Thursday, November 08, 2012

Overheard in the Office...

RX: "Google has a weird logo today."

Me: "Yeah, Bram Stoker.... It's his hundred'n'sixty-fifth birthday."

RX: "I didn't know that... I didn't get him anything."
Do you know, I don't think I have ever actually read Dracula? It's one of those books, like Frankenstein or Moby Dick, that so pervades the culture with references and allusions, film and cartoon adaptations, children's condensed versions, et cetera that you can know the whole story and then realize you've never actually sat down and read the source material cover-to-cover.

I should probably read it in the original and then watch Gary Oldman in that bit of Francis Ford Coppola eye-candy, Bram Stoker's Dracula, again.

44 comments:

Borepatch said...

It's pretty good. My "fiction" phase was as a teenager, but even then it kept me turning pages. Myst say, though, that the Victor Hugo novels were my favorites.

"Scaramouche" was probably the best of the Errol Flynn sword fighting flicks. When I was in the Fencing Club at State U we did a film festival with that, Captain Blood, Robin Hood, etc. Not eye candy in the modern sense, but Flynn and Basil Rathbone sure knew how to fence.

Stuart the Viking said...

I read it from dailylit. It was nice to have a chapter a day, right in my email. I also found another couple of books that I "should have read" because they are classics (The Call of the Wild by Jack London, Tao Te Ching, Sherlock Holmes etc).

s

Tam said...

Recently re-read Call of the Wild, which was a childhood favorite.

Wow, how did I miss the horrible fascist undertones back then? It reads like Nietzsche's Nature Tales...

Anonymous said...

Project Gutenberg has it as a free e-book here:
http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/345

JT

Bob said...

The first section of Dracula, detailing Jonathan Harker's journey to Transylvania and his stay with the Count, is the single best part of the book. After that it's sort of anticlimactic.

Of the film versions, the mid-1970's PBS production starring Louis Jourdan was probably the most faithful to the novel; the 1973 Dan Curtis (Dark Shadows) version starring Jack Palance, is probably the most frightening; Palance is scary as hell as the Count. It was available on YouTube, last time I checked.

Anonymous said...

"Dracula" is a fun read. It's done as a series of diary entries, so it's all first-person, and is a real page-turner once you get going.

Sabra said...

I actually finished Dracula just last month. I got one of the free editions for my Kindle and read it in between reading other things. I was actually surprised by how good it was. Not great, but good. And it's an interesting historical set piece as well; the casual racism, sexism, and horrible medical care were more surprising than they probably should have been. (I don't agree with the interpretation that it has anything to do with repressing female sexuality, though. Some people read way too much into a book.)

Robb Allen said...

The only problem I had with Dracula was the incessant verbal-hand-jobs. Everyone talks about how great so and so is, and how brave what's-her-tits is, and so on and so on. It's like none of the characters have any flaws (Minus Dracula, who is the one person nobody has anything nice to say about).

And yes, the ending is quasi-anti-climactic, but overall it is a fun read, especially when you look at it through the lens of modern lore.

Best part? Dracula doesn't sparkle.

mikee said...

If you do watch the Coppola version of Dracula, try to avoid all the Keanu Reeves scenes, unless you like your acting the way you like your plywood: very heavy and flat.

Tango said...

I loved Dracula. It's not a fast paced story by any means, but it's still done really well. As far as the verbal hand jobs, this *IS* done in diary format, so social interactions are what one usually talks about with others. ;) Bram Stoker didn't overthink things. He created a villain and a small group of people who are only looking to make things right when their world gets poo-ed upon by said villain.

BobG said...

I quite enjoyed Dracula as a kid.
The spinoffs by Fred Saberhagen are worth reading, also, since they are told from Dracula's viewpoint.

Robin said...

Gary Oldman had quite the drinking problem during that timeframe, he says he remembers nothing of making the film. Overall the film works, although its a bit over the top at times.

Anonymous said...

Dracula was good, but Frankenstein is a must-read. So many levels to that story, and it addresses some very weighty topics. I never understood how it got turned into a Halloween-ish monster tale.

jf

Cormac said...

I've been meaning to read more of the old classic fiction...

So far I've got The Three Musketeers marked off the list, and that book, though it drones quite a bit, puts every movie I've ever seen on it to shame!

Seriously, if you haven't read it, and you have a sense of humor (well, it's Tam's audience, so you have a sense of humor), you'll probably like it.

Anonymous said...

For all the problems with the Karloff's first "Frankenstein" movie, the scene where the jailed monster sees a brief patch of light is a beautiful bit of acting.

sobriant74 said...

I have to admit I haven't read any Jack London since I was a kid, I prefer my wolf stories from Farley Mowat.
Have to check out call of the wild and see how bad it is as an adult.

sobriant74 said...

I have to admit I haven't read any Jack London since I was a kid, I prefer my wolf stories from Farley Mowat.
Have to check out call of the wild and see how bad it is as an adult.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I just finished Dracula this morning. Spotted a copy in a thrift shop and was sort of stopped in my tracks by the realization that I had never read it. Typical Victorian verbiosity, but well done.

Tickmeister posting as Anon because my damn Google account is screwed up.

staghounds said...

Don't waste your time with Moby Dick.

My former wife was disappointed to discover it is about a whale.

Stretch said...

Second BobG's recommendation of Saberhagen's re-telling of Dracula (The Dracula Tapes). Best read while Stoker's version is fresh in your mind.
The sequel "An Old Friend of the Family" is excellent and can stand on its own.
For scary ass, scream out loud film the original Night Stalker with Barry Atwater (damn! I didn't have to look that up!) as the vampire is a modern (40 years old? That I looked up.) masterpiece.

John A said...

Re Frankenstein I am only aware of one filmed (OK, BBC television special) that used the book as primary source rather than te Hollywood/Karloff version.

Can anyone else recall another film version that even mentions the Polidori character?

Anonymous said...

There was a version of Dracula that had some 'outtakes' from the book, short seqences that didn't add to the story so much that the editor or Bram himself cut out. There was one wherein J.Harker goes out walking on Walpurgisnacht, the locals warn him not to, but he being a headstrong English, does it anyways...

Anonymous said...

I loved the Young Frankenstein scene with Gene Hackman, not who you usually think of as a comedic actor...

armedlaughing said...

I even like Frank Langella's 1979 version!

gfa

NAVIGATOR said...

I RATHER LIKE MOBY DICK MELVILLE GOES INTO ALL SORTS OF DETAILS SA TO WHALES WHALING AND WHALE SHIPS AS TO THE MOVIES THE 1956 CLASSIC DIRECTED BY JOHN
HUSTON IS A MUST SEE ! HE DID HIS HOMEWORK !!! ALSO YOU WANT TO VISIT THE MYSTIC SEAPORT IN MYSTIC CONNECTICUT
WHERE THE LAST WOODEN WHALE SHIP THE
CHARLES W. MORGAN IS UNDERGOING A MAJOR
REBUILD TO RESTORE HER TO ITS 1841 GLORY! THEY HAVE A SPLENDID MUSEUM A RECREATED 19TH CEN VILLAGE SAIL LOFT ROPE WALK BLACK SMITH COOPERAGE CARPENTER CHANDLER Y GO AND ENJOY!

Sabra said...

There was one wherein J.Harker goes out walking on Walpurgisnacht, the locals warn him not to, but he being a headstrong English, does it anyways...

That is available as the title story to Dracula's Visitor, which I read immediately after finishing the novel. Other than that first story, the collection I read had nothing to do with the novel, and consisted of short stories of various sorts of horror. Quite good stuff.

LabRat said...

I like epistolary novels, done well, and Dracula was done well. None of the movies have ever quite done it justice, though Coppola's version is great if you like ham and cheese sandwiches with a gothic spread, which as it happens I do.

Watching everybody chew the scenery around Keanu was hysterical.

Anonymous said...

Kim Newman's "Anno Dracula" triology was rather entertaining. The story uses a mash-up of historical figures and fictional characters from all genres.

Geodkyt said...

Read Anno Dracula -- good.

Read The Bloody Red Baron -- sucktastic.

No desire to give Mr. Newman a third shot at my ammo money.

Davidwhitewolf said...

@JohnA: Kenneth Branagh's Frankenstein is a lot more faithful to most of Shelley's novel than anything else I've seen, and quite well done.

Stephen King has quite a lengthy riff on Stoker's Dracula in Danse Macabre, worth checking out.

I reread Dracula at least once every few years. I love the atmosphere. Stoker's original first chapter, available as "Dracula's Guest," is worth reading too.

Buzz said...

Similar for me and Casablanca.

Perhaps I should watch.

Leatherwing said...

@John A, Polidori was not a character in the novel, but was un the 1973 television version, with James Mason playing the part. There was a real john William Polidori that knew Mary Shelley, Lord Byron and that lot. Probably why they used the name in the TV version.

The Kenneth Branagh movie with Deniro as the Creature was based on the novel more than most.

jed said...

Well, I'll just chime in on Branagh's Frankenstein as being a very good movie. So much so that I might even buy it, given that the library copy crapped out and left me hanging. But as much of it as a saw made me surely wanting to see the rest. And DeNiro is splendid.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankenstein_%281994_film%29

fast richard said...

I liked Moby Dick more for the descriptions of the life on a whaling ship than for the allegorical stuff with Ahab and the Whale. Two Years Before the Mast by Richard Henry Dana is another good book about life at sea. Most such books are available free for the kindle.

45er said...

Funny, I'm actually in the middle of re-reading Dracula on Kindle right now. I think it's better than I remember. Good hunting blind reading.

fast richard said...

I recently started reading Frankenstein on the kindle.

Another one of those culturally known books that no one reads is Don Quixote. Most of the cultural references to it come from the first third of the first volume. I'm guessing that's about as far as most students get when they are told to read it. Long drives in an eighteen wheeler are perfect for listening to the audio versions of such long books.

RabidAlien said...

I was hooked on "Count of Monte Cristo" as a kid, and read "Man in the Iron Mask" and "Three Musketeers", and have them in my collection today. I revisit them every now and then, and have decided that there will NEVER be a version of "Three Musketeers" on film that will be worth a dam. Jim Caveziel's "Count of Monte Cristo" was pretty good, though. As for Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein", the book was excellent (must re-read at some point!), and most of the movies barely paid lip-service to the books. I can't recall if I ever read Brahm Stoker's "Dracula". Gonna have to hit Gutenberg.org and nab it. Today's literature, for the most part, simply can't hold a candle to that written a hundred years ago. Most of today's stuff has no depth, poor editing, plotholes big enough to drive my truck through, and more unresolved threads than Florida has dangling chads.

Marja said...

I read Dracula in my mid-teens, and scared myself badly with it. Might still work for me, I like the slow old-fashioned horror a lot better than the action/torture porn/everybody or almost everybody dies in the end versions more fashionable today. More atmospheric, and I rather like the idea of the good guys winning in the end (and most of them surviving) because they are, you know, the good guys - relatively smart, ethical and so on.

Able said...

I tend to like the classics as originally written, not rewritten into modern (pc) English.

Just re-read The Last Of The Mohicans.

The only adaption of a classic I ever liked was the TV version of Kidnapped with David McCallum (I still can't watch NCIS without waiting for him in a kilt and swinging a claymore).

The Infamous Oregon Lawhobbit said...

Dracula - kinda meh.

Until you read Fred Saberhagen's "The Dracula Tapes" and it explains what REALLY went on.

From the Count's point of view.

Which hangs together SO much better than the original....

Ross said...

Meh. I tried to read it. Got about 2/3 of the way through it and gave up. I've done that with less than a dozen books over a reading career that's spanned over 45 years, so to me, I thought it was pretty bad.

You're not missing anything.

BryanP said...

I know others have already recommended them, but I want to chime in with another for Fred Saberhagen's Dracula novels. The Dracula Tape, essentially a retelling of Stoker from Dracula's POV is quite good. An Old Friend Of The Family is also worth reading, but my favorite is The Holmes Dracula File. Yes, Sherlock.

markm said...

I read Dracula in a free e-book version a few months ago. As far as I can remember, this was the first time I've read the original and unabridged Bram Stoker version, and I'm a 59-year-old inveterate reader. It's not bad for 19th Century hack work... That is, it's reasonably well plotted and although it develops at a slower pace than most 20th century work, it's not obvious that the author was paid by the word.

As for Jack London (who was the subject of my senior high school English term paper): one hell of a story-teller, but he was the original national socialist. "Call of The Wild" and many other of his stories have fascist & racist underlying assumptions. (These are two different things - They are both attractive to certain personality types, but Mussolini and Franco definitely did not share Hitler's obsessions over Judaism and skin pigmentation.) The Sea Wolf is far worse than any of London's doggie stories. But for *really* cringeworthy racist hate, look around the internet for Jack London's comments on the reigning champion Jack Johnson and his the boxing match with "The Great White Hope" Jeffries.

Justthisguy said...

I think I actually did read the thing, maybe thirty years or so ago, but don't remember much about it. I think I read it so that I could say I had done so. I might read it again, if I were locked up in a jail or prison, and that was all there was to read.

Now, for serious prison reading matter, I think I would like to have some of those long thick Russian books, like "War and Peace", and "Anna Karenina", and "Crime and Punishment."

Just one of those will probably last you for a year or so in the joint. I have refrained from reading them up to now, because I am saving them for prison.