It seems like I've been doing a lot of reading lately which has been diverting me away from Moby Dick, which I'm still only halfway through. But when I saw in Second Life that a reading group was going to be discussing Dracula, I decided to take the opportunity to read it again for the first time in at least ten years. I kind of marathoned it on Wednesday, spending most of the day reading the latter half of it, after reading the first half over the preceding weeks. I enjoyed it a lot more than the first time I read it.
I love how thoroughly it creates a world. So much more than any of the film adaptations I've seen--I've yet to see one adaptation that has included information about the various local dishes Harker tries on his way to Dracula's castle, and so far only the 1977 BBC production has included anything of the sea dogs Mina and Lucy chat with regularly. The device of using journal entries, newspaper clippings, and letters to tell the story, too, adds to the verisimilitude, an effective found artefact technique.
I realised that the only Mina Murray that resembles the one is Stoker's novel is the one in League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (I don't have to point out I'm not talking about the movie, right?). Mina has more wherewithal than any of the men except for Van Helsing, having the foresight to remember train schedules, actually deducing Dracula's plans at one point, and talking about how she admires female journalists and emulates them. It makes sense that she would grow tired of the socially prescribed sexual dynamic, and that her strange experience with Dracula would help to break her free of any prejudices that might hold her back.
There's an interesting symmetry between the strangeness of Dracula, and the rules Harker encounters in eastern Europe, and Van Helsing's assertion to Seward that one needs to proceed without prejudice, to learn to accept strange things, in order to have any hope of combating their enemy.
I came across this interview the other day where Christopher Lee talks about his dissatisfaction with the Hammer Dracula films;
I found it interesting that the aspect of Dracula Lee fixated on from the book, which indeed is very rarely addressed in adaptations, is Dracula as an older man who grows young. Even Coppola's version, the sense I get isn't so much that Dracula desires to become younger as that he desires to present the image of youth in order to facilitate his other intentions. It's true, Dracula's motives are different in Coppola's version with the inclusion of the romance between him and Mina. Though apparently he doesn't realise Mina's his reincarnated lover until after he's already retained an English solicitor in the hopes of going to England.
Lee mentions actually being able to play the character from the book in Jess Franco's version, which indeed he does, in this, the best scene from an otherwise sadly underwhelming film;
After the first section with Harker, there's actually very little of Dracula in the book--he seems to function as a faceless force of nature, the root cause of a story of illness as punishment for the inescapably animal nature of being human. But what Lee captures here is a sense of a man displaced, a man who finds himself in a world that no longer functions on and respects the values that shaped his whole personality. One could say the book is his argument that these values of conquering by sex and violence are still, and always will be, more valid than the feeble bulwark of Victorian morality.
Last night I also read "BLIND FISH", Caitlin's newest story in her Sirenia Digest. It's another nice Lovecraftian tale, also, I think, influenced by Danny Boyle's film Sunshine in that it centres on a psychologically scarring scientific expedition, in this case in the ocean, in a submersible. I was also reminded of Onibaba, a Japanese horror film from the 1960s which uses a pit, referred to in titles as "The Hole" as part of its nightmare portrait of women who have become killers and thieves. There seems like there might be a thematic connexion in Caitlin's story between the protagonist's dread of The Hole described in the story, which is at the bottom of the ocean and where the trauma occurs, and his preoccupations with his human/fish hybrid lover, his dwelling on her strange anatomy and misgivings about her capacity for compassion, or any lover's stake in a relationship being more than fundamentally selfish. This impression seems strengthened by a description of the submersible's entry into the hole; "The hole had obligingly swallowed them in a single gulp. How long had it been waiting, indescribably patient and hungry. Insatiable."
Okay. Now back to Moby Dick. At least until school starts in two weeks. Sometimes I do wish I wasn't such a slow reader.
Twitter Sonnet #468
Trunk hands elementally shower tusks.
Ivory is no soap in this dusty land.
Comb over dragonfly wings make weak husks.
Pawns lose themselves among big grains of sand.
Gravity capes condemn the news of grass.
Alternate boulders take the slope for Lent.
All sanctions calibrate the prince's past.
Lucy can't read every note Mina sent.
Curving pipes cancel the tobacco train.
Absconding abattoirs tranquilise toes
When they're tripping on tacks along the main
Ranges of mountain thighs in snowy hose.
Soured sun flares crinkle in the saline.
Nebulae linger deep in hole eighteen.