Friday, March 8

The Original Vampire Thriller


Hello!  In my attempt to channel some more followers to my blog, I have just joined the women's blogging association of Blogher.  I now have a Blogher profile, and Bouquets of Sharpened Pencils has it's own indelible place in the Blogher blog directory.  Hopefully, before long, we'll start to see some new book-lovers getting involved.  


Two weeks ago, I started my first year at university.  I am studying Creative and Professional Writing with two minors in Literature and Drama.  This semester's unit for my Literature minor focuses on the books and culture of the 19th century.  I have a brilliant book list featuring Frankenstein, Dracula, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, Oliver Twist, Tess of the D'Urbavilles, Alice in Wonderland, and Madam Bovary.   

I have just started reading Dracula for the very first time.  Unfortunately, I had to re-read Frankenstein first, which, as you know from my previous attempt, I did not enjoy.  Please understand that I appreciate the views and socio-cultural significance represented by this text, (which is why I have to read it for my course), but as a novel, I've found it hugely drudgerous.  It may have been a chilling Gothic thriller in the 1810s, but there is certainly something about chapter-long descriptions of mountain ranges that lulls the tension to sleep.  

Anyhow, my experience with Frankenstein made me a little reluctant to start Dracula.  It's double the size and, since I hadn't read it before, I wouldn't be able to speed-read it like I did Frankenstein.  So with heavy heart, I began.  

The second page changed my mind.  

This book has not cast back to the past for a thorough history of the protagonist before dashing boldly into the narrative.  In the very first chapter, my heart raced and I did exactly what you should do when you read a scary book - I flinched when I heard quiet noises.  The tension is tight from the very beginning.  This book is a real thriller!

I was actually very surprised by Bram Stoker's first description of Count Dracula, because it was exactly the same as how vampires are depicted nowadays, even in cartoons.  Listen to this:

His face was a strong - very strong - aquiline, with high bridge of the thin nose and peculiarly arched nostrils; with lofty domed forehead, and hair growing scantily round the temples but profusely elsewhere.  His eyebrows were very massive, almost meeting over the nose, and with bushy hair that seemed to curl in its own profusion.  The mouth, so far as I could see it under the heavy moustache, was fixed and rather cruel-looking, with peculiarly sharp white teeth; these protruded over the lips, whose remarkable ruddiness showed astonishing vitality in a man of his years.  For the rest, his ears were pale and at the tops extremely points; the chin was broad and strong, and the cheeks firm though thin. The general effect was one of extraordinary pallor.  

Stoker, Bram.  (1897)  Dracula.  Chapter Two: Jonathan Harker's Journal continued, p 21.  Harper Press.  London.

I am pleased to report that the description in Dracula is character-building description, and strengthens the tension, as opposed to the seemingly endless, irrelevant descriptions of travel and locations in Frankenstein.  


I can't resist but to share with you a passage that chilled me to the bone.  Protagonist, Jonathan Harker, has been searching the castle for a way to escape, and has stumbled upon the Count lying in an unresponsive stupor, upon a mound of earth:

There lay the Count, but looking as if his youth had been half renewed, for the white hair and moustache were changed to dark iron-gray; the cheeks were fuller, and the white skin seemed ruby-red underneath; the mouth was redder than ever, for on the lips were gouts of fresh blood, which trickled from the corners of the mouth and ran over the chin and neck.  Even the deep, burning eyes seemed set amongst swollen flesh, for the lids and pouches underneath were bloated.  It seemed as if the whole awful creature were simply gorged with blood.  He lay like a filthy leech, exhausted with his repletion.  
Stoker, Bram.  (1897)  Dracula.  Chapter Four: Jonathan Harker's Journal continued, p 61.  Harper Press.  London.  

I have come to the conclusion that this is a book that I must read during daylight!


  1. You're right about lengthy descriptions, we are so used to photos and films that written descriptions are boring us to death! Apart from that I don't like thrillers :-(

  2. Thankyou both for your lovely comments! It's nice to hear that you know what I mean. To Frankie, it's sad that so much television watching has made people less appreciative of beautiful writing. But it makes a lot of difference when the description goes towards building the characters or tension instead of using up space. Thanks for you reflection.


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