As Halloween approaches, so does my annual reading of Bram Stoker’s masterpiece: Dracula. Actually, I’ve already listened to it on audible this year and it was a fine production, but I must read it again.
You might conclude that I’m a vamp fan, but I’m really not. I watched some of HBO’s hit series True Blood, and I’ve watched a number of Dracula movies. But I don’t really like most of the vampire novels and movies. I love Anne Rice, but I don’t like her vamp stuff.
I am not satisfied with any of the Dracula movies. They all have something terribly wrong with them. The look is wrong or they’ve overly sexualized Dracula or the tone is off or they turn Van Helsing into some kind of hunky action hero. NO ONE GET’S IT RIGHT. I am praying that HBO produces a Dracula miniseries that holds true to the book.
So why do I keep reading the book year after year?
1.) The opening chapters log the travel of Jonathan Harker, a solicitor hired by the Count to handle a real estate deal to buy a mansion, Carfax, in England. There are vivid descriptions of the local people, their ways, their dress, and their food. I love reading about eastern Europe in this time. I wouldn’t complain if it took place entirely in Transylvania. I especially love anything Roma (gypsy) or Szgany as they are referred to in the book.
2.) Count Dracula is ancient. When he describes ancient battles to Harker, he does it in first person. I’m fascinated by the idea of a person whose perspective and knowledge spans centuries. He’s also modern. He knows what’s going on in the world. He reads the papers. He’s been studying English to the point that he can speak it with almost no accent. He’s fascinated by technology and geography. He’s a great character.
3.) Ok, so Dracula, it turns out, is flying solo at the castle, except for his lady friends. There are no servants whatsoever. Harker doesn’t know this for awhile. Dracula does a good job of concealing it. Which MEANS, that he is quite skilled in the domestic arts. Although the book doesn’t say so directly, this means that Dracula, the Lord of Darkness, Vlad the Impaler, is in an apron roasting chicken and tasting to see if he has seasoned the soup properly. He’s burning his little finger on hot grease. He’s also making hospital corners with the sheets, and turning down the bed with panache. AND he’s emptying the chamber pots. This is all hysterical to me.
4.) Jonathan Harker has the best wife ever: Mina. And she’s the best friend ever as well. She stays with her best friend Lucy when she becomes “ill”. She rushes to Europe when she finds out that Jonathan is in the hospital. She is the bravest of the lot. She risks all to destroy the vampire, AND she has nothing but compassion for him. She prays for his final peace.
5.) I love the comradery of the whole bunch. They make a good team. They each have their own special gifts to bring to the hunt.
6.) Van Helsing. I have mixed feelings about this guy. Of course, he’s the smartest of the bunch. He knows from the beginning that it might be a vampire. He is the most open-minded as well. In his wisdom, he doesn’t just spring his diagnosis on anybody. He slowly builds a case that everyone can see, so that when he reveals his knowledge, the blow will be softened. HOWEVER. The guy is incredibly annoying. He clearly has no friends coming into this. And when he finally gets friends, he won’t shut up about it. He is constantly making declarations about is undying love for everybody. He’s also incredibly long-winded.
7. Renfield. One of the all-time great crazy characters. His diagnosis is “zoophagous maniac”, or carnivorous madman. He’s very unpredictable but at times very lucid and well-spoken. He’s a lot like Golam from LOTR. He’s also disgusting. He eats flies and spiders. He eats a bird, feathers and all. And tries to get his hands on a cat. He believes that eating these things will give him more abundant life. Some of the most interesting dialog involves Renfield.
8.) Whitby. This is the town on the sea where much of the action takes place. There are great local characters, a ghostly ship, a graveyard, and many strange occurrences. I would very much like to visit.
9. The chase. After destroying all of his coffins, they chase him across the sea, across land, down rivers, and to the castle. All the while Mina is fighting for her life. She is becoming a vampire. But it gives her the ability to know some of the mind of Dracula, so they can track him better. The suspense is awesome. They get there just as the last ray of sunlight is disappearing.
10. The form. I love the epistolary form. It’s made up of journals, diaries, letters, receipts, ship logs, and newspaper articles. It just gives it a different texture and point of view.
Dracula is all about atmosphere to me. I love the setting and the language, especially the dialects of the minor characters…often humorous. And lest we forget, it’s a horror story. It’s creepy to the core. Dracula is not sexy or funny. He is a cold blooded killer. Dude has red glowing eyes. Even if he were a totally cool guy, if you were walking down the street at night an saw eyes like that, you wet your pants. He has lost any soul or heart that he ever had. Although Dracula is the central character. He is in very few scenes. It’s more about the victims and the hunters. Count Dracula is very much a mystery. We don’t know what is thinks or feels. We do know that he is incredibly smart and as strong as 10 men, but he ultimately lacks the humility it takes to escape.
I love traditions. There are things I do every year. I feel that it enriches the experience of the seasons…especially the fall. Draaaaaacula. Ah Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha…