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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

To read about movies and TV shows I'm watching, visit my other blog: Elliot's Watching

Monday, February 2, 2015

The original vampire story

Because I read it as a kids and was freaked out and because I saw it mentioned as a childhood fave in a novel was reading of all things I picked up Bram Stoker's Dracula for kicks.One thing that surprised me: Stoker was Irish-born and lived in London and wrote in English, who knew? What I don't know: how much of the legend did he pick up on and memorialize, and how much did he create? In any event, it's a very 19-century, long and over-written by today's standard and, though the narrative style was in some ways ahead of its time - all made up of journal excerpts, letters, diary entries, newspaper clippings, which tend to give the bizarre events of the story the look of reliability and reality - in other ways there's too much belaboring of the obvious points. (There are abridged versions out there that may be more suited for most contemporary readers.) The story itself is as creepy as I remembered, beginning with the young lawyer's journey to Transylvania where he is imprisoned in Dracula's castle and very gradually comes to realize the horror of his situation (we realize a lot before he does, of course - it would be a greater shock and a more powerful experience to read this novel knowing nothing about vampires and werewolves). This of course is the ur-story for the many vampire books and movies that have had a resurgence in popularity over the past decade. Why is that? What can this legend possibly say to people today? There is still something horrifying and primitive about the whole concept of imbibing blood from the living, and there is something lurid and sexual about that as well, and Stoker does not shy away from those stirrings. There's something disturbing as well about the eternal life of the vampire, and about the idea that they may be living among us unrecognized: that's a theme that of course speaks to the contemporary mind, as we think of our various fears of the unknown familiars, terrorists in particular.

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