The Classics Club

Dracula by Bram Stoker

“I am Dracula by Bram StokerDracula.  And I bid you welcome, Mr Harker, to my house.”

Dracula, both the character and the story, has been absorbed into our culture in such a way that, without ever even having picked up the book, I know this story like the back of my hand.  I have seen countless adaptations, some wonderful, some awful and some so awful that they were wonderful, and the vampire myth has been diluted to such an extent that they have most recently been portrayed as sparkly pseudo-teenagers who love school (and under-age girls) a whole bunch and I just struggle to find that frightening.  I wish that I could go back to 1897 and read Dracula as someone who hasn’t known that name forever but, unfortunately, I can only read it as someone living in the twenty-first century and that has definitely affected how much I could enjoy the story.

I don’t want to say that I didn’t like it, but I really didn’t.  I can appreciate how novel it was, and it is a great and campy horror story, but Dracula and I just did not click.  It took me two months, two torturous months, to read all 449 pages and by the end I was scheduling 50 pages into my day just to get it done.  I think the format may have been one of the main reasons that I just couldn’t sink my teeth into Dracula, as the story unfolds through a series of diary entries, letters, telegrams and newspaper clippings, and I found that it made for a very dry read which lacked any sense of urgency.  In fact this is the fourth time I have tried to read Dracula and each time I would find myself putting it down and lacking any desire to pick it up again.  Van Helsing didn’t help matters either because that man can talk and good god is he dull; at one point my mind was drawing parallels between his lectures and that tortuous speech made by John Galt in Atlas Shrugged. 

What I did enjoy was the unexpected reversal of traditional gender roles.  While Mina, and to a lesser extent Lucy, have the strength of character to hold themselves and everyone else together rather stoically, the men are huddling together fretting, crying and fainting.  At one point Mina literally holds Johnathan up and while she is keeping her shit together for the sake of the menfolk, Harker’s hair is turning white and Quincey is busy shooting in windows (where his friends are sitting) because he is now afraid of bats.

As for Dracula? Well, he is barely in the book and described as having a “child-brain” instead of a “man-brain”, so I found it difficult to be too afraid of him.  Also he is not the sexy vampire that modern audiences have come to expect; I wanted Gary Oldman’s young Dracula but instead I got a hairy palmed old man with pointed ears and rank breath.

I do still think Dracula is worth reading, even if I feel that the story has been unfortunately overshadowed but it’s own adaptations, and I am glad that I have finally conquered it after having it sitting on my bookshelves for over a decade, but this is one of the very few occasions where I have enjoyed the film(s) much more than the original text.


The Classics Club Reading List

The Classics ClubI have been on the waiting list for the classics book club at my library for about 6 months now and I’ll be honest, unless a few people relocate or die, there is little chance of my moving up that list any time soon, so when I found out about the The Classics Club and their challenge I got to writing a list.

I had a lot of trouble narrowing my list down so in the end I decided to stick to books that were published before 1950 (with The Chronicles of Narnia being the only exception – the first book was published in 1950 and the final book in 1956), to not include any re-reads (I read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe many, many years ago but I have not read any of the other books, so The Chronicles of Narnia is kind of an exception in this category too) and to only have one book per author.

I am sticking with the 50 books in 5 years, meaning that these 50 need to be read by the end of May 2020.

The Classics Club Reading List
(in no particular order)

  1. Don Quixote by Miguel De Cervantes
  2. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
  3. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
  4. Moby Dick by Heman Melville
  5. The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dicken
  6. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky
  7. Tom Jones by Henry Fielding
  8. Dangerous Liaisons by Pierre Choderlos De Laclos
  9. Dracula  by Bram Stoker
  10. Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy
  11. For Whom the Bell Tolls  by Ernest Hemingway
  12. The Hunchback of Notre Dame by Victor Hugo
  13. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien
  14. The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  15. The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins
  16. The Portrait of a Lady by Henry James
  17. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
  18. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  19. Ulysees by James Joyce
  20. Mrs Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
  21. The Trial  by Franz Kafka
  22. As I Lay Dying  by William Faulkner
  23. The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
  24. The Divine Comedy  by Dante Alighieri
  25. The 120 Days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade
  26. Doctor Faustus  by Christopher Marlowe
  27. Of Mice and Men  by John Steinbeck
  28. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
  29. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
  30. The Original Folk and Fairy Tales of the Brothers Grimm
  31. The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
  32. Rebecca  by Daphne de Maurier
  33. The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis
  34. Vilette by Charlotte Bronte
  35. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  36. The Monk by Matthew Lewis
  37. The Prince by Niccolo Machiavelli
  38. Beyond Good and Evil by Friedrich Nietzsche
  39. Walden  by Henry David Thoreau
  40. Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte
  41. Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
  42. The Pilgrim’s Progress  by John Bunyan
  43. The Iliad by Homer
  44. Beowulf
  45. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift
  46. The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham
  47. Paradise Lost by John Milton
  48. Nausea by Jean-Paul Sartre
  49. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
  50. Le Morte d’Arthur by Thomas Malory