Monday, December 06, 2010

Bram Stoker’s Dracula – review

Editor: Elizabeth Miller

First published: 2009

Contains spoilers

The Blurb: Bram Stoker’s Dracula, upon its publication in 1897, shocked, captivated, titillated, outraged, thrilled. Two years later it astounded an American reviewer that Stoker - “A great, shambling, good-natured, over-grown boy with a red beard and ruddy complexion” - might be a successful businessman let alone the creator of the mysterious, seductive count from a castle (and coffin) in Transylvania. In more than a century since, Bram Stoker’s Dracula has never gone out of print. Yet the count has long overshadowed his author.

A Broadway stage adaption of Dracula in the 1920’s, and then the 1931 classic film version starring Bela Lugosi would make the fictional vampire a cultural icon. His story would continue to fascinate moviemakers and successive decades would bring the count to the silver screen in the shape of Christopher Lee, Jack Palance, Frank Langella, and Gary Oldman, to name only four. On television Buffy would slay vampires, while in print Dracula’s tale would spawn a whole genre of vampire fiction from Anne Rice’s wildly popular Vampire Chronicles to Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight series.

This generously illustrated documentary collection explores in full the scope of the Dracula phenomena, from the folkloric origins of the vampire legend to its unending legacy as a vital influence on the literary and performing arts, not to mention the Romanian tourist industry. Nor does it overlook Bram Stoker himself – among its many exceptional primary documents are his working notes for Dracula – for without Bram Stoker, as this comprehensive volume shows, Count Dracula would never have assumed a life of his iconic own.

The review: I like blurb’s such as this book has, detailed and accurate. It almost makes me want to give a score and leave.

This book describes itself as “A documentary journey into vampire country and the Dracula phenomena” and it truly is. Edited by Dracula expert Elizabeth Miller it is split into six primary areas: 1) Bram Stoker, the Man and the Writer, 2)The Vampire before Dracula, 3)Contexts for Dracula, 4) the Writing of Dracula, 5.) the Publishing History of Dracula and 6.) The Legacy of Dracula. The book then fills these sections with essays and articles enough to make the Dracula student’s head spin.

The contents page is very detailed and all the articles are very well referenced – in the Harvard style – and the references fall behind their relevant article. There is also a reference and further reading section at the end of the volume that ties to the articles themselves. However I will gripe about a lack of index. Though the book has the detailed contents that I mentioned, an index would have been, I would say, a godsend for dipping back into aspects and using the book as a scholarly tome.

For scholarly it is, and filled with a huge amount of data, theory and fact. Perhaps too much for the casual reader but for the student of the vampire in media and, particularly, Dracula it is a must have. 9 out of 10.


Zahir Blue said...

Ooooooohhhhhh...I want one!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

you Sir, will definitely get much from it.

Christine said...

Must have one! Must have one!Elizabeth Miller is usually very accurate no-nonsense writer. And the theme... yess!

Taliesin_ttlg said...

well worth it Christine

fenris said...

On a related note, in his essay Supernatural Horror in Literature: The Weird Tradition in the British Islands, HP Lovecraft described three novels as being 'the children of Dracula' due to how extensively he believed they were influenced by Stroker's opus. They were Richard March's The Beetle (1897), werewolf novel The Door of the Unreal (1919) by Gerald Bliss, and Sax Rohmer's Brood of the Witch Queen (1918).

Brood of the Witch Queen may be of most interest to vampire fans. I've not read it, but according to reviews the central storyline has various individuals banding together to foil the schemes of a typical Rohmer supervillain who possesses supernatural abilities. Apparently there's a subplot in which the villain resurrects the vampire ancestor of one of the protagonists, buried in a tomb under the moat of a castle.

If true, then unless anyone knows different, I believe this was the only occasion that Rohmer - best known as the creator of Fu Manchu - wrote about vampires (although vampire bats appear in his detective/voodoo novel Bat Wing).

Taliesin_ttlg said...

Fenris - many. many thanks for that (and witch-queen is now on my to read list :) )

With regard Door of the Unreal we shouldn't forget the close conection between werewold and vampire, indeed Stoker used Sabine Baring-Gould's description of a werewolf as his reference for the physical appearance of the Count