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Gothic Literature

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Oct 8, 2012, 5:10pm Top

Why I created this thread: http://www.librarything.com/topic/115964#2939435

I'm not, myself, intending to re-read Dracula for a while yet; but I've just mentioned it on the 'Gothic gossip' thread and it seemed to me that the sooner the better for a Dracula thread so that it's here whenever anyone wants it.

This is what I posted on the 'Gothic gossip' thread:

I'm listening to an interesting BBC Radio 4 programme as I write - Was Dracula Irish?. It argues for a lot more roots to the story in Irish history than we generally acknowledge.

According to the web page, there is 'over a year left to listen' at the time of posting.

ETA - Ignore the bit where it says '962 mins'; it doesn't last that long - honest.

Oct 8, 2012, 7:06pm Top

And before the programme, there was a trailer for a new radio dramatisation of Dracula, to be broadcast next Sunday (the 'classic serial' slot).

Nov 4, 2012, 11:56am Top

An article in the latest edition of Tartarus Press's Wormwood (no. 19) by Brian J Showers looks into the question of why Stoker didn't write a sequel to Dracula.

There's an argument that Stoker deliberately left the way clear for a sequel - the count's despatched rather perfunctorily (knives to throat and heart) compared to the elaborate ceremony used on vampire-Lucy (and Stoker deleted a final paragraph where Castle Dracula collapsed in apparent sympathy upon the Count's death).

Whilst he cannot say why Stoker didn't write a sequel, Brian does examine and remove the arguments against its being possible: no historical precedent (not true); not justified by the commercial success of Dracula (no, it was a moderate success and had gone into multiple reprintings before the year was out); "Stoker's Autonomous Artistic Expression" - no, even his friends said Stoker wrote for money.

Nov 8, 2012, 4:21pm Top

Just a more or less random observation to mark Bram Stoker's birthday. In the last few months I've read a couple of stories which use the character of Dracula in an oblique manner, i.e. the 'sinister stranger' who makes the acquaintance of the protagonist turns out to be the Count, or the twist at the end reveals the you-know-what pursuing the hero is ... you-know-who.

Annoyingly, I can't really say any more without identifying the stories in question, and thereby turning this post into a massive *spoiler*. I did wonder though, if this was just a statistical 'blip' in my reading, or if there are a lot of these type of story about.

Nov 9, 2012, 5:27am Top

#4 - Can I own up to a guilty pleasure? 'Buffy the Vampire Slayer': I thought it was really cleverly written on times and really enjoyed most of it. And the episode your post immediately brought to mind was 'Buffy vs. Dracula'.

I've just looked up the episode's quotes on IMDb. There are some amusing ones there, but not the particular one I wanted. It's a piece where Spike - resident, 'neutered' vampire - sounds off about how Dracula's ego and love of publicity (if I remember right, he calls him a 'publicity hound' or 'fame hound') spoilt it for everyone - that book was Dracula's fault and, since it, everyone knows about stakes and garlic and so forth.

Incidentally, Spike had some of the best lines in the series. My favourite was, "Never liked picket fences anyway. Bloody dangerous things." Unfortunately (or not, depending on your point of view), I suspect Spike and Angel in 'Buffy' were directly responsible for all this 'Twilight' stuff. But that's all off-topic - better stop now.

Edited: Nov 9, 2012, 5:42am Top

Incidentally, I've read in several places, including the web page I link in #1, that Dracula is the all-time biggest-selling book after the The Bible. I have to admit I'm a little sceptical.

ETA - Um ... strong whiff of déjà vu about this post - apologies if I'm harping on an old bone. Damn, now I have to apologise for a mixed metaphor.

Nov 9, 2012, 6:18am Top

#6 Dracula is the all-time biggest-selling book after the The Bible.

I have heard that asserted on a number of occasions and by fairly authoritative (i.e. not Wikipedia) sources.

My French colleague however, rejects this and claims that The Three Musketeers is the biggest-selling book after the bible (where "biggest" means largest number of copies).

PS I loved your Spike quote about picket fences.

Nov 9, 2012, 7:45am Top

I've seen the Quotations of Chairman Mao claimed as the 2nd-most printed book in a couple places. I dunno whether it sold in such huge numbers however - maybe they handed it out for free in a true socialistic spirit?

Nov 9, 2012, 7:54am Top

Telephone directories have huge runs too, or they used to. Either way: doesn't mean they provide a great reading experience.

Nov 9, 2012, 10:11am Top

#8 Mao's little red book was handed out free all over the world in the 60s. I remember we had several copies dropped into our letterbox over the years.

Nov 9, 2012, 10:14am Top

#9 I find that each edition of the phonebook changes ever so slightly making it a fascinating challenge to spot the changes. (Not)

Nov 19, 2012, 4:05pm Top

The Dublin Book Festiva ended last evening. It ran from 13th to 18th November. Its stated aim is the promotion of literature written by Dublin authors.

When I read the festival programme and attended the festival's main venue where a temporary bookshop had been set up, I was amazed to find that in 2012, the centinary of Bram Stoker's death, there was not a mention of the man nor was there a single copy any of his books available for sale, let alone any copies of the novel that has reputably sold more copies than any other novel in the world. I consider this a major failure of the festival and believe it could be considered an insult to one of Dublin's most famous sons.

I shall be contacting the organisers on this matter.

Nov 19, 2012, 5:33pm Top

> 12

That does seem a shame, to say the least. An oversight by - I presume - self-consciously highbrow organisers, or a deliberate policy to exclude Stoker?

Nov 19, 2012, 5:43pm Top

#13 I don't know how you could say such a thing. One would think you were there and noticed that it appears James Joyce is the only author Dublin produced. ;)

As it happens, the only event at the festival that was in anyway related to the Gothic was the session Brian J. Showers organised in the Gutter Bookshop for Longsword by Thomas Leland. You would have enjoyed it. Albert Power and Jarleth Killeen discussed the book and its position in Gothic literature. John Kenny of Albedo1 acted as referee.

It was a great session. If you are on Facebook and have access to the Swan River Press page you can see photographs.

Apparently Longsword pre-dates The Castle of Otranto by three years making it the first Gothic novel to be published.

Nov 19, 2012, 6:04pm Top

I'm already a "Facebook Friend" of The Swan River Press, as a matter of fact (and disgraced myself with a comment of Ralph Wiggum - level banality this evening.)

I looked at the photos of the Longsword event yesterday, and it did indeed look like an interesting event.

Longsword itself has been purchased but not yet read - like so many of my books, alas. Someone in the Folio Society Devotees group outlined his plan to deal with his unread books a while back - retire immediately, and live forever. I think I'll have to do the same!

Nov 20, 2012, 4:34am Top

#15 retire immediately, and live forever. I think I'll have to do the same!

I know the feeling.

I have a lovely display of both Swan River Press and Tartarus Press books and most of them are untainted by having been read. I hold my head up as Umberto Eco states that the wealth of a mine is in the in the unmined resource, and consequently the wealth in a library is in the unread books. From that point of view my library is very wealthy.

The thought of retiring immediately is attractive, though living forever could present difficulties.

Edited: Nov 21, 2012, 3:54am Top

This message has been deleted by its author.

May 24, 2013, 7:35pm Top

I'd begun to compose something longer but it was disappearing up its own pretentious fundament. I'll just note that two recent BBC documentaries about the music and culture of Britain's teenagers between the end of WWII and the Beatles - "Rock 'n' Roll Britannia" and "Trad Jazz Britannia" - through some light on the curious and much-derided "teenagers" in Hammer's Dracula AD 1972.

I can't claim this as an original observation. Jonathan Rigby in his book English Gothic: A Century of Horror Cinema had already noted that if their antics have any basis in reality, it was a reality at least 10 years before the setting of the film. However, it was good to see for myself things like the skull ashtrays in the 2i's coffee bar, the keenness for jazz (New Orleans ("Trad") or Bop, but not both), and a degree of violence that, at one and the same time, appears to be both a source of anxiety and complacently laughed off in the media.

The film's structure has also been criticised, with Dracula, resurrected after 100 years, doing nothing but hang around in a de-sanctified church until a van Helsing can despatch him again. I like to think that the events shown in the film are all just a sideshow for Dracula, and in fact he's really busy setting up the massive business empire that he has in The Satanic Rites of Dracula.

Aug 15, 2013, 12:35pm Top

I've just finished Barbara Belford's Bram Stoker: A Biography of the Author of Dracula. I've posted a short LT review; the book's okay, I suppose, but I didn't feel it got me at all close to the man.

Can anyone recommend a really good biography of Stoker? I've been looking and suspect there isn't a better one, but ...

Aug 15, 2013, 1:18pm Top

> 19

I've never read a full-length biography of Stoker. I do have a mental image of the man that's in accord with the passage you quoted in your review, but it's built up from various sources: introductions to sundry editions of Dracula; radio and television documentaries about Dracula, or Stoker, or the Gothic more generally; mentions in works about the 1890's, and so on.

Edited: Aug 17, 2013, 5:34am Top

After reading a considerable portion of his fiction (and I've now got all the rest here, waiting), I've become quite fascinated and puzzled by the man.

So far, I find his attitudes towards women impossible to pin down. The same thing goes for his attitude towards fiction and fiction-writing.

My impression is that he had a great gift for writing. Yet he never became a really good writer (even Dracula has its flaws - as is widely accepted). Why? Was he not capable of it? What I read in Belford about his thoroughness and work ethic suggests that he had the application to pair with his natural talent to produce something of a really high standard. Did he simply not consider writing important enough - just as a way of earning his bread, perhaps? Yet it's difficult to imagine someone who didn't thoroughly enjoy writing producing a gloriously self-indulgent and rambling patchwork quilt of a novel like The Lady of the Shroud (said he while perpetrating posts like this ...)

I've found answering these questions unexpectedly difficult. I suspect this is not so much that the information isn't out there as that few serious researchers have, so far, regarded Stoker as important enough to be a subject. Yet, if this is the case, one would have thought that, with the academic growth of Gothic studies in recent decades ... perhaps I'm wrong and the potential meat for a doctoral thesis or the like just isn't out there for them.

Or, perhaps, there's a really insightful biography out there that I haven't come across yet ...

Aug 17, 2013, 9:33am Top

> 21

I don't know. One consideration must be the simple fact that Stoker was so busy with his day job as Irving's business manager (all the Victorians are unbelievably, scarily industrious).

Another may be a matter of temperament. There are some writers whose strength lies in their industry and invention, it "just pours out of them" (I know, it's never that easy!). Dickens was a lot like that, and the structure of his novels has been criticised (because, of course, he wrote them as serials and didn't necessarily know where he was heading, when he started a new one).

If that's how it was for Stoker, then if he'd had more time in which to write he might have written more (much more), but with the same unevenness and flaws that you noted, rather than refining and polishing the works that we do have.

Dec 9, 2013, 8:07am Top

cool what people say about dracula

Mar 7, 2014, 7:42pm Top

I think that Jonathan Harker's journal in the first section of 'Dracula' is so brilliant. The move from mundane normality to escalating horror is so effectively done and scares the pants off me every time I read it!

Now, has anyone read the sequel to Dracula by Dacre Stoker (Stoker's great grand nephew) and Ian Holt? It has absolutely atrocious reviews on Amazon! I picked it up for a few pounds in a remainder store, but it remains unread.

Mar 8, 2014, 6:28am Top

> 24

I didn't think much of the book, to be honest. What interested me more, around the time of the book's publication, were the press interviews that Dacre Stoker did. It's clear that the family felt and, I got the impression, still feel, that others have benefited financially from Dracula (book and, more importantly, character) when it should have been them.

Mar 8, 2014, 6:33am Top

I have to admit that I haven't even considered reading that one. I've never been able to make head or tail of this phrase they use - 'reestablish creative control over' - regarding the original novel, and, in any case, it seems to me a pretty invalid reason for creating a work of fiction - it rather antagonises me, I'm afraid.

Mar 8, 2014, 6:53am Top

#26 - ... and, in any case, it seems to me a pretty invalid reason for creating a work of fiction - it rather antagonises me, I'm afraid.

Perhaps I'm being a bit unfair, there. Plenty of people write novels hoping to make money, sell screen rights, and so forth - which I assume is what they were talking about - so who am it to get high and mighty over it?

Still not going to read it any time soon, though ...

Mar 8, 2014, 7:47am Top

>25 housefulofpaper: >26 alaudacorax: I wasn't aware that the family felt that way. Bit strange given the length of time since the book was written. At least the original was copyrighted in the UK for 50 years so the family must have seen some benefit from that. However, I was surprised to read a while ago that the book was in the public domain in the USA since its publication as Stoker failed to follow the appropriate copyright procedures.

>26 alaudacorax: I won't probably read it soon either. There's hundreds of other unread books in my house staring at me wistfully from groaning bookshelves that take priority.

Mar 8, 2014, 8:10am Top

>28 Rembetis: Rembetis. It was his American publishers who did not follow the correct copyright procedure. They neglected to send copies to the US copyright library.

Mar 8, 2014, 8:33am Top

> 29 Thanks, pardon my error!

Does that mean that Universal Studios did not have to pay Stoker for the rights to make Lugosi's Dracula? I have David J Skall's book on Dracula from novel to screen ('Hollywood Gothic') but it's one of the unread books I spoke about earlier.

Mar 8, 2014, 11:21am Top

>30 Rembetis: pardon my error!

I had no intention of correcting anything you wrote, simply adding detail to the event. It is quite critical in the family's view as it meant Stoker received nothing from any of the subsequent US copies of his novel or derivative works in the US.

Sep 8, 9:55am Top

This week, treated myself to an hour long Christopher Lee audio on YouTube of Dracula. He did ALL of the characters, not just the lead ... my hero! This cannot be the full text though, is it? I plan to read it next month cover to cover for the first time ever. Spoilers irrelevant though, since I know about the 3 brides, the babies, the fly guy, the dirt voyage, the stake through the heart and head splicing. What fun! Those sound effects...


Sep 9, 5:54pm Top

>32 frahealee:

Just listened to this on YouTube. Thanks for the link!

It's not Stoker's text but I think it includes nearly all the incidents in the novel.

The style of the recording sounds quite like the American radio dramas of the same time (the internet has made a lot of these available - oh, and they do sound different from the BBC's radio dramas). Another upload on YouTube shows that this recording more or less matches a 1960s graphic novel version of Dracula...more or less: I wonder if Christopher Lee made the changes himself, to make the dialogue and speech balloons flow better as a vocal performance?

Edited: Sep 10, 7:11pm Top

>33 housefulofpaper: So happy you had a moment to dive into the murk. Initial expectation was to hear maybe 5-10min. but got 'sucked' in teehee. That mama who kept opening windows and tossing the garlic was a piece of work!

Found free downloads for the ebook of BS's Dracula and also Phantom of the Opera. This offers back-up in case I cannot get a hardcover in my hands by Oct/Nov. I plan to read it over a weekend. Kobo happened to be giving classics away as I'd bought 4/$4CAD (The Monk, Lady Susan by Austen, The Old Curiosity Shop, Nicholas Nickleby). Some are too much for my weakened talons to support, so I hope your beautiful 'paper' collection is enjoyed by your healthy eyes and hands for many years to come. Do NOT take that for granted!! I used to tease my folks relentlessly, and now am paying for it with their genetic 'get'evens'. Ugh.

I succumbed to 84 available to me now, with only 14 left to read. They are terrific resources for my 'find' and 'large font' purposes, when formulating writing projects in the wee hours of the morning. Not a diary gal, so poetry and short fiction keep me amused. Gothic makes for juicy visuals.

Also, we have limited internet usage, so we don't use YouTube as much as we could. It is more for research than entertainment, but something with Christopher Lee is pure (trick or) treat. =) I have not seen many of the oldies films, nor the Hammer films you speak of, so there is lots of ground to make up gradually. Yep, not even Karloff... You are allowed to openly weep for me!

Edited: Oct 30, 9:10am Top

Although my ebook/Kobo read was sufficient for finding my way through the story of Dracula, I did listen to a few audiobook versions online, but found it distracting. Some voices were dreadful when trying to invoke the Dutch doctor or Dracula himself (shiver) and some females read male parts which didn't suit. The thing I noticed the most though, was with the audiobook recording, if I had not been following along with the text, the phonetics would have been lost on me. For example, when the 'team' looks for Dracula's home in Piccadilly, there is mention of mews, which I would have heard as 'muse' had I only been listening to the book. I know mew as a sound for a kitten, but did not know the term mews and had to stop to look it up. This happened a few times, and interfered with the flow of the story. It was almost better to misunderstand something, than to stop for simultaneous research. In that way, I'm unsure whether the written word was better than the spoken word in this instance. Homonyms can be so annoying!

Washing my hands of vampires for the time being, and going in search of The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (1947). Boo!

Edited: Nov 8, 10:35am Top

Happy Birthday Bram Stoker! I celebrated by adding Dracula to my book list as number 201 =) now that I have been upgraded to lifetime status in my account/profile. Onward and upward. Paradise Lost is next … (202, etc.)

Nov 9, 8:08am Top

>36 frahealee:

Damn, missed that. It would have been a good excuse to re-read two or three of his short stories with, perhaps, a half-bottle of wine. What I need on my computers is a 'Gothic authors' birthdays calendar'.

Nov 9, 12:24pm Top

>37 alaudacorax: Well, if it was red wine, I hope you let a wee bit dribble down your chin for full effect! =D

Group: Gothic Literature

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