So hey; I’ve been busy. But now that I can see the light at the end of the Oh Shit It’s Christmas And I Have No Money So I Have to Crochet Presents For Everyone So Some People Might Get Christmas Presents From Alaina In March tunnel, I can take a moment and type up the review of Dracula that’s been fizzing around in my head for the past ten days.
See, I love Dracula. Or, I did. Or, rather, I am still sentimental towards it — y’know what? Let me start at the beginning.
I first read Dracula as a freshman in college. Actually, my friend Sarah (of My Friend Sarah Recommends fame over on Movies Alaina’s Never Seen) lent me my first copy of Dracula — and by ‘lent,’ I mean she said, “Here, I’m done reading it, you keep it and get it away from me.”
The reason I read it was because my high school Drama teacher had tasked me with writing an adaptation of Dracula for the stage. So I took Sarah’s copy and attempted to write a true-to-the-book, sexy adaptation of Dracula that high school kids could perform.
I … I failed. Because I was nineteen, did no additional research, and I’m pretty sure I only got through to where Intermission was supposed to be. But I was determined to learn more about Dracula so I could use it in that adaptation I was going to write.
So, over the years, I’ve accumulated a lot of Dracula paraphernalia. Including six copies of Dracula:
Sarah’s copy is the one on the bottom right. And you’re probably worried about my ability to count, because I just said six copies of Dracula, and that is clearly only five. I actually lent my copy of the Norton Critical Edition to my friend Kerri, who then moved to Alabama. So yeah – lots of Draculas.
Aaaaaand then there are these:
Yup – books about Dracula. And vampires. IT’S NOT A PROBLEM IF YOU DON’T THINK IT’S A PROBLEM.
Look, Dracula was kind of the gateway drug to a lot of things that I love: Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The Vampire Diaries (although that’s more influenced by Ian Somerhalder than anything else). The Anita Blake, Vampire Hunters series — but ten years later, I hate-read those to get enjoyment, but hate-reading is still a form of enjoyment. So no matter what happens, Dracula will always hold a special place in my heart.
Which is good, because I did not enjoy Dracula as much as I thought I would.
Cuz here’s the thing (and I didn’t realize it until Sarah said something about it on Twitter, and, much like Professor Farnsworth’s future-seeing machine, once I’ve seen it, I can’t unsee it) — not much happens in this book.
Jonathan Harker goes to Transylvania to do some real estate law for Count Dracula. The locals are superstitious about the Count, but the language barrier doesn’t really let Harker know what they’re saying. There’s a lot of hinky stuff that happens in the castle, including Dracula’s brides getting a combination of horny and hungry that Harker almost succumbed to, and Dracula lizard-crawling down the side of his castle. It freaks Harker right the fuck out (AS IT SHOULD – I mean, imagine you’re visiting this old freaking guy in his castle. He never eats in your presence, and then one night, you see him crawling down the side of the castle face-first like a lizard with suction cup feet and incredible balance. HOW WOULD YOU REACT), and the only way Harker is able to escape is to jump out of a window.
Then Dracula goes to England and starts drinking from Lucy Westenra, who happens to be the best friend of Mina Murray, fiancee of Jonathan. When Jonathan is discovered alive back in Bulgaria, Mina leaves and then Lucy gets sick and then she gets anemic and no one can figure out the reason. Then one of Lucy’s paramours, Dr. Seward, calls his mentor, Dr. Van Helsing, to come up and check Lucy out, and then Van Helsing diagnoses Lucy as having vampire sickness, except he does it too late, because she turned into a vampire and now they have to kill her.
Harker and Mina come back from Bulgaria, and then they search for Dracula so they can kill him, but not before Dracula starts drinking from Mina. Eventually, Dracula makes Mina drink from him, which means that if Mina dies before they kill Dracula, Mina will turn into a vampire when she dies.
(That whole thing confused me a little bit, but that’s because I’m used to seeing vampires kill their victims to turn them into vampires immediately, rather than have them wait until they die of old age. Because let’s say no one is able to kill Dracula, but doesn’t kill Mina, so she dies of old age. Because she ate the vampire blood fifty years ago, she’s going to turn into a vampire. So, does she turn into an old vampire? I don’t get the biology of this!)
ANYWAY. (Drink!) The whole thing takes forever, and Van Helsing is written with a thick accent that sometimes sounds really stupid, and he tends to ramble. And the research just took forever, and the times in-between the actual events took FOREVER, and it was very boring and forever-taking, and it broke my little heart, because I did not love Dracula as much this time around.
Let’s see, what else can I say in the next forty minutes — HOLY SHIT I BROUGHT MY HEADPHONES HOLD ON BRB — (I’m at my parents’ house, and apparently WBLM turns into all Christmas music, all the time on Christmas Eve, and I’ve made it this far without hearing “Wonderful Christmastime” by that rat bastard Paul McCartney, I’m not ruining my Christmas now – to Pandora!) — anyway, in now 36 minutes, I’ll be sitting down in front of the television for the annual watching of A Christmas Story, and this will be posted before then.
I guess, the other thing I wanted to talk about with regards to Dracula is how much of an idiot I was ten years ago. Why would I have thought writing an accurate stage adaptation of Dracula would be a piece of cake? You know what it would be? BORING AS FUCK. There’d be some atmospheric, horror-type stuff with sexy women and biting and blood in the first act, but then it’s all Lucy being flighty about marrying three different people, then her slowly becoming bedridden and even paler than most late-Victorian women, then Seward sitting around talking to Renfield about Renfield’s weird bug-eating habit, and then eventually Lucy would die and they’d have to kill her, so that’d wake the audience up, but by the time Harker and Mina come back from Bulgaria or wherever, nothing fucking happens until they all go to Transylvania to kill Dracula, and even the killing of Dracula is anticlimactic! The whole third and fourth acts (I clearly imagine me writing it in the style of a Shakespearean tragedy) would take place in Seward’s drawing room while everyone talks about what everyone already knows, and if I were watching it (having had someone else write it), I would be whispering very vociferously from the balcony, wondering when Buffy was going to show up to put everyone out of their misery — but I’d only do that if it was a movie, because while you shouldn’t talk at a movie anyway, you definitely do NOT talk during a live theatre production.
In order to make an interesting adaptation of Dracula, one must introduce some level of craziness. I’ve heard rumors that Francis Ford Coppola insinuated that Mina was the reincarnated version of Count Dracula’s first wife, and somehow, that has weirdly become canon. But Dracula’s motivations are never revealed within Bram Stoker’s novel. He’s just this … thing that swoops into London to eat off of the only two women in the book, which makes it sound like Dracula had some sort of reason for attacking them, but he doesn’t. He’s just hungry, and apparently they were close.
The reason Dracula’s motivations are never revealed is because Dracula is an epistolary novel – written as if compiled from journal entries, letters, and other forms of first-person narratives. We hear directly from Harker, Mina, and Seward, with some cameos from newspaper articles and other letters. We do not hear from Renfield or Van Helsing at all, except through the words of others. The only time we hear Dracula is when Harker is talking about him. Dracula is a cipher – a symbol on which we can put anything. Fear of death, fear of sex, fear of the foreign; fear of whatever the fuck you want.
And that makes Dracula different from some modern-day villains: because we know so little about him, we’re not looking for the brief glimpse of humanity beneath the villainy; we’re taking his evilness at face value, because that’s all we have. We can’t identify with him, so we rally behind the good guys.
But when the good guys are boring, it’s hard to buy in to the fight.
Anyway. (Drink!) That was Dracula. Someday, I might not write that stage adaptation, but I know there’s more I can talk about the novel. But tonight is Christmas Eve, and I have sixteen minutes to get some pie and sit in front of the TV and begin annoying my relatives with the fact that I know 75% of the words to A Christmas Story.
And I’m sure y’all have traditions that I think are weird, but that’s how we roll in the Patterson Family.
So to all my readers, far and near: thank you for reading, and may you and yours have a safe and merry Christmas, Kwanzaa, Solstice, Festivus, or whatever the hell y’all celebrate. I’ll be back following the upcoming Tweetversation between me and Erica on William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, and I’ve got a couple other books up my sleeve before the 31st.
Happy Holidays, everyone!