Thursday, November 08, 2012

happy birthday bram stoker

I have always liked scary movies, since I was a kid. My dad encouraged this enthusiasm, and would watch them with us, mostly on late-night television. The whole family got excited when Dracula starring Frank Langella came out in the movie theater. Finally, a scary movie on the big screen. My Anglophile mom was thrilled that Laurence Olivier was involved. My cousin Barbara was a huge Langella fan, and I quickly followed suit. Dracula was scary and sexy. My dad was probably a bit uncomfortable sitting through some of the love scenes with his kids a seat away, but we all survived.

A few days after watching the movie I saw a book with Frank Langella as the Count on the cover in Waldenbooks and begged my mom to buy it for me. I thought it would be a novelization, a way for me to relive what I had just seen on screen. But it was a repackaging of Bram Stoker's original novel, and I'm so grateful to the fabulously sexy Langella for helping to introduce me to this classic Gothic epistolary novel. It became one of my favorite books that summer. I still have it, although it's a bit worse for wear.

More than a little dog-eared, but still loved. The back cover included the phrase, "His love is eternal ... His embrace a throbbing dream."

A 24-page color insert!

I have read plenty of vampire stories since, by Anne Rice and many others (although I have not been tempted by Twilight), but none can compare to the original Stoker novel. Stoker never traveled to Transylvania, or anywhere near there. Maybe as the daughter of a newspaper man, I connected to a novel written by a reporter. Stoker was a theater critic and wrote for the London Daily Telegraph.
Before writing Dracula, Stoker met Ármin Vámbéry who was a Hungarian writer and traveler. Dracula likely emerged from Vámbéry's dark stories by Carpathian mountains. Stoker then spent several years researching European folklore and mythological stories of vampires. Dracula is an epistolary novel, written as a collection of realistic, but completely fictional, diary entries, telegrams, letters, ship's logs, and newspaper clippings, all of which added a level of detailed realism to his story, a skill he developed as a newspaper writer. Wikipedia
I may have originally bought Bram Stoker's Dracula for the color photo insert of Langella & Co., but the book ended up making a huge and lasting impression on me. Reading Dracula led me to other horror writing, by authors like Sheridan Le Fanu, M. R. James, H.P. Lovecraft, Theodore Sturgeon, and Edgar Allan Poe. Thank you, Bram Stoker, for your indelible character of Count Dracula. A character who will undoubtedly continue to inspire countless versions in the future.


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