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initial thoughts on “Annotated Dracula” February 7, 2011

Posted by therealtinlizzy in books.

Not as much reading packed in yesterday as I’d hoped/planned/dreamed. Turns out we had brunch planned with a couple friends at 11am over at Scusi’s in St. Paul, which ate up the lion’s share of the middle of the day.  The earlier portion of the morning was given over to chicken chores and catching up by phone with a friend who’s coping with a hell of a life-change at the moment. Then thanks to Paraselenic, we were granted a freebie digital receiver/antennae with which we could indulge in the self-amusement of liveTweeting all the nonsense of advertisements sprinkled throughout some game or other that was happening yesterday. And none of that can nor will I complain about – these are all things that make my life such the fantastic and happy blip of existence it is for me, along with my beloved books.

I did finally get settled in for some reading late in the evening, and not just for 5 mins before sliding off into sleep. So I picked up my big chunky, very non e-book Annotated Dracula, edited by Leslie S. Klinger:

I’ve never read Dracula, and really I should have by this point in my life. Not because it’s about vampires, because the current trend of Twilight-induced obsession with vampires/werewolves irks me enough to cause my jaw to twinge as though I were sucking simultaneously on lemons and cotton candy.

Although – as an aside I will say that when any book(s), even the most treacly godawful deplorably-written vapid bunch of vacuous asshattery ever to be committed to written-word (of which Twilight is definitely up there), gets someone to read who isn’t otherwise much of a reader – well I’ll just suck on my ire and shut the hell up about it for the most part. Wait – let me compartmentalize that more betterly: I’ll go all sorts of fire-breathing over the existence of such crap, but I’ll never shame anyone for reading them. Wait no – I’ll totally shame them if I think they should know better. Which is not to be confused with guilty pleasure reading either – guilty pleasure reading gets a bye (bi? buy? by?), so long as there’s no lobbying for why/that it’s actually some amazing piece of literature.

To put a finer point on it – for Xmas I bought my folks a Kindle to share, not sure if/that they would really like or use it much, but deciding to take a chance on it anyway. They aren’t avid readers, but they are occasional readers of David Baldacci-type books. As the internet-savvy and library-using folks they aren’t, the only real option for them to get books (new, used or otherwise) is via whatever sad-panda state of selection exists at the K-Mart in town, which indeed is pretty grim.  So I decided dropping coin for one Kindle on the gamble that they might read more (and perhaps even want another one) was totally worth it. As it’s turned out – they started fighting over the Kindle almost immediately (in a super adorable way), Mom fussing that she really wants to finish Deliver Us From Evil but that “your dad keeps hogging it on the weekends.” Dad then called a few weeks ago to say “Hey will you order another one of these things and send it up?” – to which I enthusiastically agreed.

In the end – I don’t care if my folks are reading the most cracktastic bunch of trash there is, the fact that they’re reading anything at all in lieu-of/addition-to playing an e-Solitaire game (mom) or watching a NASCAR race or whatever – then win. It’s a case where e-readers are facilitating two people who otherwise don’t read much to now read frequently and enthusiastically – and that makes me happy!

Anyway – backtracking to Dracula (seriously – I could be a Gashlycrumb Tiny: ‘T’ is for tin lizzy throttled by tangents) – this annotated edition is fantastic. I purchased the physical doorstop of a book over a year ago, in all its sexy illustrated chunky footnoted glory. I then promptly disappeared off into Kindle Land, being reticent as a moody child to return to physical books, and left Dracula languishing on a bookshelf. Finally my interest in Dracula was retickled recently and I decided it was high time to set my developed-grudge against physical books aside and get on it already. (And really, I ❤ physically books to tiny tiny pieces, they just aren’t as versatile for a lot of the reading contexts I have as my Kindle books are, so I quickly/easily slid into a Kindle rut. )

So having picked Dracula back up recently, I initially worried that I would drown under citations and footnotes, never ever making it through the text of Dracula itself. Indeed it started that way – in addition to a short intro, there’s “Context of Dracula” (dammit I repeatedly keep insta-typing “Dracular” instead of Dracula) to kickoff the history, background and people of Stoker’s narrative that I got lost in for a couple nights, particularly (<– that’s one of the very reasons I’m more inclined to type “Dracular” than “Dracula”) tackling it as bedtime reading. And while now I’ve made it through and started on the actual narrative, I want to go back and re-read the Context section (seriously – how can I read s/thing and retain so little when my attention is so fractured – good lord!), but am not feeling too pummeled by footnotes yet.

Why? Because I’m not reading the footnotes until the end of the chapters. 🙂

Seriously – Distractable Girl is already distractable enough without having my attention torn asunder due to wandering off after footnotes following the end of (sometimes) nearly every sentence. Now given how I write – you would think me a pro at juggling footnote tangents with the narrative thread. However – you’d be wrong. Certainly it would serve me right to have to try and read in the sort of fashion in which I write, but please – a little mercy on this soul. When I’m having to already pay close attention to the text due to archaic language and other potholes, veering down a dark (if interesting) alley every damn sentence just leaves me in a shambles, likely to finish without recalling what the damn story was even about.

Anyway – with a system to manage the footnotery, and being more intentioned and “ok let’s do this!” about sitting down to read the Annotated Dracula (as opposed to trying to read it like a fluffy bit of fiction before bed) – I feel solid on making it through this, and liking it. I’ve made it through Intro and Context (though will re-read) and Chapter 1 of the text (footnotes to follow), and I’m having a hella good time.

All the back/forthing and winding and footnotes and “this could be a reading disaster!” of the Annotated Dracula is leading me to want to re-find House of Leaves and plow on through to finish it. While I liked the concept, the creep-factor, narrative(s), and the overall fuckery of the thing – I wandered off about halfway through due to the recursion and repetitiveness and rabbitholing…all of which is exactly the point of the damn thing of course. But I just couldn’t stay focused for the requisite critical period of time to stay with it.

So on Dasher, on Dancer…to Transylvania!


1. Fotodog - February 8, 2011

That has to be one of the most interesting book reviews I’ve ever read.

therealtinlizzy - February 8, 2011

With surprisingly little actual review of the book itself somehow ;).

2. paraselenic - February 8, 2011

We could do a Dracula HoL swap– although you may want a break from footnote fuckery for a bit.

3. therealtinlizzy - February 8, 2011

Let’s! Though do you have the full color one? (That’s the one I had before I ditched it, so would like go back to that one again…) Am hoping upon finishing Drac that I’ll still be in a total footnote frame of mind to tackle HoL again.

4. Preflash Gordon - February 8, 2011

Dracula is one of my hands-down all-time favorite books. It’s one I pull out sometimes and give to people, or point people to, who think that anything written before 1990 is old fashioned and therefore anything written before 1900 must be so weird and old and strange it couldn’t possibly have anything to offer to the bright, smart, oh-so-modern minds of today. To which I shake my finger and reply, “There’s a reason the classics are classic. It’s not some cult of academia. They’re actually GOOD!” And mentally add the footnote: people now and people then are actually not that different. Which is why Shakespeare, Twain, Verne and others work too, by the by.

As I remember it, Dracula is a book that works by slow saturation. You need to mentally commit to it and say, “I’ll give it 80 pages” … because if you give it only 10 it just hasn’t had time to work. But long before page 80 it kind of seeps into your system and you get used to the way the people are talking (writing in their journals) and the mounting details and little pregnant coincidence start to work their creepy way with you. I also love it because it’s a conceit that I really was leery of to begin with, but ultimately found worked fantastically well: the multiple-journals format. Sort of like when the Beatles first came along, it’s different enough to hook you with its distinctive voice, but not so different that you’re constantly thrown out of the simple pleasure of reading by the archness of it. Just the opposite for me: I loved the sense of “moving in” to different people’s points of view as the book progresses. And of course, Stoker uses this to create even more tension and suspense. The guy really knew what he was doing.

I’m gushing. So happy you’re reading this! Makes me want to read it again too.

tin lizzy - February 8, 2011

Yes! A couple of my all time fave books are Jane Eyre and The Picture of Dorian Gray – and for me it’s like you said – having/wanting to read them in small bits at a time – because the writing/words are SO delicious. Not that the plot is beside the point, because they’re great stories, but it’s not like most current best-sellers, Twilight, etc where no one’s reading them for their brilliant prose. Even the fantastic-story, not-totally-crap books of today aren’t like the classics. Well – there are some, here and there…my friend Stef has a finger on that pulse for sure, newer books that are gloriously written. In fact – I’m wondering if she’s ever thought to do (or actually done) a post about perhaps paralleling her fav classics with her fav newer books, and what/why/hows…I should ask her.

Anyway – I’m certainly not an authority on such topics – am too sporadic, not at all systemic, and too much a jumping-about sort of a reader. I just know what I like when I find it.

And while I do have personal preference matters with some of the classics (I’m not going to like the Great Gatsby no matter what, you can’t make me, I’m not gonna), I do think most of them worth reading once anyway. Which is what I’m working on this year….

anyway – if you read it again, I highly recommend this version – you’ll love all the extras!

Mickey - February 9, 2011

Shorter posts huh….sure thing buttercup. Ha! I agree about Dorian Gray. I remember writing a paper on it in high school and I dont’ remember anything. That’s how it good it was/is.

therealtinlizzy - February 9, 2011

…and it never ended up that way in derby either did it? 😀

therealtinlizzy - February 9, 2011

and hey jerkface how was you beekeeping class? since you don’t tweet or have your own blog, I’ll just harass you via my own comments section!

5. Mickey - February 10, 2011

You know, I think I’m going to use your comments section as my blog. Is there a character limit for comments?

As for the beekeeping class, it was a really great intro class and the nice lady answered all of my questions. Here is a sampling of those questions: No, your dog will not kamikaze the hive (if you put up a barrier), Yes, I will have to promise my neighbors free honey in exchange for their signature on my petition to get the hive permit and No, it is not appropriate to try and hide a hive from your neighbors in densely populated St. Paul. They will find out and you will get busted by the bee-cops. Yes, that’s what they’re called. Or at least what I call them.

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