Let’s talk about Dracula

This blog has been quiet for a while. So let’s talk about Dracula! I am almost halfway through it for our next book group read, and I hope I’m not spoiling anything by saying this, but . . . vampires!

In suggesting this book, John described it as (paraphrasing here) being legitimately frightening, and I think I would have to agree with that. There is something honestly terrifying about the concept and about the fact that no one who contributes their own words to the book (so far) knows what it is really going on even as they come into contact with it. The first person to seem to grasp the truth doesn’t fully divulge his conclusions. There are some blood-chilling images that lead to horrifying guesses, but the threat is only vaguely defined. Evil is at work, a monstrous, soul-killing kind of malevolence.

I wasn’t entirely sure how I would enjoy the epistolary style—in The Woman in White I had grown pretty tired of it by the end—but I’m finding it compelling here. There are occasional instances where it grates, as when a correspondent like Mina writes in the dialect of an elderly local man, but overall it works to both deepen and illuminate the mystery: a fuller picture emerges from various accounts, and at the same time new questions arise, such as Renfield’s connection to events.

Of course, we all have at least a passing familiarity with the story, and that makes it even more impressive that I’m finding it so engaging. I hope that is sustained through the second half of the book.

Two amusing (to me) Dracula-related items of interest/non-interest:

1)  According to Wikipedia, in Persuasive Signs: The Semiotics of Advertising by Ron Beasley and Marcel Danesi, the men’s fragrance Drakkar Noir relates to Dracula. (Confession: that is the assumption I always made.) They write that it “obviously appeals to the dark, macabre, sinister side of masculine sexual fantasies.” The reason this is funny (to me) is that I can remember my younger brother wanting this particular cologne for Christmas one year when he was in high school. My mother was very happy to have found a bottle at the mall. When I was wrapping it for her, I noticed that what she had bought was actually a knock-off called “Dracool.” Or maybe it was spelled “Drakool.” Anyway. Kind of takes all of that dark, dangerous mystery out of it, though, does it? And replaces it with the obvious (and now obviously false) message that if you wear it you are cool.

2)  Once I watched Dracula: Dead and Loving It. It happened the day after my roommates and I, one year out of college, threw a party in our apartment, and the next day we were too tired and hung-over to do much of anything. We put the movie into the VCR (yes, the VCR!), thought it was awful, but continued to watch the entire thing because we couldn’t motivate ourselves to get up from the couch and turn it off. I guess we didn’t own a remote? I’d actually kind of like to watch it again. Sober. Maybe it isn’t as bad as remember. I’d also like to watch Francis Ford Coppola’s Dracula again once I finish the book.

Returning briefly to the idea of terror, although I find the book frightening, I also find myself reading it at night, alone. And I wonder if it’s maybe not as actually scary as it is theoretically scary. Or if familiarity has neutralized some of the fear I would otherwise experience.