The name immediately conjours up fantastical images personal to each of us.
I first read Dracula in high school. I’ve since read it four times: first, third, and fourth times in the version to the left (Dell, ISBN 0-440-92148-1), and the second time an abridged version (by Nora Kramer) put out by Scholastic Books Services (curiously no ISBN is to be found on the book), third printing, August 1975. Since I’m working my own novel manuscript, it has taken me a while to get through it (about 40 days). I started it a week before Hallowe’en. I’ve been wanting to reread it again for years.
And so refreshing a re-reading it was!
Dracula is so well done, and is written from a point of view (POV) that is “outside the [vampiric] box,” pardon the pun. I love how it’s not a straightforward, real-time POV, that the story is woven together through an after-the-fact presentation of diaries and letters. Doing it this way lends a bit more of a sense of urgency, if that makes any sense, a much more palpable sense of dread. Like, good Lord, what has just happened and who lived through it? What have these people been through, and what are they doing this very minute (okay, I know, it was written in 1897…)?
Sure, there are definitely archaic turns of phrase, flowery prose, and the portrayal of women as frail and to-be-watched-out-for weak constitutions, but the story remains—to me—as powerful and hypnotic as it was when it was first penned and captured the imagination of all who read it. I’m not going to get into any “writerly criticisms” because they’re all so minor, as compared against the gestalt experience of reading this novel, I don’t want to detract from that experience, nor present them for other readers to look for. I felt Mr. Stoker did it an extremely superior job of writing, given the state of writing at the time. See this fascinating 36:23 video on the origins of Dracula (disturbing imagery is presented).
And, most of all, I loved—thoroughly enjoyed—how Mr. Stoker portrayed the vampire (BTW, I prefer the spelling “vampyre“).
I mean, look at that face. There was nothing nice nor attractive about him. Stoker made his vampires to be feared. I’ve read much has been made about the sexual subtext throughout the novel. Well, to me, there was not so much “sexual” as sensual subtext. As well as words and descriptions “of the day” used in writing the novel. But if there is so much buried sexual innuendo in Dracula, then you must also apply such “buried innuendo” to everyday life: to nuts and bolts, tacos, or inserting your hand into a glove, for crying out loud, because the “parallels to sex” are everywhere—if you want them to be. Or maybe, it just shows that everything is related to everything else (synchronicity). It is everyone’s right—even privilege—to interpret the world as they will and must, but just as many make much of such a male-dominated world stomping down the female spirit, I turn it back around in my belief in simultaneous lives/reincarnation, in which we all experience the flip sides to “the coins of our lives.” But still having just read this book, I just don’t see mountains of buried sexual innuendo…but do see loads of sensual expression from a creature who cannot help but experience physical sensation in being so close to another in taking their lives (i.e., the biting of necks). What might also be sensual to us…may not be sensual to the “Un-dead.” We derive pleasure from “necking” our loved/lusted ones, but the contrast can be made that Dracula has twisted what we find pleasurable into something evil and heinous. Perhaps Stoker’s symbolism was unconscious…perhaps he did this all on purpose. To give us a curious pleasure-and-pain juxtaposition.
Or, maybe, like one reviewer stated, “Heaven forbid someone just write a cool story.”
Back to the vampire.
They were evil, cunning, and ultimately cruel (e.g., the Count’s treatment of Renfield upon his failure to satisfy his will—nasty). Were all about luring the uninitiated into their folds. They possessed a”child brain.” They were fierce. Any sensuality was for literal blood lust. The consumption of what gives both the vampire and the non-vampire life.
They were to be feared.
They were not something to have coitus with. To idolize and faint over, because they were oh-so drop-dead (uh, pun kinda intended…) “dreamy.”
They were horrifying.
Again, look at that face.
If you dreamed of vampires, you were on your way out, pal. If you saw Will-o-the-wisps in moonlight, you knew no kisses nor orgasms were in your near future…only fetid death and wanton soulful destruction. They were also rare. Not a case of everyone-and-your-brother being a vampire in today’s hip, fictional worlds.
That’s the vampire I like. The heinous, cunning, creepy, rare, in-the-shadows creature of Old World demons and the supernatural, stalking around in deep, rich atmospheric stories.
Denn die Todten reiten schnell, meine Fruende.
- Book Review: Dracula by Bram Stoker (atoasttodragons.com)
- Dracula: The True Story (topdocumentaryfilms.com)
- Bram Stoker books: How ‘Dracula’ created the modern vampire (csmonitor.com)