25 August 2010

Book Review: The New Annotated Dracula

Title:  The New Annotated Dracula
Author: Bram Stoker and Leslie S. Klinger (and Neil Gaiman)
Publisher: Norton
Release Date: 17 October 2008
Date Finished: 22 August 2010

Buy | Borrow | Accept | Avoid

Challenges: 100+ Reading Challenge, Reading Resolutions, Women UnBound, 101 Fantasy Reading Challenge, Read the Book See the Movie, Take Another Chance, Hogwarts Reading Challenge,

The Short and Sweet of It
We have a couple things going on here: first, we have Bram Stoker's Dracula, the vampire tale to kick all other vampire tale's pointy teeth.  Second, we have Leslie S. Klinger's amazing annotations of the text which add a wonderful depth to the narrative.  Third, we have Neil Gaiman, a man I would leave my husband for, introducing the text.  Finally, we have Appendices which have my geek heart pounding.

A Bit of a Ramble
I can not tell you  how much I enjoyed reading this. The story of Dracula itself is entertaining, thought-provoking, beautifully Victorian, and compelling; but to read the story with a scholar's notes at your side - a scholar who chooses to believe it is a true story - is absolutely fantastic. My husband, of course, thinks I'm crazy for liking the numerous disruptions to the story, but what can I say? I'm a complete geek, and reading this was like taking a short college course on the novel. If I were to write everything I wanted to say, discuss the myriad issues presented, this would be the longest post ever. Instead I thought I would give you my quick stream-of-consciousness, brainstormy list of things I would love to include in the post:

the use of multi-narrator journals, Mina as Ideal Woman and her simultaneous strength and submission, inconsistencies in vampiric lore within the text, Van Helsing is something of a douchebag, the correlation between vampiric bloodsucking and sex is not as apparent as modern interpretations of the story and the copious permutations suggest, not much happens but the slow pace is oddly poetic and intriguing, for a first reading the annotations would be distracting but for a second reading they add so much depth, the annotations are in turn historically enlightening, explanatory, and hilarious, I wish Sookie Stackhouse had been part of the Dracula Family Tree section, the role of men in the story is just as rigid and limiting as the role of women in Victorian ideology, the Vlad the Impaler-Dracula tenuous connection, the Sherlock Holmes-Dracula connection, the homoeroticism within the text feels more prevalent than the heterosexual, social class representations within the text, 

Clearly, there is much food for thought within the text; but since I can't really focus on all of it, I thought I would stick to just telling you to READ THIS AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, especially if you've already read Dracula. The annotations, introduction, and appendices are unbelievably informative and delightful to read.

The Filmic Connection
The story of Dracula has been visualized over and over again in films, not only reproductions and permutations of Stoker's story, but also the bastard children of Dracula (i.e. all vampire films ever). DVD in My Pants gives a list of 13 Dracula films you need to see that I really agree with, so I'm going to send you over there for more information. I would like to add Dracula: Dead and Loving It, a Mel Brooks film, to the list though. It's just funny.

I decided to watch Bram Stoker's Dracula, a 1992 film directed by Francis Ford Coppola.  Starring Gary Oldman (Dracula), Winona Ryder (Mina), Anthony Hopkins (Van Helsing), Keanu Reeves (Harker), Cary Elwes (Holmwood), and Tom Waits (Renfield), this film really busted out a serious cast. I know I've seen the film before, probably when it first came out, but as I was 12 in 1992, I definitely didn't remember it fully. Just for fun, my comments for the film are going to be all brainstormy too:

1992 and 2010 are very different eras in fantasy film-making, breasts, Winona Ryder is kind of annoying, why do people need their bad guys to be bad because of a girl, bouncing breasts, wow that is blatantly sexual, where did all that blood come from, someone should do a Dracula steampunk film, Gary Oldman is so strangely sexy, nipple, another nipple, why are Mina and Lucy kissing, things are revealed much to quickly here, objectively close to the book but subjectively quite different, arrggg...it lost it's Victorian-ness, BOOBIES, what is she doing to that wolf's ear? holy mary, really great performances, visually stunning for its time,

Okay then, did I mention that there are buoyant bouncing boobies liberally sprinkled throughout this film?

On a Side Note
I have Syrie James' Dracula, My Love: The Secret Journals of Mina Harker on my next to read pile as well as Konstantinos' Vampires: The Occult Truth. I'm in vampire mode for some reason.

This Book Around the Web
If I've missed your review, let me know!

Love Vampires; S. Krishna's Books; Fizzy Thoughts;

Question: What Dracula books or films do you really like?


  1. OK, you young whipper-snapper! 12 in 1992? My husband and I actually saw that movie at the theater, and it was soooo good. See you would leave your husband for Gaiman, but I'd leave mine for Oldman. He's just a little bit off, and I think that is very sexy. Hmmm...you make an intriguing argument for reading this book. Maybe for RIP this year?

  2. I looked at this because I wil be reading Dracula soon. I ended up going with another version because I just couldn't imagine reading such a tome, but now I am regretting that I didn't get this one. I might have to make an exchange. It is especially interesting that the guy believes the story. Would love to read those notes!

  3. I really need to read Dracula.

    Strange thing about this film, though. I've heard Gary Oldman takes his roles a bit too seriously. Winona Ryder felt extremely uncomfortable around him when they were off camera, because he practically lived the life of Dracula for the duration of the film (though I doubt he was killing people and sucking their blood). It was just enough to make her not want to be around him at all.

  4. I would love to read this! I have never read the original Dracula..... I know, I know... I should be staked in the heart for that one.... but I would love to redeem myself with this book! :D

  5. Movie: I was 18 in 1992 and saw it with my then boyfriend. I really loved it. It is visually stunning. I still like to see once in awhile.

    My online bookclub is reading Dracula this month. I think I'll mention this version to them. It might make for interesting side discussions.

  6. This does sound like the way to read Dracula ... that is for sure.

    And I remember seeing that version of the Dracula movie in the theater with a friend. After the lights came up, we looked at each other and I said "I loved it" and she said "I hated it" at the exact same time.

  7. Sandy - I'm kind of with you on Oldman. He and Timothy Roth really captured my fancy in Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, and honestly, I haven't stopped crushing since.

    Nicole - I would definitely read Dracula before reading the annotations; there are so many they really interrupt the flow of the story. It was a lot of fun though to look at Dracula as a "true account".

    Amanda - Wow, Oldman creeped Ryder out. She's so creepy herself. I can totally see it though.

    Sheila - I would buy it, read it without reading the annotations, and then read it again with the annotations. There are just so many notes that it breaks up the story.

    Chris - It is a great book for a reading group since it has so much factual information and interpretive notes attached!

    Jenners - Hahaha! I bet at the time I loved it, but it just doesn't do it for me now.

  8. As a fellow geek and fan of Victoriana, I think I absolutely need to read this!

    About the movie, it angers me to this day that it's called "Bram Stoker's Dracula", as if it were a faithful adaptation of a novel :P

  9. This sounds pretty cool! I think for a first read, having notes in the text would really distract me. But for books I've read before or am really familiar with, I'd love something like this. Do you know if it's a series where there are other books with the same kind of annotations?

  10. Ana - I agree completely! Why bother pretending to be an accurate adaptation?

    Kim - I know there's a New Annotated Sherlock Holmes by the same annotator. And I agree that these are the second read type books, not first.

  11. I love this review! I don't know what I want to do more - read the book or watch the movie. What's up with all the boobies though?

  12. Vasilly - Seriously, there were a lot of boobies for very little purpose. I definitely think you should both read the book and watch the movie, in that order. ;)

  13. I read Dracula last year and enjoyed it immensely, so I will definitly pick this annotated edition. I enjoy learning all the ins and outs of some stories. Haven't watched the 1992 edition in quite a while, but I love the cast and the clothes are gorgeous. Definitely need a retelling.

    As for Dracula bboks or stories, I can't really think of anything specific. I'm thinking Interview with a Vamp doesn't count, right? Rice's first two maybe three books were good and after that...bleh! Will also look up that Mel Brooks movie, I love his work. Great post Trisha.

  14. I'm so glad I came over and read this review. Very entertaining! I have read Dracula and I agree that it is very good. I'm going to have to get this annotated version...that's all there is to it!

    Regarding the film Bram Stoker's Dracula, I LOVE this film! On a side note, I can't believe you were twelve when it first came out! I was 23 or 24 and I saw it opening weekend. But I digress. My age is showing...LOL! I thought that Gary Oldman was the stand out in this film. There were some poor casting choices, but it is such a beautifully gothic film. I can't help but love it! This is the reason that I liked the new Wolfman film so much. It reminded me of this Dracula version, the gothic feel. Anyway, enough rambling!

    I also wanted to let you know that I have posted an announcement on the 101 fantasy challenge blog, if you wouldn't mind checking it out. Thanks!

  15. I haven't even read DRACULA yet. Sad, I know. But I've had it on my R.I.P. list for three years now! Should I read this first or after readings the lone original language?

  16. Jenny Girl - Thanks! I'm with you on the Rice series; I liked it at first but lost interest just a few books in.

    Michelle - I will head over now! I'm so glad people are digging on Dracula because I really think people should read this!

    Jessica - You should definitely read it without annotations first in my opinion. It's rough to let the story flow when you are stopping to read the notes all the time.

  17. I have one just like this that's about Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, back on my shelf, and I keep wanting to read it, but I want to be able to really bury myself in it and read all the notes, and such. Which of course will never happen...

    But, I'm curious, what other vampire books DO you like? I actually always liked Carmilla better than Dracula (and interesting that you point out the homoeroticism in Dracula, because I never considered, the same thing exists in Carmilla. Hrm, that points to some thinking...), but most people I know who like vampires now seem to come to the old ones late - usually it's that they read Anne Rice, or saw True Blood, or wahtever, and THEN they went and read Dracula. It's fun to see someone who likes Dracula of itself, instead of as a sort of loveable old uncle of your true love, I suppose. Also, have to agree with you, on how strange it is that we sort of pick up all this sexuality in the text. I'm not saying it ISN'T there, but it isn't exactly as much of what it is as we assume now. I'm alwas curious where the vampire writers started deciding that getting nommed on feels the same as an orgasm, because in Dracula, as I recall, Lucy and Mina just sleep through it, generally. I wrote a term paper a few years ago, and talked about how Dracula was this big middle-class solidarity novel, sort of xenophobic fear of foreigners, poor people, the Aristocracy, and Gypsies, all rolled into one book, you know? But now, we don't think of that at all - most of our vampires, if they're foreign at all, are just 'sexy foreign' if you'll pardon the crudeness of the description. It makes you appreciate that the Bela Lugosi accent that we snigger at now probably was scary to people, even back in the 50's. Makes you think sex is to our generation what class warfare and xenophobia were to the Victorians.

  18. Jason - Reading every single annotation would be extremely painful. I have to admit that I probably only read about 80% of them and only truly interacted with about 50% of them. I figure that means the next time I read the annotated edition I will get something new!

    I like quite a few vampires actually. I'm totally with you on Carmilla, Le Fanu's vision was great. I definitely started my vampire love with Dracula, reading the story for the first time somewhere in junior high; I definitely didn't focus on the sex at that point. The story dealt more, exactly as you say, with class and ethnicity for me, and it still does. The sex is there in Dracula, but it's not the sensitive-sensual kind.

    And of course, I found Dracula wonderfully violent and creepy. That will always be the standard for me with vampires. For me, True Blood's Eric is probably the most vampiric vampire in contemporary culture (that I'm familiar with anyway). He's violent, not plagued by modern morality, sexy as all get out, power-hungry, and manipulative. Much better than all sensitive and sad and silly like Edward.

    I think the focus on sex comes from exaggerated metaphors and contemporary obsession with symbols. The fang as penis, penetration, the fine line between pleasure and pain, the submissive female, etc. While I can see the parallels between blood-sucking and sex, I think that it's the sort of analogy that requires a bit more effort on the part of the author than just relying on "the fang represents a penis" claim. To me, that is as simplistic and offensive as "the blade represents a penis" in death-by-stabbing.

    Wow, I should stop talking...er typing now. :)

  19. It's interesting, I'm no vampire expert, but I NEVER made the fang-is-penis connection. I always just thought of it more generically as a symbol of carnality, beastliness - the vampire is that contrast between the bestlike, hunger-and-pleasure-driven inner self, and the cultured, entrancing outer part. Which can have to do with sex. OR any number of things. It's rather an excellent metaphor for Victorian England in general - gorgeous on the outside, rottenly drawing sustenance from the poor, the world's colonies, etc on the inside. But the simpler insertion aspect is interesting. I'm sure Freud would have had a heyday with it, particularly with the fear that sex would turn all these nice girls into sexual 'men,' and it is interesting that, even today, most vampire stories cast the major vampire as a man, and women as a supporting character (or a swain). I've never seen true blood except for a short clip that had nothing to do with vampires (I don't think. IT had a guy having sex with an anonymous woman behind a bar, while having what seemed like some sort of psychedelic experience. I didn't get it. It seemed like something you couldn't come into the middle of and grok properly).

  20. I would agree that a large portion of the vampire mythos revolves around animal instinct and id-centered pleasure. The fang-as-penis analogy usually comes about, in my opinion, so people can say things like "pierced her soft flesh". Freud would definitely love the whole discussion!

    I know what scene you are referring to, and I don't think even watching the whole episode would help you grok that scene. It was just strange.


Talk to me baby!