Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Books That Go Bump in the Night, Part 3

A discussion of 19th century books that go bump in the night would certainly not be complete without a look at two of the warhorses of all scary stories, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein and Bram Stoker's Dracula. Regina will take a look at the former on Friday, while today we will sink our teeth (sorry, just couldn't resist!) into Dracula.

Dracula just squeaks in as a 19th century book, being published in May of 1897. Its author, Bram Stoker, was the business manager of the Lyceum Theatre in London and the right-hand man of the great actor Henry Irving, who owned the Lyceum. Managing the theatre and working for Irving led to a a great deal of travel for Stoker; this and his life-long interest in history and folklore were fodder for the short stories and books he wrote in his spare time, ranging from fairy tales for children and fantasy and horror novels to civil service manuals and travel memoirs (he became a friend of Teddy Roosevelt during visits to America and stayed twice at the White House).

Dracula is an epistolary novel, told via letters, journal entries, and faux newspaper clippings, which adds a creepy sense of reality to it. Also eerily familiar is the vein of forbidden sensuality that runs through it; today's vampire stories aren't breaking new ground there! Reviews of the book on its initial release were very good (the British Weekly said, "One of the most interesting and exciting of recent novels is Mr. Bram Stoker's 'Dracula. ' It deals with the ancient mediaeval vampire legend, and in no work of English work of fiction has this legend been so brilliantly treated."), though a few found the conquering of a supernatural creature with the tools of "modern" science to be jarring (The Spectator said, "The up-to-dateness of the book--the phonograph diaries, typewriters, and so on--hardly fits in with the mediaeval methods which ultimately secure the victory for Count Dracula's foes").

Dracula, however, wasn't the first popular vampire story of the 19th century. Twenty-five years before Dracula's release, Stoker's fellow Irishman, author Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, published his novella Carmilla, the story of a young English girl nearly taken by a beautiful girl vampire staying with her and her father in a castle in Austria. And more recently, Bram Stoker's great-nephew has co-written a sequel entitled Dracula, The Undead that was just released this year.

Are you a Dracula fan? How do you think today's popular vampire fiction stacks up against it?

7 comments:

ChaChaneen said...

I have never read this book, just watched the movie. I lurved the vamp thing when I was a tween but since I've... a'hem... aged a bit... my interest isn't there anymore. For the last 5 years, it has remained faithful to the Regency Era!

Fun post though! Have a great day!

Dara said...

It's been awhile since I've read this. It was good from what I can remember.

I'm not much of a fan of vampire fiction in general, especially with the explosion of it on the market now.

Marissa Doyle said...

The book's definitely worth a read--I had a wonderful annotated version that I read a billion years ago. I'm not much of a vampire fan myself, either, but Dracula is such a classic, and the Count is definitely not an anti-hero like many of today's vampires--you're glad when he gets it. :)

QNPoohBear said...

I'm not much of a vampire fan. My sister is obsessed with the latest popular vampire novels but I doubt I can convince her to read Dracula. I have read Phantom of the Opera, which is a wonderful gothic novel told as a true story.

Sullivan McPig said...

I love the book and the many movies based on it. Being a roleplayer who played a lot of Vampire the masquerade and having read a lot of other vampire books, I can safely say Stoker paved the way for many other vampire book writers and most borrow heavily from him. I must say I'm not a fan of the new trend to make vampires into softies, who drink animal blood and can walk around during the day. What I do wish it that more writers would dare situate a vampire story in victorian times, but it seems most are afraid that they would be to closely compared to Stoker

luc said...

i saw the movie bram stoker's dracula when i was in elementary school, 6th
it was so dramatic, horrible tragedy n it makes us cry coz the love from dracul is very pure

but it's also disgusting, n u should know why

Meg said...

I love the story of Dracula, but I always have such a hard time reading the book. I find it rather dry in style.

Carmilla, though...Carmilla is SO underrated.