Monday, October 05, 2009

Bite-Sized Blogging: Dracula (Chapter 5)

October 6.

When I first started re-reading Dracula, I was fearful of the fact that I remembered absolutely nothing from my initial read. Thankfully, I am not alone--many of the other Draculoggers remember only more recent readings, or viewings of the Keanu Reeves version. I wonder, though, does the brain intentionally forget things in order to allow us to retain that element of surprise? As I read, I cannot help but think how boring it would be to slog through this text if I already knew everything. A book like Infinite Jest dares you to read it again with Wallace-drenched eyes, but as of yet, everything in Dracula is on the surface.

Now, with the transition away from Harker's journal (and regression from that fated 30 June to the happier 9 May), there is at last real suspense, as I don't know if he's survived his precarious climb, or his more dangerous trek through the wolf-riddled woods. The irony is that this suspense is conjured up by departing from horror, and this is the one thing that horror movies have learned well. If you simply shock us again and again, we grow used to it: but if you show us something sinister, you taint even the most pleasant things around us, and can therefore make the rest of the film ever more terrifying simply by playing on our expectations that there must be more to come. (This is what makes Michael Haneke's films so suspenseful.)

And but so, we hear the delighted trills of Lucy Westenra, best friend of Mina Murray, the fiancee of Jonathan Harker. Not only is she thrice-removed from the action, but her mood is quite different ("I sympathize with poor Desdemona when she had such a stream poured in her ear, even by a black man"), and even she serves only--so far--as she introduces us to her three suitors, the American Quincey P. Morris, the young English psychiatrist Jack Seward, and the winning Arthur Holmwood. (Also, I seem to remember the name Renfield: he's a patient at Seward's asylum.) Given the time in which it was written, what sort of novel is this, that jumps through time, narrators, and moods? I've bitten off more than I thought.

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