Bram Stoker was not the first person to write about vampires. Irishman Sheridan Le Fanu, for instance, had already plopped a vampire—not just a vampire but a lesbian vampire—into popular fiction when nobody was looking. His fellow countryman Stoker was late to the game when he published Dracula in 1897.
But something about Count Dracula clicked. Helped along by screen portrayals by such icons as Béla Lugosi and Christopher Lee, the Transylvanian monster took his enduring place in pop culture. The popularity of vampires in general and Dracula in particular stems from Stoker’s horror story.
If you haven’t read the novel yet, shame on you.
This is rich, coming from me, as I only finished reading it Tuesday—but I feel really, really bad for having avoided it for so long. I had worried that the original Dracula might disappoint me, compared to a century of great imitators, and I was reluctant to attempt a novel full of purple Victorian language. I was wrong on both counts. (Both “counts”! Ha! Ha ha ha!) The titular character was brilliant, the storytelling was intense, and the prose was easy for the contemporary eye.
And, to my delight, I discovered that the story was full of surprises. We all know the basic story: there’s a centuries-old monster in Transylvania who dines on human blood, and a wise old doctor named Van Helsing intends to kill the vampire before the lovely Mina Harker becomes his next victim. But Stoker included far more material in his novel than could ever be put into film. There were characters, plot twists, and details that were unfamiliar and unexpected. Dracula, for instance, is perfectly able to walk about in sunlight. He wears no cape, though in one incongruous scene he dons a straw hat. I am not making this up.
Also unexpected was the humor. Funny turns of phrase and colorful secondary characters leavened the mood. And, if I may be so bold, certain steamy scenes also tempered the mood. Erotic passages and sensual descriptions, though muted to suit Victorian sensibilities, nonetheless suggest the perks of being undead: you have to sleep in a tomb and you face eternal damnation, but you get a really amazing sex life for your troubles.
Check the WRL catalog for Dracula