Thursday, January 23, 2014

Dracula by Bram Stoker

Title: Dracula
Author: Bram Stoker
Publisher: Recorded Books
Rating: TBD

This is a movie/novel tie-in. The Francis Ford Coppola movie based on this novel is reviewed here. Also for those interested, the Movie: Mary Shelley's Frankenstein is reviewed here. The Frankenstein novel is reviewed here.

Narrated by Susan Adams and Alexander Spencer. These two do a lot better job than that abomination perpetrated by Ralph Cosham on Mary Shelley's novel, but their narration still leaves a heck of a lot to be desired. Adams's voice is far too breathy and "projected". That might work well on stage, but that's precisely why I don't like theater because it is all theater and no reality. Spencer's voice has too much treble to the point where it's harsh, sharp, tinny, and grating on the nerves, and whereas Cosham in Frankenstein was tedious to the point of somnabulance, Spencer is the diametric opposite. He injects way-the-HELL too much melodrama into his "performance" turning it into a joke. Its sad, because this novel is, for the most part, well written and enjoyable, but Spencer all-but ruins it with his insane theatrics.

This one begins in a similar fashion to Shelley's Frankenstein, but instead of letters, we have diary entries, which renders the story a bit unrealistic, but it's passable. Jonathan Harker, a junior "solicitor" travels to Transylvania to the Castle Dracula, where Count Dracula seeks to have someone take care of what business he has tied up with his planned move to London. Note that a solicitor in Britain is a lawyer who handles legal affairs which don't need to be aired in court. A lawyer who does practice in the courtroom is called a barrister. It's possible for a lawyer to be both.

Harker is at first excited to travel, and fills his diary with all sorts of warm observations about the people, the countryside, and the food, but after he settles in at Castle Dracula, he slowly discovers that he's a prisoner there, and Dracula has no intention of letting him leave. He discovers to his increasing dismay that Dracula is controlling the letters he can send, and eventually, Harker discovers that Dracula has impounded his outdoor clothing so Harker cannot leave.

Dracula warns Harker about exploring the castle: he must never fall asleep outside of his own rooms, but of course he rebels against this and discovers that Dracula has three female familiars to whom he feeds a baby one night. Harker is horrified and starts plotting an escape, realizing that if he does not flee he will die at the teeth of Dracula and his blood-sucking frenzied fiendish female familiars.

Once Harker escapes the castle, we move quickly to England where Dracula arrives in dramatic fashion (and in disguise) in Whitby (I've been there done that, but go no T-shirt!). It's at this point that the narrative transfers heavily to the diaries of Lucy Westenra and Mina Murray as they ramble on, mostly about men and gossip. This part (disk 4) becomes quite boring, but having said that, there are several unintentionally funny parts in this novel. One is when the 'creatures of the night' (mostly wolves) are 'singing' and Dracula pauses to listen. He asks a man name Harker to "Hark" (p76)! I thought that was priceless. Later, Mina describes the funeral of the captain of the Demeter and writes of the huge number of sea-faring folk who wanted to take part in the funeral - but that's not quite how Stoker phrases it: "...the owners of more than a hundred boats have already given in their names as wishing to follow him to the grave."! To his credit, though, Stoker does have some interesting and forward-thinking things to say about the "New Women" on page 142.

Lucy Westenra's mother doesn't feature in the movie, but she features strongly in the novel as the architect of her daughter's death though her habit of constantly removing or accidentally destroying the garlic wreaths supplied for her daughter's protection; however, the real architect of her death is van Helsing himself through sheer incompetence. he knows perfectly well what is going on yet he fails consistently to prepare her or her loved ones for her welfare, to warn everyone adequately about what must be done, or to safeguard her from vampire attacks. The single best maneuver which would have secured her health would have been to board up the external door to her bedroom, but no one even considers this! She has no one sitting with her on a regular basis and those who do are not augmented by support from others so that they do not risk falling asleep on her. Sad!

This novel is, like Frankenstein, quite boring in many places, a fact which is in no way ameliorated by the sad narration from either Adams or Spencer. One really big advantage of listening on CD is that it is really very easy to skip to the next track without even having to turn a page!

In the final analysis, I have to rate this warty!

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