the various characters, male and female, English and Dutch, to life. I have bought, and often return to, the Brilliance Audio version. Most of the readers and accents are quite good, although Michael Page, who reads Seward's journals, is as usual scenery-chewing. I haven't tried the Audible original, chock full of famous names, so that might be another option -- but I do recommend getting one with multiple narrators, to really do the epistolary style justice. And do listen to samples -- there are some very fake English accents running around claiming to be Jonathan Harker of Exeter.(less)
Beautifully drawn and designed, gorgeously interwoven with Quran stories and Arabic calligraphy. The story is brutal in places, but ultimately, I thou...moreBeautifully drawn and designed, gorgeously interwoven with Quran stories and Arabic calligraphy. The story is brutal in places, but ultimately, I thought, redemptive and beautiful. Unlike many stories I read or hear, it interrogates the brutality to women it depicts and tries to balance female self-sacrifice and understand it. The themes are beautifully woven into the narrative and the art both -- and there is really no difference between art and story, here.(less)