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Bram Stoker

After reading Le Fanu's Carmilla, I decided to follow that up by rereading Dracula. For those who've read it, what did you think of Bram Stoker's style? Did you like the diary format?

Has anyone read his other works besides Dracula? Would you recommend them?


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Mar. 15th, 2010 03:00 am (UTC)
*squee* I love Dracula! (You knew that, lol.) I think I've read it at least 15 times, and had a whole semester-long class on it at UVA. I'm fascinated by the diary format. It has the potential to fail so hard, I think: it could be incredibly difficult to follow the timing of the different entries; he could've easily made sequential mistakes (there is one in there that I always notice when I'm reading it, but I can't remember where it is off the top of my head, and it's not a huge problem); it could have felt choppy if it were organized strictly chronologically, necessitating constant switching from one writer to another; and most of all, it would be easy for Stoker to have gotten redundant, with characters saying the same thing in different ways. Instead, I think it really works. Stoker really seems to know his characters' voices, so you get into the rhythm of each person's style for a while before you switch to someone else's. It's very intimate. I love the way their diary-keeping reflects the characters' interests and emphases, and sort of embodies the concepts they represent (like Seward the Enlightenment-Age doctor, keeping his diary on the cutting-edge technology of wax cylinders).

The thing I love most about Stoker's style is that he is at once a product of his age AND very edgy. He's this very (melo)dramatic Irish Victorian, so the book ends up being extremely dramatic, to the point of saccharine... and yet at the same time, it's scary as hell, and takes seriously the folklore (and wider culture) of a different group of people in an era of English literature that seems to me sort of notorious for its almost xenophobic Anglo-centrism. I find his abject romantic devotion to all things American, too, just endearingly precious. :-) And, as all the movies that have sprung from the book so eagerly reflect, it's incredibly erotic, which always surprises me no matter how many times I've read it.

Unfortunately, nothing else that I've ever read by Stoker compares to Dracula. He wrote another book called The Lair of the White Worm, and it was so lame that I didn't finish it when I tried to read it several years ago. But! There's a short story called "The Squaw" that I absolutely love. You can find it in a lot of anthologies. The imagery will definitely stay with you and make it tough to get to sleep the night you read it.
Mar. 15th, 2010 05:26 am (UTC)
I liked the diary format as well; I thought it really added to the suspense of the work. Normally, if a horror story is told in the first person, it creates the problem that the reader knows in advance that the narrator will survive the events to tell the tale. So, a lot of horror is written in third person,but that has a slightly distancing effect. By using the diary entries, Stoker had the best of both worlds--there's the immediacy of the first person narrative, but it doesn't give anything away about the characters' futures.

Another thing that struck me was that whereas other horror writers had written stories emphasizing physical peril, Stoker emphasized spiritual peril, and not just the peril to Dracula's victims, but also to those hunting Dracula if they let themselves be consumed by hate. I think this aspect has greatly influenced other writers and it's one of the reasons that vampire stories tend to be scarier than other monster tales, because for most people the prospect of becoming a monster is scarier than the prospect of being destroyed by the monster.

I've wanted for a while to read more of Stoker's work, but I was put off by the silliness of the title of "The Lair of the White Worm." I'll look for the story you suggested instead, thanks! :)
Mar. 15th, 2010 05:19 pm (UTC)
That's an excellent point -- the format also means it doesn't give away anything about the ending. That's definitely a huge virtue, because any clue to how any of the characters will end up would really have taken away from the story. And I agree, the terror of vampires (and werewolves) lies in the fact that the victim ISN'T destroyed, but turned into a monster.

Stoker is definitely subject to all the excesses of his era, and White Worm typifies it. He really threaded the needle with Dracula, balancing drama and depth of emotion with restraint that keeps the book away from histrionics.
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