Best Comedy ever made. Hands down.
The other day I finished listening to Dracula on Audible. I have probably read the book close to twenty times in my life and each time I notice something else. What makes it such a fantastic and entertaining book? It has all the hallmarks of a Gothic novel: crumbling castles, moldering treasure, ancient superstitions, ghost stories, and so on, but more than this, and even more than the epistolary structure that allows the reader to fill in the blanks, is the way the story is woven to be at once absolutely logical and, of course, utterly fantastic. Consider, if you were a centuries-old vampire general (statesman, tactician) and warrior who planned to invade England- the Count plans things out, improvises, adapts, adjusts his plans and ultimately retreats when he is beaten to wait until conditions become more favorable. That is all very orderly and rational, from a certain point of view. On the other hand, he is a supernatural being who is bound by mysterious and liminal laws. For example, he must be carried across running water and can be delayed but not stopped by a crucifix or garlic. Madness, passionate emotion, panic, and human weakness are constantly threatening in the background of the novel- threatening to overtake the logic, rationalism, reason. The high technology of the day is put against ancient superstition from the phonograph to the garlic flower, from the race to intercept Dracula at the end using Europe’s railway system (the 19th century was probably the first time travelling overland was faster than travel by sea) to the use of Winchester’s repeating rifle against the gypsies In the employ of the Count.
Another interesting theme that has emerged for me as I’ve grown older is the sexuality in the exchange of blood throughout the novel. From Harker’s first encounter of Dracula’s three brides and secretly wishing they would “kiss him,” to the prone, unclothed position Mina finds Lucy in on the cliff-side graveyard at Whitby the first time the Count fed on her. The thrall of vampirism in all cases creates an entrancing beauty and seductiveness in the women of the novel- and just as Dracula is always seeking brides, his brides are often seeking, feeding on, or luring away children. In some ways what makes this frightening is the symmetry (and perversion) of the “natural order”- as opposed to the wholesome relationship that Jonathan and Mina enjoy as husband and wife, where she is his “helper,” his love, and the mother of his child in the end, Dracula tries to recruit Mina to be his “helper” and to consume the blood of children, to seduce human men, and if the brides of Castle Dracula are any indication, eventually to become cruel, ribald, and malicious.
The novel frames a collision of the modern and the ancient, Victorian English propriety and what lurked beneath it, superstition and science, Good and Evil. In some ways it falls in line with the conventions of its genre, but I think it may be the most extraordinary novel I have ever read and probably my favorite. If you have the means to listen to the performances of Alan Cumming, Tim Curry, et al, I recommend it. It was great fun (at 15 hours30 minutes) and as soon as I finished, I wanted to listen again.
We never sit here under the weight of all this air, the 5 x 10^18 kg of atmosphere that sits above everyone on Earth, and say “Gosh, that sure is heavy!”
You don’t realize just how powerful that 1 bar (~100 kPa) of pressure is until a train car is filled with steam, allowed to cool, and then implodes ohmygod did that just happen?
For more implosion goodness, check out this awesome video from Veritasium.
Mug and coaster, a late birthday present from the awesome librarians at the hospital library where I volunteer on Fridays. They said it was “indoctrination,” to which I had to reply that I am already flush with librarian pride and will proudly to bear these badges. I seriously love being a librarian.
5 Wikipedia Entries for When You’re Feeling Possibly Receptive to the Idea That Ghosts Might Exist
5 Wikipedia Articles for When You Want to Take Your “Walking Dead” Costume to The Next Level
5 Wikipedia Articles for When You Find Yourself Wondering About the Historical Accuracy of ‘Hocus Pocus’
5 Wikipedia Entries for When You Start to Wonder if Your Pet Knows Something You Don’t
5 Wikipedia Entries for When You’re a Complete Anglophile, Even on Halloween
5 Wikipedia Articles for When You Decide Your Little Cousin/Nephew/Sister Isn’t Appropriately Scared of Monsters, and You Need to Remedy That ASAP
5 Wikipedia Entries for When You Want Something Mystifying to Discuss on GChat All Day
5 Wikipedia Articles for When You Feel The Need to Brush Up on All Things “The Devil,” (As One Does From Time to Time)
5 Wikipedia Entries For When You Feel The Need to Prove That Women Can Be Heartless Murderers, Too
5 Wikipedia Articles For When You Find Yourself Scoffing at This List Because You’re Still Not Sufficiently Creeped Out
Sooo reading these tonight. And I felt rather proud that I knew quite a few of these already. Like Voynich. Every linguist’s wet dream.