Pocket Books Enriched Classics present the great works of world literature enhanced for the contemporary reader. This edition of Dracula was prepared by Joseph Valente, Professor of English at the University of Illinois and the author of Dracula's Crypt: Bram Stoker, Irishness, and the Question of Blood, who provides insight into the racial connotations of this enduring masterpiece.
Topics: Vampires, Supernatural Powers, Made into a Movie, Sexuality, Death, Love, Immortality, Adventurous, Suspenseful, Dark, Macabre, Spooky, Gothic, First Person Narration, Victorian Era, England, Romania, Epistolary Novels, Speculative Fiction, and Modernism
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One observation, or point of discussion, is the evolution of villains and evil in culture. In Dracula, evil is straight forward: the vampire is dead/unclean, repelled by sacred objects, repulsive, and, any attraction is sexual in nature--but here, sexual attraction to be fought against-- its allure is a trap that leads to the soul's death and destruction. Upon defeat, Dracula gains a moment of peace, perhaps grateful for having been staked and beheaded.
In modern times, from Interview with a Vampire to Twilight, True Blood, Vampire Diaries, et al, evil is allowed to speak to the reader directly. Evil has a story, can love, can be loved, hey--the monster's not all that bad if you don't mind a little gore and carnage. Our culture desires romance with vampires. We want to be vampires, live forever, be as strong as superman--lose our fear of the night. The shade of evil is less clear. Some vampires play the role of bad guys, others are warm, fuzzy and heroic. The world is more complicated, you see.
I believe this comes from our wanting to weaken evil, make evil not so scary as all that. Reduce our fears by showing a 'human' side to evil, beyond the motivation of Dracula which was to simply survive, reap a little vengeance now and then, or take on a few servants as needed.
Humanized evil is popular now. Zombies, werewolves and vampires are not that much different than us. Perhaps this is a positive view, if we apply it on foreign people and cultures -- less demonizing and more tolerance of, er, different appearances and lifestyles. If such is the case, I'll praise the modern horror trends. Fear is a rotten motivator of worldly action.
As for straight out horror in literature, the more alien, unknown, and unknowable the slimy, dark-hearted critter is, the more I'm likely to keep the light on and the covers pulled up to my chin after a night of reading. This frightful feeling is fun in fiction, but for real life, I prefer tolerance and cute vampires who can handle crosses and garlic, yet struggle with morality and the pursuit of meaning in life. I think Stoker might not mind the variety and abundance of nightmares his work helped spawn. He may even have enjoyed Buffy, who, come to think of it, is not all that different than Mina--without all the Victorian dressage.more
It's a fascinating story, and even if you think you know it, there are elements that are probably not in the many retellings. That includes the ridiculously far-fetched blood giving, which had me scrathing my head, waiting for someone to die. However it takes a very long time to get going, then seems to slow down in the middle before speeding up dramatically towards the end a finishing in a flash. It may be a classic book, but it's certainly not a brilliantly written story.more
It's hard, at this point in my life, not to feel as though I've already read this book. The Dracula story has been told and retold and reimagined and reinterpreted so many times that it was kind of shocking to realize I've never actually dealt with Stoker's original work.
That said, I don't feel that I have too much to say about it. Vampires and sex and blood and superstition and science and religion ... it's all kind of played out. The most unexpected part of the book was the relish Stoker seems to have taken in writing an epistolary work. There are letters, diaries, shorthand accounts, phonographic recordings, telegrams, and newspaper articles, and not only is this how Stoker chooses to tell the story, it's how the characters try to tell the story.
The characters, as much as the author, are fascinated by more than just the account of their experiences. They are fascinated by how they record those experiences, commenting frequently on their methods. A not-insignificant portion of the story is actually just the main characters reading one another's writing and transcribing an additional copy.
It seems strange that a book about vampires would get so excited about writing in shorthand or transcribing a phonographic cylinder, but it does make sense for these people to react to the supernatural with the logical and rational response of simply recording their observations.more
Back then I took maybe two days to read it from cover to cover and really enjoyed it. Re-reading it nigh on 38 years later on the Kindle I find I have lost none of the enjoyment. It's an excellent book that keeps you with the story all the way through. It's also interesting to see how cinema has changed the story when it's been adapted by Hammer and Hollywood, it's often been made much more sexualised and at the same time less horrific. Perhaps the closest film regarding Dracula in 'feel' to me would be Polanski's 'The Dance of the Vampire Killers'.
If you haven't read it then do. Free on ebook readers as well!