May 6, 2019 5:55 PM - by Bram Stoker - Subscribe

Dracula is an 1897 Gothic horror novel by Irish author Bram Stoker.

It introduced the character of Count Dracula, and established many conventions of subsequent vampire fantasy. The novel tells the story of Dracula's attempt to move from Transylvania to England so that he may find new blood and spread the undead curse, and of the battle between Dracula and a small group of men and a woman led by Professor Abraham Van Helsing.

Dracula has been assigned to many literary genres including vampire literature, horror fiction, the gothic novel, and invasion literature.
posted by Fukiyama (85 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
This was way more fun than I expected. It’s kind of an 1800s technothriller.
posted by Monochrome at 6:03 PM on May 6, 2019 [2 favorites]

I first read this when i was ten or so. Dracula! Vampires and coffins and gothic horror! How did it go? Let's just say ten-year-old-I wasn't prepared for its epistolary nature, with letters, diaries, clippings, and memoranda (I didn't even know what that word meant) woven together to tell the story with their late Victorian vocabulary. I made it to the end, but I didn't get all there was to get out of it.

Almost thirty years later, I was much better prepared to make my way to Transylvania with Jonathan Harker at the start of the book. It really moved right along. There were definite moments where I was turning pages to see what would happen next. I agree, technothriller is an apt word.

One thing I was surprised by was all the things Dracula could do that don't survive into the modern conception of vampires. To be able to go about by day was really interesting. That did lead to not a little confusion on my part when when and why he would need to rest in his native earth. Just after feeding?

The end was really good with the chase from the Black Sea to Castle Dracula told from the various points of view and then the final confrontation where everyone came together to do their part. Everything was wrapped up and the forces of good overcame Dracula and his un-dead lady-vampires.

The Guardian in 2014 listed it as number 31 of the 100 best novels. That seems fair to me.
posted by Fukiyama at 6:16 PM on May 6, 2019 [3 favorites]

So, a bunch of us have signed up to have Dracula delivered to us one diary entry / letter at a time between now and November. We thought we might do a bit of a running commentary here in this thread.

I have not read the book before, I don't think, but it's hard to know for sure given how many retellings there are of Dracula stories in pop culture.

In the first entry, I was happily amused all prepared to go looking up recipes for the things Jonathan Harker was eating, until I got to 'The women looked pretty, except when you got near them, but they were very clumsy about the waist.' and then I got distracted by how neatly descriptive and totally awful that sentence is. He doesn't get any nicer when he talks about the Slovaks. Not sure yet whether this is an indication that Harker is an asshole or that Stoker is an asshole.

The second entry really starts the narrative off on its path, though, with all the ominous warnings. Like, no slow building tension or vague foreshadowing here, the townspeople are freaked about Harker's journey and they are letting him know.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:03 AM on May 4, 2022 [3 favorites]

Oh, Stoker's an asshole, to be certain. I tried reading his Lair of the White Worm and, even adjusting for the time, the racism was so bad as to make it just unreadable. Whether Harker's also the asshole, I don't remember.

I do remember eating this book up as a kid. I'm glad to experience it again.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:19 AM on May 4, 2022 [2 favorites]

I've gotten the first two emails so far, and as someone who has never read the novel (though I have read several graphic versions), I am really enjoying the bite-sized nature of this.

No pun intended.
posted by wittgenstein at 11:10 AM on May 4, 2022 [3 favorites]

Count me in as someone who has never read this before, and is enjoying the Dracula Daily emails. They arrive a little too late for my bus ride to work so I've been reading them on the ride home.

That poor kind landlady trying to save Harker from his intentions to visit Dracula on the eve of Saint George's Day, which I gather is very ominous timing!
posted by the primroses were over at 5:03 PM on May 4, 2022 [2 favorites]

Breaking the novel into its internal publishing timeline accentuates certain bits of the story. Gaps between postings hit harder, and flurries of content occurring on the same date feel sped up.
posted by doctornemo at 5:27 PM on May 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

Was "old local tries to warn away the protagonist" already a trope by this point?
posted by Etrigan at 6:45 PM on May 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

Two entries on may fifth, with a lot of descriptive landscapes and weird goings on, and also a detailed physical description of the Count. He has remarkably ruddy lips, apparently, despite his overall pallor. Maybe it's Maybelline?
posted by jacquilynne at 6:42 AM on May 5, 2022 [2 favorites]

In for the ride of postings on days events occurred. (I'm apparently signed up for RSS from last year and now e-mail for this year?) Fun so far, and I think I'll enjoy the slow pace of getting serialized fiction.

Tangentially, (and probably speaking to the choir), this is why art should fall into the public domain. doctornemo notes he has a similar project and kaisemic shows a nice multimedia project that would align.

It's nice to see new interpretations of an original work that were impossible in the time.
posted by a non mouse, a cow herd at 12:21 PM on May 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

So, the thing I found interesting about Day 7, "Harker hangs out in a foreign library reading things he could have read at home" is how much I do and don't know about the story, having not read it before. Drac keeps disappearing and only being around at night time and not eating with his guest, and I'm like, yeah, cool, sure, Drac is a vampire, only out at night, eats blood, etc. Drac has no mirrors, no probs, vampire again.

Drac has no visible servants yet things around the castle mysteriously get done and food mysteriously gets made, yeah, umm, what? How is that happening? Does he have a particularly discreet housekeeper? Is he magic? Is the castle magic? Does he have, like, a bat army that is cooking shit? I don't know the story behind this part, so it's so much more intriguing to me than the parts that just make sense based on all the other vampire things I know about.
posted by jacquilynne at 1:42 PM on May 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

I think Dracula is just doing all that behind Harker's back! Which is weird, and I love it.

I have never read this before and would have expected minions based on other vampire media I've consumed, but why would the minions be secret?

I love that Dracula is just keeping up appearances and then pretending to read Bradshaw's, which seems to be a railway timetable.

I get the feeling he has decided he has worn out his welcome in the Carpathians, what with everyone constantly warning people off of him, and thinks that making a good impression on this junior solicitor will get his new life in England off to a good start.

As someone whose taste in vampire media runs more Duckula than Anne Rice, so far the original is more to my liking than I expected.
posted by the primroses were over at 2:58 PM on May 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

I think Dracula is just doing all that behind Harker's back! Which is weird, and I love it.

It certainly didn't take long for that information to come out - it is revealed the very next day. Maybe back when paper and books were expensive, stories were moved along at a more rapid clip? But then there is the counterpoint of Dickens, from an even earlier era. In any case, this certainly isn't a slow burn sort of read!
posted by jacquilynne at 6:09 AM on May 8, 2022

Not entirely coincidentally, Mrs. Example and I are spending the next couple of days in Whitby.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 1:09 PM on May 8, 2022

Ah, Mina. Severely underrated introduction. "Why, I do hope that I shall find a way to be of some feminine-appropriate use to my husband as he conducts his manly business!"
posted by Etrigan at 8:50 AM on May 9, 2022

Hahah, I had nearly the same thought today, Etrigan, and I thought I had posted it here, but I don't seem to have. I wonder what wrong thread I did post it in?
posted by jacquilynne at 9:55 AM on May 9, 2022

Oops, it was over in a thread about the Netflix quiz show Bullshit, where it made no sense at all:

So, today brings us the first entry from Mina, who is primarily very interested in what she can do to perpetuate Jonathan's work, which is a bit depressingly -- though probably depressingly accurately -- limited, but I understand from comments elsewhere that perhaps she becomes more awesome and has her own interests later?
posted by jacquilynne at 9:57 AM on May 9, 2022

Something I don't know but which struck me this read -- how established were Vampire Tropes? When Jonathan is starting to mention physical details around May 5th or whatever, would contemporary readers have been like "oh shit this guy's a VAMPIRE?"
posted by dismas at 11:48 AM on May 9, 2022

Like, being a reader who was exposed to vampires through popular culture for 30+ years before I read Dracula, I'm curious about how a reader would have reacted at the time. Wikipedia suggests that Stoker was familiar with and influenced by Carmilla but would his audience have also read that?
posted by dismas at 12:35 PM on May 9, 2022

also when does trevor belmont show up
posted by dismas at 1:05 PM on May 9, 2022 [2 favorites]

Slightly sideways but still on topic, In Our Time has a new episode on Polidori's The Vampyre.
posted by PussKillian at 1:31 PM on May 9, 2022

dismas, you have your vampire media completely mixed up. It's Simon Belmont who shows up
posted by Countess Elena at 1:43 PM on May 9, 2022 [1 favorite]

May 10 Diary of Jonathan Harker, in shorthand: I have found a roast in the walls
posted by dismas at 1:49 PM on May 9, 2022 [3 favorites]

BRB, gotta learn shorthand to be more useful in my partner's endeavors, be that the practice of law or escaping unwise social entanglements/imprisonments.

I salute these dorks for their foresight. I don't even have a "we have to leave this party now" code word set up with the boyfriend.
posted by the primroses were over at 5:31 PM on May 9, 2022 [3 favorites]

I suspect that if you are reading the book there's a bit of whiplash in jumping from Lucy's letter back into Jonathan's journal. All sun and love and then wham, ominous darkness and warnings and prisons and Dracula climbing down a wall face first. But with the separation that comes from reading each entry on its day, you don't entirely get that same sense of contrast.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:01 AM on May 12, 2022 [1 favorite]

jacquilynne, actually, the book isn't written in pure chronological order like the newsletter is - in the book, you get the whole of Jonathan's Transylvanian adventure in one big chunk and then, after all of that, the book jumps back a month or two and you get to meet other characters and see what they were doing during the same period. The juxtaposition of Lucy and Jonathan is thus much stronger (and weirder) with the newsletter.

As someone who's read the book a bunch of times but who is often a careless reader who doesn't pay attention to dates, I'm having a lot of fun actually realizing what the timing of events is. It's also weird feeling suspense about Dracula again, just because of having to wait for the next installment rather than just turning the page immediately.
posted by darchildre at 10:17 AM on May 13, 2022 [2 favorites]

Oh! I didn't realize that at all, darchildre! I thought they were essentially sending us the book a chapter at a time, not re-ordering it. That's very interesting!
posted by jacquilynne at 10:44 AM on May 13, 2022

Well, May 16th got a little Dear Penthouse Forum, I never thought it would happen to me, right there in the middle. I laughed a bit when he mentioned how much it was a bad idea to write down that he wanted to kiss the women because Mina was likely to read the account later, and then followed that with several paragraphs of the kind of heaving bosoms details that I would expect to find in a romance novel.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:27 AM on May 16, 2022 [4 favorites]

Today's entry is interesting because dates actually are a key detail in the narrative. I found myself scrolling back up to the top of the entry to find out what date it was written until about half way through scrolling when I remembered the whole conceit of this project and just looked at the clock on my laptop.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:55 AM on May 19, 2022 [3 favorites]

"I now know the span of my life. God help me!" is how I feel about most deadlines too.

I like the image of Dracula scurrying along the castle walls like a lizard to Jonathan's increasing horror. The mysterious lady vampires were boring, I kinda skimmed that entry.
posted by the primroses were over at 2:24 PM on May 19, 2022 [4 favorites]

It's been days now. I'm starting to get worried about Johnathan...
posted by Hermione Dies at 3:31 PM on May 23, 2022 [4 favorites]

I am assuming we don't have to wait for the dates on the fake letters before we get more entries! Or hoping!
posted by jacquilynne at 6:36 PM on May 23, 2022

Who are the "seven young women with the lamps" that Mr Cowboy alluded to? I enjoyed the speculations linked here but I wasn't any more convinced than that blogger was.
posted by moonmilk at 6:54 AM on May 24, 2022 [2 favorites]

I would like to know where Lucy found three separate men to propose to her, two of which were actually not all assholes about being rejected. I mean, I get that this is a gothic fantasy and all, but that's stretching credibility a bit much.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:22 AM on May 24, 2022 [2 favorites]

I would like to state for the record that I have no interest in marriage but would at least have to take several minutes to consider before declining if anyone ever proposed to me like Quincey Morris does to Lucy. Especially if he then told me I was "clean grit, right through to the very depths of [my] soul." I mean, damn.
posted by darchildre at 9:18 AM on May 24, 2022 [3 favorites]

I have finally acquired the covid (boo, just mild cold symptoms but still a bummer) so a cheering missive from my girl Lucy about all her proposals was exactly what I needed today.

I love that she described the rejected proposals in great detail, and then barely mentioned her love Arthur's advances in the p.s. She knows where the drama lives.
posted by the primroses were over at 12:58 PM on May 24, 2022 [1 favorite]

Today's entries feel rather like a trap being set.

If Morris and Seward really just want to show their old friend that they still like him even though he got the girl they all wanted, I will actually be disappointed.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:59 AM on May 25, 2022

Most suspenseful entry so far today. Just a couple quick paragraphs letting us know that all of Harker's papers save his journal have disappeared, along with his traveling clothes. No hint whatsoever of what he's going to do about that, just have to wait til tomorrow!
posted by the primroses were over at 8:49 AM on May 31, 2022 [1 favorite]

Having read the book before, I’m totally getting a different experience from the emails, because - holy crap, Jonathon is trapped in that castle for a LONG TIME! I remembered this as “the first part of the book,” and if you’d asked me offhand I’d have said the whole section took MAYBE two weeks.

I wonder, is he still forced to make small talk with his captor, or has that pretense been largely abandoned at this point? How is he filling his days? Still trying to escape, or just staring numbly out the window lockdown-style?
posted by showbiz_liz at 4:22 PM on May 31, 2022 [2 favorites]

i'm glad they let us know it'll be a few weeks!
posted by dismas at 12:58 PM on June 5, 2022 [1 favorite]

And we are back!

Poor Mr. Harker - he gets more and more trapped as the entries go on. Still has his journal though so that's something.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:29 AM on June 17, 2022

Actually - that makes me think. Is the conceit here that we are getting Harker's journals unredacted? Or is this supposed to be a selective edit?

Because, I mean, if I was held captive in a scary castle with a scary man and all I had was time and a journal it would be absolutely filled with nonsense every day.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:31 AM on June 17, 2022 [2 favorites]

I was also surprised to finally get another entry from Jonathan and have it be so uneventful. I think excerpts are a possible explanation, but maybe he's worried about running out of space in his journal and/or revealing it to Dracula after his other papers disappeared. I guess this entry made the cut since the castle has so few visitors.

I assume all these boxes must mean the move to England is imminent.
posted by the primroses were over at 7:31 AM on June 17, 2022

Jonathan got out of his room! And then immediately went back. Still maybe his newly established rock climbing skills will get him somewhere.
posted by the primroses were over at 9:59 AM on June 25, 2022 [1 favorite]

glad he had the presence of mind to steal some gold!
posted by dismas at 9:58 AM on June 30, 2022

He definitely might need that to get home, but it seems like an awfully heavy thing to carry down the side of a castle.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:25 AM on June 30, 2022 [1 favorite]

A little gold goes a long way.
posted by Etrigan at 10:35 AM on June 30, 2022

I have to say I am quite curious to know how Dr. Seward's spider-eating patient is going to factor into all this.
posted by jacquilynne at 9:16 AM on July 1, 2022

Spiders Renfield is an outlier adn should not have been counted.
posted by moonmilk at 9:24 AM on July 1, 2022 [3 favorites]

I must have missed something along the way. Awhile back, Lucy was writing Mina breathless missives from afar about her many beaux and their proposals, and now she's keeping Mina up at night. Was there a part where it was explained that Lucy came to visit?

Also, I assume Lucy having been anemic is not a coincidence...
posted by jacquilynne at 6:09 AM on July 27, 2022

Yes, one of the first letters between them explained this.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:15 AM on July 27, 2022

From today's entries:

"...he was acrewk'd—a regular lamiter he was..."

Any idea what these bits mean?
posted by jacquilynne at 7:02 AM on August 1, 2022

Apparently a lamiter means someone who is crippled.
posted by miss-lapin at 7:57 AM on August 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

And "acrewk'd" is "crooked".
posted by Etrigan at 8:42 AM on August 1, 2022

Thanks - I dropped "a regular lamiter" into search figuring that somewhere there'd be an explainer for Dracula that covered this and didn't get useful results, but I should have searched just "lamiter" instead.
posted by jacquilynne at 8:52 AM on August 1, 2022 [1 favorite]

"Lamiter" is apparently often written "lameter." It took me a little to find it but I was determined!
posted by miss-lapin at 4:13 PM on August 1, 2022

Oh! I feel so relieved to have some news about Harker!
posted by jacquilynne at 5:59 AM on August 12, 2022

I have to admit, as time goes by, I am starting to find the repetitive structure of the journey entries wearying.

The boat journals were particularly bad for just saying the same thing over and over without adding much in the way of new detail. I mean, sure, new crew members kept dying, but since you knew nothing about them, not even their names, there was no real connection there and you don't care that they died, so it is just one more in a list.

The constant reports on whether Lucy is very pale, more pale, less pale, etc, at least come with some other details, but they are also quite repetitive and grating at this point.

When this is all done, I am going to go back and read the book in the usual manner and see if all of that is more impressionistic and less dull if you are reading through it quickly. Or perhaps even more repetitive and annoying if you are reading a bunch of them all at once.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:30 AM on August 15, 2022

I can’t disagree, but we are now just about at the point where shit starts happening again! June and July, not much really happens because Jonathon has brain fever and Dracula’s on a boat and nothing much plot-relevant really goes down. I read the book a while ago and I’m pretty sure it’s about to pick up the pace quite a bit.
posted by showbiz_liz at 5:55 PM on August 15, 2022

In order to obviate any delays possible through any routine requirements as to payment in your departments, we enclose cheque herewith for ten pounds (£10), receipt of which please acknowledge. Should the charge be less than this amount, you can return balance; if greater, we shall at once send cheque for difference on hearing from you.

Did Bram Stoker invent Advanced Fee fraud?
posted by jacquilynne at 6:27 AM on August 17, 2022 [2 favorites]

Today I learned that cormorant has an adjectival meaning of greedy or voracious, thanks to Lucy comparing her increased appetite to the bird. Not the first animal I would associate with greed, but fair enough.
posted by the primroses were over at 6:54 AM on August 30, 2022 [1 favorite]

Hell yeah hell yeah hell yeah it’s van helsing bayyyybe
posted by dismas at 6:03 AM on September 2, 2022 [1 favorite]

Ah man, this part of the story is heartbreaking.
posted by dismas at 11:06 AM on September 13, 2022

I have been feeling a bit like "Don't tell Mrs. Westenra, the shock might kill her!" is like when modern movie characters look at their cell phones and say "No signal." There's a future plot problem that's created if Mrs. Westenra knows WTF is going on, so everyone has to constantly keep her in the dark and that's the excuse we're given.

And maybe today is the plot problem? If she had known what they were trying to do, she wouldn't have taken the garlic away? Or maybe there's something more climactic later.

Also, sure is a good thing Lucy is Rh compatible with every random dude who crosses her path.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:26 AM on September 13, 2022 [1 favorite]

Related to your first point, jacquilynne: if Jonathan had let Mina read his notes, she would know when Dracula was headed to England and presumably his destination and would perhaps have been able to get in touch with, say, Arthur and maybe Van Helsing would have filled everyone in already...
posted by dismas at 10:37 AM on September 14, 2022

Grief! That’s where Quincey is a moral Viking.
posted by dismas at 7:03 AM on September 22, 2022 [1 favorite]

The whole blood donor bigamy thing made me laugh and laugh. They're all gonna keep it quiet so Arthur doesn't know they also blood bonded with his fiancee.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:10 AM on September 22, 2022

now we're getting to the part of the season of Stranger Things when the gang starts to get together
posted by dismas at 11:30 AM on September 26, 2022 [1 favorite]

At least Van Helsing is starting to explain some things. I swear to God if any of these people would actually tell anyone else anything there would be no book. It is like the worst trope of shitty romance novelists who just have their characters not tell each other shit for two thirds of the novel.
posted by jacquilynne at 11:46 AM on September 26, 2022

yeah, VH shat the bed by not just, like, explaining shit to Arthur and Seward. At least with Mina I get why Jonathan didn't want her to read it, sorta. (also "it was all true, Mina, your husband is telling the truth!" "oh, including the part where he wanted to smooch those ladies?" "uhhhhh")
posted by dismas at 11:50 AM on September 26, 2022

Yes! And like, ok, up to a certain point it made some sense that he was holding information back because if someone told ME “I suspect this mysterious medical problem is caused by a supernatural monster” I would definitely not be like “ok makes sense.” There’s even that entry of Seward’s where he’s like “is Van Helsing uhhh crazy because I, a certified doctor of craziness, am having some serious misgivings.” But after the first time they leave her alone and she’s immediately re-exsanguinated, you’d think he’d be like “ok I am still hesitant to share my theory but please humor me, IF WE LEAVE HER ALONE AGAIN AT NIGHT SHE WILL DIE.”
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:52 AM on September 26, 2022 [1 favorite]

I also can’t remember from reading the book years ago whether Van Helsing already knew for a fact that vampires existed, or whether he was just familiar with the lore and open-minded enough to consider that it might be true when he saw Lucy’s symptoms.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:56 AM on September 26, 2022

Unrelated, definitely certain things on reread are hitting harder, and one of them is hearing Jonathon’s voice again after so many months! This pace really has made me feel more for all of these characters, but particularly Jonathon and Lucy because you experience the slow creeping horror the same way they do.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:58 AM on September 26, 2022

I think the answer to your question about Van Helsing gets answered here at some point (we need a spoiler tag!)
posted by dismas at 12:18 PM on September 26, 2022

I see we've arrived at the 'slutty women are evil and should definitely be killed a couple of different ways' portion of the story.

Or perhaps returned to, since there were also some evil slutty women back at the castle.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:33 AM on September 29, 2022

Mina Harker fainting over being told some bad news. AS IF.
posted by jacquilynne at 6:21 AM on October 4, 2022 [1 favorite]

i have to admit I'm a few days behind, partially because life but also because I'm avoiding reading because I'm worried about Mina!!!!!
posted by dismas at 9:37 AM on October 5, 2022

lol I also had that problem, dismas, and just went ahead and spoiled myself re Mina. Would not have at all guessed at the outset of Dracula Daily that I'd end up so invested in the Jonathan/Mina romance!
posted by yasaman at 10:46 AM on October 5, 2022

kniiiiiiives outttttttt
posted by dismas at 8:41 AM on October 25, 2022 [1 favorite]

I know I could just read ahead at any time, but these daily "still on a boat" updates are killing me. Where are you, treacherous boat?
posted by the primroses were over at 5:51 PM on October 27, 2022 [1 favorite]

I guess this way we get to feel a tiny bit of the character's frustration.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:16 AM on October 28, 2022 [1 favorite]

It's Dracula season 2023!

I've read the book, and worked on a version of the stage show 4 years ago, but I have little recall of what's canon in the book.
posted by DebetEsse at 11:48 AM on May 3 [1 favorite]

Dracula Daily is also now available in fully voice-acted podcast form!
posted by yasaman at 7:02 PM on May 8 [4 favorites]

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