Friday, September 7, 2007

Dracula by Bram Stoker


Books like Bram Stoker's Dracula become so ingrained into our culture that we often let them slip by without ever reading them, assuming that we know what they're all about. There are many books that I've done this with. I'm guilty of making a comment on Nymeth's recent review of Dr. Jekkyl and Mr. Hyde about most probably not reading it because "I know the story." After reading Dracula, I think I'm going to make a special effort to go out and read The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
I did know the basic story of Dracula, but it was so much more detailed than what I knew and told in such a beautiful language. It's a true gothic masterpiece, truly a work of literature. I never knew that it was told in the form of journal entries, telegrams, and letters. I didn't know a few of the characters that are in the book, and I certainly didn't know how gifted Stoker was as a writer.

It's amazing how these works of horror have lived on in our culture and have moved from a work of minor fiction in it's origins into a major piece of mythology today. The character of Dracula has morphed into something that I'm sure Stoker could've never imagined. I only wish that everyone actually knew Bram Stoker's novel, Dracula as well as they know the novel's namesake character. The story of Lucy Westenra is truly one of the most horrific and tragic stories and one that I would've never known had I never read this book. Mina Harker's slow battle with Dracula's bite is one of the most suspenseful plot lines that I've read and I can't even imagine being her husband, Jonathan Harker!

Then there are characters like the delightfully creepy and insane Renfield...the subject of my next RIP book. There is the keeper of the sanitarium where Renfield lives and the doctor who seeks Lucy's hand and treats her, Dr. Seward, and then there is of course the wonderful Dr. Van Helsing.

I'm glad to have finally read this one, and it's the perfect kick off to the RIP Challenge! It will set the mood nicely for the next two months. The next two books will continue the Dracula theme. Next up is Renfield: Slave of Dracula by Barbara Hambly, which focuses on our spider and fly eating friend; and then, of course, is The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova.

36 comments:

Eloise said...

I love this book, and agree with your review entirely. I wish someone would make a film of Dracula that actually follows the book, it would be terrifying!

Cath said...

I think that is exactly what happened to me - I knew the story (or thought I did) of Dracula and thus never read it. Then in my old age decided I *must* have done at some stage. Talk about confused and befuddled...

Good point about Dracula morphing into something Stoker could never have imagined. He certainly has!

I never knew anything about the character of Renfield so will be interested to read your review of your next book about him.

Nymeth said...

First of all, I love love love the picture of the vampire poppet :D

And yeah, it really can be very surprising to find out how these original stories actually are. Like you said, they have become like mythology, and like myths and folktales they are transmitted orally, and so they are changed along the way.

I think that Renfield was the character that impressed me the most when I read the book. I really look forward to your review of the book on him!

jean pierre said...

i was saying just the same thing to nymeth the other day. its amazing how we a) overlook these books because they're so familiar and b) how different these books are from our impression of them.

for those reasons i am really looking forward to reading "dracula". thats why i've also decided to read "dorian gray".

you should definitely read "dr. jeckyl" - its surprisingly good and rather different from what one might expect (well, from what i expected anyway...).

DesLily said...

Whelp, classic though it is.. at this point in my life I'm still not up to this sort of thing.. one thing I do want to question you about though...and be truthful!.. never once while reading this did you hear Bela Lugosi's voice?? Be honest!

jenclair said...

So glad you liked it! It has so much to offer about the Victorian era. I taught it to my seniors and used lots of literary criticism (so that I did not have to discuss the sexual elements and Victorian sensibility as much myself). They ended up loving the examination of critical reviews from the time period and more current ones. Since there was so much they would have missed without the criticism, they began to appreciate critical analysis much better (and I could just smile knowingly about sexual implications).

SuziQoregon said...

I read this last winter for the Classics Challenge. I loved the letters and journal entries style. You really didn't know whether the person who was writing survived. This book was SO good, and SO different from every movie version I ever saw.

And to answer Deslily's question: it was Frank Langella's voice that my mind gave to Dracula, not Lugosi's. I saw that version when I was in college and I think his voice was the one that captured the seductiveness of Dracula.

Becky said...

This one is next on my list. I just finished The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and loved it--wished I read it years ago kind of loved it. :)

Nicola said...

So glad you liked it! I really need to re-read this. I was only about 12 when I read it.

Carl V. said...

I'm am so glad that you allowed yourself to have this experience and I wish everyone who appreciates good literature would do the same. Far from being a story about a bloodthirsty madman that many movies make out the story to be, Dracula is a deep, rich, and complex story about love and devotion, about chivalry and bravery in the face of indescribable evil, about strong men and women who band together to fight a common enemy. Dracula is a story that I could write pages and pages on. I had the pleasure of reading it at age 11 or 12, long before I ever saw any film versions of it. Thus my idea of Stoker's novel was never perverted by the travesties that have been unleashed on the film world calling themselves 'Dracula'.

And while I do believe there is a degree of sexuality to the story, I have never been one to buy into the argument that the story is one long tale about sexual repression and longing during Victorian times or any of the other similar arguments I have heard. I apply Tolkien's theory of 'applicability' to all stories that aren't obvious and intentional allegories. Though ideas of Victorian sexual attitudes, eroticsm, etc. can be "applied" to the story of Dracula, I simply don't believe that something with such narrative depth and beauty was simply a thinly veiled discourse on Victoran sexual mores. I just don't see that. That of course is my opinion, but I also see that as the strenght of the story. It has so much to look at and grasp. Every time I have ever read it or listened to it (The Barnes and Noble uabridged audio version is terrific)I have gained new appreciation for different characters, etc. And despite knowing the story as well as I do, the sense of forboding and suspense never goes away.

A good example is the portion of the tale in which the story of the shipwreck is being relayed by the newspaper reporter. I get such a strong mental picture of it every time and it just sucks me in and has me trembling with the eerieness that one would no doubt feel if one had actually been there to witness the event.

Bram Stoker's writing (with the exception of Lair of the White Worm which I believe was in a not finished nor rewritten form when Stoker died...I could be wrong about that, but it is horrible) is amazing. The reason I love the book Mystery of the Sea so much is that he enchants me with his language and I love his characters so much. Sure, there is a degree of those characters acting in ways that were appropriate for the time but may not be PC right now, but I see both the male and female characters as strong, independent, and heroic while acting within the strictures of their society.

I better stop or I'll get out of control. There is a reason that Dracula remains at the top of my favorite books and I suspect now Chris that you understand exactly why that is.

Chris said...

Eloise, I'm right there with you! I really wish someone would make a film that follows the book! I popped in "Bram Stoker's Dracula" last night to watch it again after finishing the book and turned it off half way through because it's crap! I don't know why movies take so many liberties when there's already a perfect story there! Why change it?

Cath, I'm guilty of doing that with SO many books, and I really should have learned my lesson by now :p I did that with Frankenstein as well, and when I finally read that one, it became one of my favorite books!

Renfield is ok so far, but reading it immediately after reading Dracula may have been a bad decision. She (the author) takes liberties with Stoker's characters, but of course it's a work of fiction and she's creating her own story based on Stoker's characters, so duh...I'm just biased after just finishing Dracula!

Nymeth, I had to give him fangs, it begged for it :p

You're absolutely right, the stories get changed along the way and we assume that we know all that the story offers, but I should know by now that the writing in itself offers so much more! I love the gothic feel to writing, and there are characters that are never spoke of in the oral telling of these stories. Renfield was such a cool character. I've only read the first two chapters of the book, so I'm still trying to feel it out. I'm nervous that she's going to hack Stoker's story to shreds, but let's hope not!

JP, You're absolutely right! We DO overlook these classics. I know that I'm guilty of passing them up for reading something else because "I already know the story". And when I do read the books, they are always different from my impression and so much better...there's a reason that they're classics!

You're going to love Dracula, JP! It's right up your alley. Especially with your love of words and language...his use of the English language is amazing. He really had a gift with writing. I could've read this book for another 500 pages just for the language. I started Dorian Gray awhile ago and never got to finish it...I really would like to. I loved what I read. The only other Wilde that I've read was his Complete Fairy Tales and those were beautiful.

Dr. Jeckyl is officially on the TBR list ;)

Deslily, Oh, you should read it! You'd love it..And oh yeah...definitely a few giggles while thinking of Lugosi saying "Leesten to the cheeldren of the night"

Jenclair, I noticed loads of sexual implications in this one! You're absolutely right. It was a wonderful examination of the Victorian era. What I loved about my edition was that it had excellent footnotes that explained certain word that I wasn't familiar with, and then a whole section in the back that talked of certain places and people from the era. So it was a very educational experience as well! I love that you taught your class this book, that's great!

Suzi, I loved the format that it was written in as well. It really made it all that much more interesting. I don't think any movie will ever truly do this book justice. It's sad that no one will just stick to what the book does. It's a wonderful story that doesn't need to be changed. I've gotta say that my mind went to Lugosi as well ;)

Becky, We seem to have similar taste in books, so I have a feeling you'll really enjoy Dracula! I have Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde on my TBR list now! Glad you enjoyed it..I'm looking forward to it!

Nicola, I think it might have scared the pants off of me at 12!! It didn't so much now, but at 12, I would've been convinced that the count was outside my window ;) I really enjoyed it though. Hope you get to reread it soon!

Carl, Couldn't agree with you more. It absolutely is not about a blood thirsty vampire wreaking havoc on the world and killing people in violent bloodshed. Like you said, it's about relationships and love, strength, bravery, the power to go on and to fight. It was a beautiful story, a dark story, perfect for this time of the year and I suspect I'll continue to read it every year at this time of the year!

It's ashame what hollywood has done to this book. It's disgusting actually. I popped in "Bram Stoker's Dracula" again last night (the one with Winona Ryder) and figured I'd give it another shot after reading the book and turned it off half way through. It pissed me off that they called the movie BRAM STOKER'S Dracula. It's horrible. Why take liberties with a story that's already so good?! Though sadly, it's the closest I've seen to what the book actually is.

As far as all of the sexual innuendos go, there are certainly some there, but the book is definitely not a big sex fest like people want to make it out to be. I honestly had to laugh at the introduction in my version where the author compares one scene to a blowjob in extreme detail. At least it was entertaining.

Quick question for you..was all of Stoker's work horror? He seems to have done it so well, I'm curious to know if he stuck with it. I'll definitely be reading more of his work. Mystery of the Sea is going to be the next book up for me!

Dark Orpheus said...

Oh, the Purple Poppet has fangs! So sweet! :)

I'm with you on how some books seem so familiar to me unread, that I'm kind of slow picking them up. "Dracula" is especially one of those books I should pick up, tried to read, but somehow, never did.

And yet, I watched the film with Winona Ryder and Gary Oldman too many times. ;p

Chris said...

Dark Orpheus, I just had to give the purple poppet fangs for this one ;)

You really should read this one some time! It's such a wonderful book. The film with Winona Ryder doesn't even begin to do it justice. After reading the book, it took way to many liberties to actually call it "Bram Stoker's Dracula" I could enjoy it as a vampire movie, just take Bram Stoker's name off of it ;)

Stephanie said...

I really liked your review!! I'm one of those people that have seen countless vampire movies and read countless vampire books. And yet, I have never actually cracked open the "granddaddy of the all"!!

Dracula is on my list for this challenge and I will probably get into it during the month of October!!

Chris said...

Stephanie, Glad you're reading this one! I'm the same as you. I love vampire novels and I've read TONS of them, but had never read the "grandaddy of them all" Nicely put ;) It's a great one. You'll enjoy it!

Debi said...

I am so guilty of the same thing...and I have Nymeth to thank for waking me up to that fact as well. Frankenstein now sits on my reading pile, and I need to get Dracula, as well as The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and The Island of Dr. Moreau, and I'm sure many others. No more assumptions...

Debi said...

By the way Chris, I meant to tell you what a clever girl I am. The family went to Borders last night. And every time we go, we usually buy Annie a couple books. Last night, I went and picked up Ender's Game and showed it to her. She, of course, thought it sounded wonderful and chose it for one of her books. So now I get to read it, but it didn't have to come out of my own personal book allowance. Hmmm...you think that would be considered bad parenting?

Framed said...

I just finished this book and felt the same way. I didn't particularly want to read it because it would be old hat. Boy, was I wrong. It's good to read someone else's review right after you finish a book to get another take on it.

jenclair said...

I think France Ford Coppola's version with Winona Ryder and Gary Oldman is the worst possible interpretation of Dracula (something I've ranted about any number of times); it completely loses the Victorian sensibility. Calling the movie "Bran Stoker's Dracula" really upset me. Funny how the interpretation of a book into film can be so bothersome. I love the old films, including some of the Hammer productions; I thoroughly enjoyed take offs like Love at First Bite, but Coppola's violent and graphically sexual version was so disappointing.

I'm always up for a new vampire movie or story, but give the vampire a new name and character, don't misrepresent Stoker's work.

Besides, I think the hint of sexuality in the original work is the sexiest part of the movie and the suspense and tension of the novel better than gore.

Love the way The Historian borrowed from and alluded to Stoker's Dracula.

jenclair said...

Oops, I meant the hint of sexuality is the sexiest part of the book!

Melanie said...

Definitely go for Jekyll and Hyde, it is all of 100 pages or so and is wonderful.

Glad you liked Dracula. I actually read it when i was about 11 and liked it, then reread as an adult and loved it. It was such a different experience as a kid than as an adult. I do wish there was a really true to the novel movie out there too!

Chris said...

Debi, I'm so glad you're reading Frankenstein. It's one of my favorites! It was definitely one that I thought I knew everything about really knew nothing about...for instance, I thought that Frankenstein's monster was called "Frankenstein"....

I'm so excited that Annie (and you) are reading Ender's Game!!! That's awesome! And it's absolutely not bad parenting, it's very clever parenting ;)

Framed, I'm finding that's the general consensus with this book so far! It's so much more than we all expected. Stoker's writing is just amazing. I can't wait to read more of his work!

Jenclair, You stole the thoughts out of my brain! I couldn't agree with you more. I found the film to be ridiculous, particularly because he called it "BRAM STOKER'S" Dracula. That was NOT Bram Stoker's Dracula in the least bit. I think that's what bothered me most about it...that he took those liberties and attached the author's name to something that wasn't representative of his work.

Chris said...

Melanie, I'll definitely be reading Jeckyl and Hyde. I really wish I would've read Dracula as a child. I can imagine how creepy it must have been back then. It was very atmospheric and horrific as an adult and was perfect for this challenge, but I have a feeling it would've kept me up all night as a child...and I've always loved that kind of stuff ;)

Carl V. said...

Mystery of the Sea is not horror in the sense that Dracula is, it is much more of a gothic romance mystery story. I love it. Jewel of the Seven Stars is also very good but much, much more of a horror story that reminds me somewhat of Baltimore, as far as endings go, and is also worth a read. I've read several of his short stories as well and really enjoyed them. Not sure if he did anything else that wasn't at least in the gothic vein.

JenClair, I've never seen Bram Stoker's Dracula on purpose for some of the very reasons you hint about. There was no way it was going to be anything like the book at all. The old silent film Nosferatu is the only truly faithful adaptation I have ever seen and it is creepy but still only dwells on the horror aspects of the story.

Carl V. said...

Oh, and I forgot to tell you that I loved the Poppet fangs!

Chris said...

Carl, I want to go out and get my hands on everything Stoker now! Do yourself a favor and skip ever watching "Bram Stoker's Dracula"...it's terrible as an interpretation of the novel. I agree that the old Nosferatu is wonderfully done. I love the old Black and White and silent horror films. They're some of my favorites. I read in the intro to Dracula that Stoker's wife was very upset when Nosferatu was released because no royalties were given to her for it as it wasn't acknowledged as Bram Stoker's work. Interesting!

Rhinoa said...

I am reading this at the moment for the first time and really enjoying it. I think I will watch the movie after I am done with Gary Oldman as Dracula as I haven't seen it for years.

Stephanie said...

I read Dracula years ago after watching the movie with Winona Ryder and Keanu Reeves (remember that one)! I remember enjoying it and then picking up Frankenstien by Mary Shelley (although I don't remember as much about Frankenstien as I did about Dracula - maybe that had to do with the fact that I have watched Dracula the movie more than once).
Stephanie
www.thewrittenword.wordpress.com

Chris said...

Rhinoa, I'm interested in hearing your thoughts on the movie after your finished the book! Isn't the book great?!

Stephanie, Frankenstein is another favorite of mine! These gothic classics are just great, I want to read them all now!

Court said...

This is one of my favourite books! I positively love the atmosphere of the whole book, as well as the stories of the characters Mina, Lucy and Renfield. Will definitely be looking forward to your review on the book about him.

Chris said...

Court, I didn't know how I'd feel about the Renfield book, but I'm a little more than halfway through it now and I'm really enjoying it! I should have a review up either tonight or tomorrow! The three stories that you mentioned were my favorites as well. What a great book!

jean pierre said...

oooh! i'm rubbing my little hands now over "dracula". i've never heard people comment on the language before, so this makes it even more intriguing!

Chris said...

Oh yeah JP, you'll love that aspect of it! It's great!

LK said...

I am late to chime in, but I found your review via RIPing and like you and others who spoke here, I am feeling the same way after reading Dracula. I have Jekyll and Hyde, too, which I am hoping to read. (Did you read Frankenstein? That was totally different than what I expected. Not as well written as Dracula, in my opinion...)

Stay tuned for my upcoming post...

Chris said...

LK, I have read Frankenstein and I loved that one as well. It's one of my favorites. I agree that it's not as well written as Dracula was but the story itself is one of those beautiful tragedies. Looking forward to your review of Dracula!

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