I have been off in a corner scribbling a novel all over the wallpaper, but now that is done and I’m back to my other important duty of aiding alcoholic bibliophiles. So today, on a beautiful spring morning with blackbirds and daffodils swarming all over my garden, I’m going to be recommending that cheerful, bright tome, Dracula by Mr Bram Stoker.
The original vampire book, before the cliché switched from coffins and garlic to twinkling and moping. Dracula has no time for moping, he is too busy being a total badass and psychologically manipulating everyone around him. He is such a role model.
It’s a classic. It’s the classic when it comes to monster books. The story produces not only strong characters and a thrilling plot, but is like a travel brochure for the macabre, presenting a full range of gothic transport options and sinister holiday destinations. Creaking horse drawn carriages or boats sailed by the dead? No problem. A weird, creepy castle that everyone around is openly afraid of? Gotcha. The weather-beaten abbey at Whitby? An insane asylum next to a deserted old chapel? A sanatorium run by nuns in Budapest? Done, done and done.
The basic plot kicks off with Jonathan Harker’s trip to Castle Dracula in Transylvania, for some duties pertaining to real estate. There, he is scared by local peasants, intimidated by the obviously dead Count and lured by the Count’s three foxy brides (remember when Keanu dealt with that and it was really tough).
If you haven’t read the book, I won’t go into too much detail, but his visit is the prelude to Dracula leaving Transylvania and sailing to Whitby, where he wreaks havoc amongst the local gentry. Lucy Westenra is the poor beautiful innocent who falls victim to him and draws a posse of good, upright Victorian men into the fight against evil.
Now I know because I’ve carefully labelled the book ‘5F’ on the inside, that I read this for the first time when I was about ten. Some of the descent of the inmate Renfield into ‘a zoophagous..maniac’ went over my head, and I remember being unclear on whether Mina was in thrall to the Count or not, but the most confusing part of the book by far, and a section which still baffles me, is the incomprehensible conversations Mina has with an old man from Whitby. Stoker is not the only writer of this time, around the turn of the twentieth century, to start writing regional accents phonetically, but it’s something I don’t personally hold with. The odd word misspelt, to remind the reader that there’s an accent happening, can be effective, but whole reams of it seem much more of a hindrance to the smooth running of the story than a help to the imagination. Because, seriously: ‘I wouldn’t fash masel’ about them, miss’; ‘I must gang ageeanwards home now, miss’; ‘it takes me time to crammle aboon the grees’; ‘it’ll be a quare scowderment at the Day of Judgement’. What do any of those sentences mean??
I hardly need to say it, but you should obviously read this while working your way through the thickest, heaviest red wine you can get your hands on, perhaps a Shiraz or Nero D’Avola. Alternatively, a nice fullsome brandy could inject a similar heady depth to the reading experience. Go on, it’d be a quare scowderment to deny yourself. Maybe.
Book: Dracula, by Bram Stoker
Pair with: full-bodied red wine, such as Nero D’Avola