Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bite-Sized Blogging: Dracula (Chapter 10)

15 October.

Much delay following the unfortunate delay of new PDF files; have now purchased Signet Classic edition. This brings up two meta-issues: one, presentation is important. This edition uses a "blood-curdling" font to note each chapter, and the journal entries are now presented in such crushed, uniform ways that it loses what little authenticity of narrative voice it had. There was something far more thrilling about reading Jonathan McNicol's version, especially as loose pages, printed out a day at a time, in serial form. There was the feeling that anything could come next, whereas now, I'm constantly reminded of the last page. (The opportunity for surprise is perhaps the one nice feature of an e-book reader.) The second issue pertains to something missing from the Greybean edition: a disclaimer (from Stoker, I presume) that verifies what I've guessed at for the last few posts: "All needless matters have been eliminated, so that a history almost at variance with the possibilities of later-day belief may stand forth as simple fact."

  • Of course, that disclaimer also states that "there is throughout no statement of past things wherein memory may err, for all the records chosen are exactly contemporary, given from the standpoints and within the range of knowledge of those who made them." I think what Stoker meant to say was more along the lines of Van Helsing's pending note: "knowledge is stronger than memory, and we should not trust the weaker." It's a funny caveat, given that the entire novel is presented as untrustworthy memory, and that knowledge time and again proves to be everyone's undoing. Then again, here's the real horror of the novel (from a modern perspective): if we cannot trust what we remember, and we cannot trust what we know, what can we trust?

  • Van Helsing also has some notes on Stoker's form of suspense (and again, I find it very hard to separate the broken English of his character here with the action-hero version from the films). Helsing explains that the reason why he does not come forth and explain everything to Seward from the get-go is because "I have sown my corn, and Nature has her work to do in making it sprout; if he sprout at all, there's some promise; and I wait till the ear begins to swell." That is, only a fool rushes to conclusions: a real doctor must dismiss nothing.

  • As long as we're speaking of madmen, I much like Van Helsing's line "All men are mad in some way or the other; and inasmuch as you deal discreetly with your madmen, so deal with God's madmen too--the rest of the world." Let's never puff ourselves up so greatly that we forget that we are all crazy to someone--and if you believe in one (or many), then you must be especially crazy to God.

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