Why am I reading Dracula when the horror genre isn't my thing?
The same way I can't help comparing her to Tolstoy, Flaubert and Jane Austen when reading George Eliot, I've been silently making comparisons between Bram Stoker and Robert Louis Stevenson, Mary Shelley and Wilkie Collins. Dracula is a classic, sure, but is it serious literature? Never mind. That's probably the wrong question. What matters is that I don't think it's on par with Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, which is a brilliantly written, perfectly controlled and tightly packed work or art, and Frankenstein, which is a fascinating and marvellously rich novel of ideas. I don't mean that Dracula is bad, but I see it as a story, or an elaboration of a myth, more than as a work of art. For example, think about the epistolary form. Dracula is made up of not only journals and letters (traditional in novels) but, as written in the introduction, also "memorandums, telegrams, title-deeds of property, railway timetables, dictionaries, newspaper cuttings, monumental inscriptions, notebooks, phonologically recorded case-notes of psychiatry, and a ship's log translated from the Russian"*. That is very interesting, but I'm afraid that Bram Stoker hasn't made use of all the potential of the form. 1st, I haven't seen any unreliable narrator. 2nd, this can be a means of characterisation. In The Moonstone, Wilkie Collins exploits the form for the creation and depiction of 2 of the most fascinating characters in literature- Gabriel Betteredge and Miss Clack; in The Woman in White, it's Count Fosco and Mr Fairlie. In Dracula, the characters' voices are not very distinctive and distinguishable. 3rd, there's no clash of perspectives. We all know that in life the same thing is seen and experienced differently by different people, and sometimes 2 versions of the same incident can be different beyond recognition. There's no such obvious conflict in Dracula, at least not yet.
Should I read faster and consume it whole instead of taking it slowly and critically? No, perhaps I shouldn't speed up- I'm highly unlikely to read the book again.
At the moment I find myself more fascinated by Renfield than by the Count and his prey and his hunters. Renfield's the most intriguing, colourful and mysterious character in the novel.
*: written by Maud Ellmann.