Friday, August 1, 2008

Review of July Books (Pt 2)

Dracula by Bram Stoker
3.5/5 stars

What you need to know:

  • Stoker's material was far from original; vampire lore has been around since the Middle Ages.

  • Count Dracula's historical basis was Vlad III, also know as the Prince of Wallachia or Vlad the Impaler.

  • The novel was preceded by John William Polidori's short story "The Vampyre" which conceptually began during a summer he spent with Lord Byron (Polidori was his physician), Percy and Mary Shelley, and Claire Clairmont (Byron's lover). During a three day rainstorm that forced the party indoors, each took turns telling the others a Gothic story. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein was also a product of this infamous gathering.

The bad:

  • The novel itself does not live up to its own hype. It begins slow, has A LOT of rising action, not much of a climax, and the ending was short, disappointing, and expected.
  • Johnathon Harker, one of the main characters, writes exactly like the solicitor he is meant to be, that is, quite dully.
  • The funniest character dies in the middle of the book.

  • Stoker uses the popular 19th century Mary/Eve dichotomy for his only two female characters. Shockingly, he decides to kill the "slut" and save the "angel".

The good:

  • Some parts are very funny.

  • The structure. Stoker's entire novel is composed of written dairies, letters, telegrams, and memorandums written by the different protagonists. I love shifting perspective, and Dracula is filled with it.

  • The sexual nuances between a vampire and his/her victim begin, in a lot of ways, with the relationship Stoker portrays between Lucy and Dracula and Harker and the three 'brides' of Dracula.

If you like vampires, Gothic tales, or even folklore, read it.

The Dead Travel Fast by Eric Nuzum
4/5 stars

A book that begins with an account of the author drinking his own blood is bound to be funny. The Dead Travel Fast is a smart, well researched, and well lived account of vampire lore, its cultural ramifications, and the days to day allusions to the undead we are only half aware of. During the author's journey he watches hundreds of vampire movies (his description of them is perhaps the funniest part in the book) travels to Transylvania, meets modern day, American vampires, and of course watches and loves every episode of Buffy The Vampire Slayer. His journey is extremely funny and over the top, and his discoveries and hypotheses as to why and how the world created and then obsessed over the vampire monster are revelatory and ring true.
I would recommend it to anyone who was ever been transfixed by the mystery of the undead. Or by a specific undead (ahem Edward, Angel, Spike...) Need I say more?

Here is an excerpt from the book. Enjoy...

"Watching my own blood drip down the bathroom mirror, there’s only one thought running through my head: In a lifetime of questionable decision making, this is not one of my finer moments...

The gore sprayed all over my bathroom was the result of the last of these undertakings: to drink blood. The whole blood-drinking thing, as you can imagine, posed several problems.

Most of these difficulties were rooted in the particulars. In my
book, to drink something means to take a mouthful of something and to swallow it—“tasting” or “sipping” wouldn’t be acceptable. This, of course, requires a sufficient quantity of blood.

Even though blood fetishists don’t advertise their gatherings in the Sunday paper, they aren’t particularly hard to find. However, anyone willing to let me drink their blood probably isn’t someone whose blood I should be drinking.

Then I got an idea: I could drink my own blood."

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