Adventures in Reading

Fiction: Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu, 1872

“The effect of the full moon in such a state of brilliancy was manifold. It acted on dreams, it acted on lunacy, it acted on nervous people, it had marvelous physical influence connected with life.”

J. Sheridan LeFanu’s Carmilla is a novella about vampires and a predecessor to Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Laura and her father inhabit a lonely schloss in “Styria;” after a carriage accident outside of their home, a strange and “invalid” girl is left with the family. Laura and the girl Carmilla recollect each other from a dream-like experience from their childhoods. The family’s experience with Carmilla is surreal and haunting; the neighboring villages are plagued with some sort of feverish, wasting disease, which kills a variety of female inhabitants. The emphasis in Carmilla, unlike in Dracula, is with female subjects as both predators and victims.

This year has turned into my year of vampires, I suppose, and my interest in Carmilla was peaked while reading the introduction to Dracula. Though LeFanu’s work is easily solved approximately half way through and there are some significant unanswered questions, Carmilla is bother a curious and interesting look at vampirism.

R.I.P. Challenge: Dracula by Bram Stoker
October 3, 2008, 1:14 pm
Filed under: book reviews, fiction | Tags: , , , , ,

In Leonard Wolf’s introduction of the 100th anniversary of Dracula, he explores the sensation that is Dracula. Though only a century old, Dracula is a tale that seems much older and a story that has seeped into public unconsciousness like any well-known myth or allegory. Dracula is erotically dark and violent, passionate and frightening, sexual yet repulsive.

Told in an epistolary style, Bram Stoker’s story unfolds through letters, journals, newspaper clippings, phonograph recordings, and telegrams. Rather than a solitary narrator, nearly every character within Dracula is allowed a passage to develop the story. Plot wise, and one I’m sure most people are familiar with, the young Englishman Johnathan Harker heads to Transylvania as he has been hired via a firm by Count Dracula. After a terrifying forced visit at the Count’s castle, he returns home only to find that the Count has beat him to England’s shores. The Count proceeds to terrorize the two female characters in the story while the male cast comes to term and plot to defeat the vampire.

Wolf points out that one of the intrigues of this novel, one reason why it is so easy to become fascinated is because Stoker quite deceptively provides his reader with a monolith of complex material and themes: sex, tradition, modernity, science, medicine, folklore, myth, horror, good versus evil, sex. You can read Dracula for the blood tingling gothic horror it is or you can easily spend your time delving into the multitude of layers.

My only real criticism: there is some cyclical repetitions throughout the book (like the men giving blood to Lucy) that become rather repetitive. Personally, I could have done without the American Quincey entirely. But that’s really besides the point, it’s a sensational book and was a perfect novel to read for the R.I.P. Challenge!

Conclusion: Keeper.

Other opinions: Book Nut, Bookworm, 1morechapter, Becky’s Book Reviews, Dreaming Out Loud, Here, There, and Everywhere, and Reading Matters.