Here’s some October reading as we invite Autumn to cross the misty threshold and make itself at home. Honestly though, Bram Stoker was not really a very good writer, but though the means through which he told his most famous tale – via the characters’ diaries and letters – is disjointed and often difficult to follow, there is something positively charming about it. Based partly on a dream and partly on his reading into Eastern European history and legend, “Dracula” does tap into some powerful fears humans have involving death, blood, sex, helplessness, and the fear of innocence corrupted. And herein lies its power.
The novel took six years to complete, and was published in 1897, but the man for whom he had in mind for the title role – his employer Sir Henry Irving who was the most celebrated Shakespearean actor of his day – refused to participate in a proposed stage adaptation. It probably would have been one of his greatest roles. And sadly to this day it has never been accurately produced for the theater or filmed for the screen despite countless productions. Hollywood always decides to rewrite what does not need to be rewritten, and cocks up the most powerful scenes with trivial nonsense and overly dramatic posturing, while completely omitting vital aspects and scenes. For instance, did you know that a dashing Texan named Quincey Morris is one of the primary heroes of the novel?
The book is well worth wading through the rather stiff dialogue – Van Helsing’s pidgin Dutch-inflected English is especially hard to read – simply because the mythos that has gone into virtually every vampire story written since and every movie ever made is all there. If you want to understand why there is so much pop culture material today on vampires, sink your teeth into the original book. Plus McNally and Florescu’s research into vampire legends and the history of Romanian hero Vlad the Impaler makes an excellent companion volume for understanding Stoker’s literary creation. By the way, the final action in the closing pages occurs on 6 November, so October would be an excellent time to begin reading. And the late great Christopher Lee did make a largely forgotten film version in 1970 called “Count Dracula” that is supposed to be the closest to the book, even with a white-mustachioed elderly Dracula who grows younger with the biting of each neck. Sounds tasty.