Thursday, October 19, 2017

Dracula and Other Classics by Alicia Dean

I have a confession to make, I have not read many, if any, classic, literary novels, other than maybe those I read in school. I've never read a Jane Austen book, or even seen one of her movies. I have always intended to, but just haven't yet. I did read Gone with the Wind, many times, and loved it. But, other than that, my reading tastes have leaned toward current'ish releases. However, I am now reading (well, mostly listening via audiobook), to Bram Stoker's Dracula. Our OKRWA group is reading it to discuss at this Saturday's meeting. I have mixed feelings. It's surprisingly creepy in parts, suspenseful and chilling. But, wow, are there some very, very slow moments. One thing that surprised me was the description of Count Dracula, quite different from the Dracula we are accustomed to now. Here is what he looks like in Bram Stoker's version:

The book is written completely in journal and letter form, which is a little 'telling' at times. And, there are places where he goes on and on in minute detail about non-interesting topics. The character, Van Helsing, has an odd way of speaking and some of his dialogue makes my brain hurt. Here is an example:

"Winchesters it shall be. Quincey's head is level at all times, but most so when there is to hunt, metaphor be more dishonour to science than wolves be of danger to man."


But then, there are sections like the below. This is from Jonathan Harker's journal, who is a guest- turned captive of Count Dracula (Jonathan had previously seen a bag that writhed as if it contained something living, in the possession of the Count and his vampire women):

As I sat, I heard a sound in the courtyard without--the agonized cry of a woman. I rushed to the window, and throwing it up, peered out between the bars. There, indeed, was a woman with disheveled hair, holding her hands over her heart as one distressed with running. She was leaning against a corner of the gateway. When she saw my face at the window, she threw herself forward, and shouted in a voice laden with menace—

"Monster, give me my child!"

She threw herself on her knees, and raising up her hands, cried the same words in tones with wrung my heart. Then she tore her hair and beat her breast, and abandoned herself to all the violences of extravagant emotion. Finally, she threw herself forward and, though I could not see her, I could hear the beating of her naked hands against the door.

Somewhere high overhead, probably on the tower, I heard the voice of the Count calling in his harsh, metallic whisper. His call seemed to be answered from far and wide by the howling of wolves. Before many minutes had passed, a pack of them poured, like a pent-up dam when liberated, through the wide entrance into the courtyard.

There was no cry from the woman, and the howling of the wolves was but short. Before long they streamed away singly, licking their lips.

I could not pity her, for I knew now what had become of her child, and she was better dead.

Nice, right?

Sections like this make it worth the read. And, with it being Halloween month, this is a perfect choice.

What about you? Have you read the classics? Which ones do you like/dislike?


Diane Burton said...

Good post, Alicia. That last excerpt was creepy. I haven't read many classics. Usually, the paragraphs go on forever (or at least a couple of pages) and my eyes glaze over. Since I usually write science fiction romance, I started reading those classics--Bradbury, Clark, Asimov. They're more current (like from the last century, at least) and some very interesting. While I enjoy reading current books, the classics help us understand our history.

Jannine Gallant said...

I heard...I heard...I heard. We don't get to say I heard anymore. Yes, lot's of telling in the classics, but that last excerpt was very creepy. It certainly set a mood. I was an English major (creative writing emphasis) so I had to read a lot of classics. I yawned through most of them. I remember HATING James Joyce. I actually read both Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre (without being coerced) years ago when I was heavily into Gothics. I can appreciate the classics, but I sure wouldn't want a steady diet!

Alicia Dean said...

Thanks, Diane! Yes, I agree about the classics. They do help us understand our history. It's really kind of a nice change from writing as we know it today. It's very atmospheric. And fancy. :D

Alicia Dean said...

LOL, I know, Jannine! And, she 'threw herself' like, three times. But, even with the flaws, I found the passage very creepy and it did set a certain mood. I have Pride and Prejudice free on audio, I am going to give that a shot.

Rolynn Anderson said...

English teacher here. So many of the classics are written by men about the world of men. If women are mentioned...well, you know. As for style. Yup, the modern reader has a slog ahead of her. It's worth it to see how language has transformed...and not always for the better. What I like to think about is which authors writing today will become 'classic' from our time. In the year 3000 will Stephen King be the king of creepy?

Vonnie Davis, Author said...

English major here, too. I love Shakespeare. I went to sleep many a night with Billy at my chest or across my face...wherever the book fell when I dropped off. His plays were my favorite. I studied Chaucer before the great vowel shift and can still speak in Olde English. It was like learning another foreign language, but had such great rhythm to it. I like Homer's works, as well, but I'd had four years of Latin in high school so the transition was easy. Thomas Wolfe's "Look Homeward Angel" with page-long sentences full of fire and thunder. And I'll admit to waking up repeating the opening paragraph to Jane Eyre. I've never read anything creepy although I enjoy putting a little creepy in my books. Don't ask why. We all know I make zero sense.

Margo Hoornstra said...

Creepy? That excerpt was just plain vile. One thing I noticed, in addition to the I heards, she 'shouted in a voice laden with menace--' BEFORE she actually did shout in a voice laden with menace. Another thing, a good thing though, is the subtle nature of the piece. (I'm an English major, too, and analyze everything I read ;-) Did you notice? The reader is given credit for having an imagination of sorts and not hit over the head with blood and gore graphic descriptions. (One of the reasons I've quit watching 'dramas' on tv) The wolves 'streamed away singly, licking their lips.' 'Nough said as far as I'm concerned. And, speaking of dredging through the classics in school -- close your ears, Rolynn -- isn't that why Cliff Notes were created? Nice post, Ally! Nice post.

Rolynn Anderson said...

Vonnie, love your recollections. I studied Chaucer for a college interim. Memorized famous parts of the Canterbury Tales...I love the Middle English sound of the Prologue:
Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote,
The droghte of March hath perced to the roote,
And bathed every veyne in swich licóur
Of which vertú engendred is the flour;
Whan Zephirus eek with his swete breeth
Inspired hath in every holt and heeth
The tendre croppes, and the yonge sonne
Hath in the Ram his halfe cours y-ronne,
And smale foweles maken melodye,
That slepen al the nyght with open ye,
So priketh hem Natúre in hir corages,
Thanne longen folk to goon on pilgrimages,
And palmeres for to seken straunge strondes,
To ferne halwes, kowthe in sondry londes;
And specially, from every shires ende
Of Engelond, to Caunterbury they wende,
The hooly blisful martir for to seke,
That hem hath holpen whan that they were seeke.

I taught Canterbury high school kids loved the x-rated parts about the prostitute!

Alicia Dean said...

Rolynn, that's true, although there are a surprising amount of female classic literary authors. And, I was a little surprised in Dracula at what a big role the women play and how they are somewhat tough and respected, but not treated as useless. I did wonder why Dracula only really fed on/turned the two main women in the story and not the men.

Ha, Vonnie. You make SOME sense. ;) Wow, your reading list is WAY above my head. I'm impressed! I've never read Shakespeare, the Old English throws me off. But, the man did know how to tell a story!

Thanks, Margo. LOL, yes, my editor fingers were itching to 'fix' some of the wording. I agree. That's one thing I love about the passage is that it manages to convey plenty of chilling creepiness without being explicit or gratuitous. I find that subtle scariness is really scarier than in your face gore. So glad you enjoyed the post!

Wow, Rolynn, I need that translated! It has a lovely sound to it, but I didn't understand it at all. :/

Leah St. James said...

Great post! I had to read many classics in high school, like James Joyce ("A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" and recall really disliking it), Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Shakespeare. For some reason we had to memorize Marc Antony's "Friends, Romans, countrymen..." speech from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. I haven't retained a whole lot of any of it, LOL!I also read Wuthering Heights by choice and loved it. The excerpt from Dracula was definitely creepy but a bit of a slog.

Alicia Dean said...

Thanks, Leah! I don't think I'd like those 'classics' either. Maybe I'm too easily bored. :D