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    Default Rater Reads Dracula

    So I wasn't gonna do this for a bit...But I've got a hell of a lot of writer's block and want to do something productive today.

    Anyway, Dracula. The original novel, Bram Stoker. The same format as my Hobbit readthrough thread: I'll start with a summary and my stream of consciousness reactions, then conclude with my overall thoughts, on a per chapter basis.

    Now, something that I knew before reading this but that I don't think is common knowledge: This isn't a traditional novel where we are told the story as it happens. Rather the narrative is told through a series of letters, articles, and journal entries written by various characters in the story and compiled after the fact. I find that notable becuase... I can't really think of very many stories that are told that way for more than a single chapter.

    And uh, before I dive into our first chapter, an excerpt from the journal of one Johnathon Harker, I'd like to state my spoiler policy: I don't have one.

    I'm technically reading the story blind, but I'm reasonably certain that everyone knows the gist of this story. If you think something might belong in spoilers use your best judgment.

    And, of course, if anyone wants to read along and provide their own thoughts they're more than welcome too.
    The novel begins with a journal entry from May 3, describing Johnathon Harker's journey to the East, mentioning Munich, "Buda-Pesh," Vienna, and other locations by name. In the second paragraph, he describes stopping for dinner(or supper, a distinction I don't quite get) at the Hotel Royale and eating a "chicken and red pepper" dish called paprika hendl which I just googled and it sounds frickin delicious. He makes a memo to try and get the recipe for Mina.

    We then cut back to Johnathon spending time in London, and taking the time to study up on his destination: Transylvania. The place that is considered a scary place to be more or less solely becuase of this book. He also elaborates that he is going to visit a nobleman and lists Castle Dracula as his domain.

    We then get some details about the area: four ethnic groups one of whom claims to be descendant s of Attila and his Huns, and that the area is incredibly superstitious.

    Johnathon notes that he slept poorly due to a combination of "queer dreams," a dog barking under his window all night, and being thirsty. Then that his breakfast was more of the paprika dish as well as a corn-based porridge and an eggplant stuffed with "forcemeat" that he also wants the recipe for.

    I don't know what forcemeat is and I'm scared to google it.

    Trains being late appears to be a pattern in this entry.

    Long paragraph describing how beautiful Transylvania is and the people living there... I'm gonna post an excerpt.
    t\The strangest figures we saw were the Slovaks, who were more barbarian than the rest, with their big cow-boy hats, great baggy dirty-white trousers, white linen shirts, and enormous heavy leather belts, nearly a foot wide, all studded over with brass nails. They wore high boots, with their trousers tucked into them, and had long black hair and heavy black moustaches.
    This... This simply does not convey the same mental image now that it did back then, I feel.

    "The dark side of twilight" is how the time when finally arriving in Bistritz, the location that Harker was told to travel to, which has... A storied history, shall we say? While staying at the hotel he was directed to, he receives a letter from "Your friend Dracula" detailing how Johnathon will be brought to Castle Dracula the next day.

    That concludes the first entry and I fear I will have to finish the chapter sometime later as I find myself suffering from a killer headache and sudden lethargy.

    Thoughts so far... certainly feels like ut was written to be a believable journal entry.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rater202 View Post
    This... This simply does not convey the same mental image now that it did back then, I feel.
    What Mr. Harker didn't notice is that he had stumbled onto the set of a Karl May movie.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rater202 View Post
    I don't know what forcemeat is and I'm scared to google it.
    The interior filling of a hotdog or bologna, basically - meat (can also be done with other proteins, although I think probably fish would be the only other one that might be referred to with this particular word) and fat, potentially with spices, that has been ground up, pureed, or 'forced' through a sieve so that it forms a homogenous texture and can be used to stuff or embed into other items. Uncased sausage.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rater202 View Post
    Now, something that I knew before reading this but that I don't think is common knowledge: This isn't a traditional novel where we are told the story as it happens. Rather the narrative is told through a series of letters, articles, and journal entries written by various characters in the story and compiled after the fact. I find that notable becuase... I can't really think of very many stories that are told that way for more than a single chapter.
    This is called an epistolary novel (from "epistle", an old-fashioned word for a letter) and it was in fashion for a while, mostly in the 18th century. You can find lists of them on Wikipedia, if you are curious.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rater202 View Post
    Johnathon notes that he slept poorly due to a combination of "queer dreams,"
    Hah! I didn't remember the homoerotic subtext to be that obvious!
    Last edited by Fyraltari; 2021-12-17 at 03:27 PM.

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    he describes stopping for dinner(or supper, a distinction I don't quite get)
    In the context of his time and class, supper is something more informal that you eat by yourself, while a dinner is something you dress up for. Confusingly, dinner is alsoi just the largest meal of the day, and may be your mid day meal.
    Last edited by Eldan; 2021-12-17 at 05:05 PM.
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    Most interesting thing about book Dracula is how little he resembles pop culture Dracula.

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    Yup. They even tell you how he becomes what he is and it's very different from any pop culture depiction I've seen.

    Hm. Actually, Castlevania (the anime series) might have gone in that direction.
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    Took nap, finishing chapter.

    The next entry is the next day, May 4th, and is much shorter than the first. Harker's "landlord" has also received a letter to arrange for his travel to the castle... But refuses to disclose detail and pretends not to understand when Johnathon tries to talk to him in German, which was not a problem the night before.

    Well, if I didn't already know that this was a mystery/horror story the would be where the Red Flags kicked in... It's a shame that it's more or less impossible to read this truly blind, it would have been nice to experience this the way it was intended to... Or would it be where the red flags kicked in? For all, I know this is the origin of the "local authority figure gets really quiet when the plot starts to happen" trope.

    As he's leaving, the Landlord wife(I assume, she's just called the old woman but a wife is alluded to in the previous paragraph) approaches him and tries to convince him not to leave, hysterically, and notes that it's nigh where all manner of evil things are noted to come out of the woodwork and do wicked deeds.

    It's a bit strange that the dialog is transcribed directly in a journal entry though. That doesn't really feel real.

    The entry contains some stuff that I'm not sure I'm allowed to discuss here due to the forum rules regarding the discussion of real-life religions. I choose to er on the side of caution... I hope that choosing to review this novel here doesn't end up being a mistake.

    The next entry is dated to May 5th, and notes that he's arrived at the castle. The horizon on the trip was described as "jagged" from trees and or hills, and that his dinner consisted solely of several cups of "Golden Mediasch" a wine that leaves a "queen sting" on the tongue.

    ...I get the feeling that we're going to get a lot of laughs about how the meaning of the word "queer" has changed significantly since then.

    The reason why his dinner consisted solely of wine was becuase he turned down the "robber steak." "bits of bacon, onion, and beef, seasoned with red pepper, and strung on sticks and roasted over the fire" to quote the text... Harker is a ****ing snob, that ain't nothing but a shishkabob and the red pepper is probably the same paprika he so loved in the chicken dish rather than what we call red pepper, based on his reference to the dish as just "paprika" in later mentions.

    He compares it to "Londons cats meat" and... I know that there have been several times in London history where the poor and/or desperate have been forced to eat stray cats but I don't know if this is a reference to that or if he's comparing the food to meat cooked for cats.

    Honestly, while I personally don't particularly care for what I imagine to be a large chunk of onion on a skewer, there are probably a lot of good dishes you could make with just those ingredients so... Yeah Johnathon's a bit elitist.

    Before leaving, a conversation among multiple people mentions witches, vampires, and werewolves, with the last two being interchangeable. And some other stuff I'm gonna be cautious about. He makes a note to ask the Count about these superstitions. Uses of the word queer in contexts that mean something very different today count: 3.

    A large number of people seem concerned for Harker's safety... Yeah, bad sign.

    Transylvania is again described as beautiful, and quite a lot of lovely descriptive prose is used to emphasize it.

    Honestly, I think most of the text of the entry is just describing the trip to Castle Dracula proper...

    Upon arriving, there is no carriage to take Harker to the castle, which prompts the coachman who conveyed him this far to wish to take him back and return tomorrow or the next day, only for the horses to get spooked. More horses come up and their driver states that his "friend", the coachman, is early and that he overheard the conversation beforehand.

    This is the carriage driver employed by the count, and after a moment he starts bringing Harker to the castle proper. Harker notes that, honestly, he's a little scared at this point... This is sensible since literally everyone so far has been afraid on his behalf.

    Sound of terrified dogs in the distance.

    At one point a blue flame appears near the road and the driver gets out to check... Which keeps happening. Harker seems to think he fell asleep and kept dreaming of it over and over, but... Well, we all know that supernatural evil is afoot in this novel.

    The last time it happens, the carriage driver goes far enough that wolves come and surround the coach, howling in th light of the moon, and it's only the driver's return and driving off the wolves, coupled with the moon obscured by a cloud breaking some 'spell' the wolves are under that seems them out alive.

    And this is the end of the chapter. Despite the entry noting that Harker is at the castle, we don't actually have his arrival detailed in it.


    I can't judge properly, but it seems that over half the first chapter is just the journey from the last town on Harker's trip to Castle Dracula proper

    Not a bad introductory chapter, but I feel like a modern writer would have told the same stuff in fewer words.

    and that I'd have gotten an F if I wrote this in school.

    I note that Harker seems to have a fondness for the word "picturesque" and something I feel is notable is that Transylvania is described consistently as being a beautiful place. In most of the adaptions and works that follow and imitated this novel, the tradition is that the "vaguely Eastern European rural community" around the vampire's castle or the mad scientist's laboratory or whathave you is a dreary hellhole. so it's weird that the progenitor of that concept... doesn't.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rater202 View Post
    Now, something that I knew before reading this but that I don't think is common knowledge: This isn't a traditional novel where we are told the story as it happens. Rather the narrative is told through a series of letters, articles, and journal entries written by various characters in the story and compiled after the fact. I find that notable becuase... I can't really think of very many stories that are told that way for more than a single chapter.
    The Color Purple is a modern-ish example of this, written as a series of journal entries and letters. From what I recall there are only 2 or 3 narrators there, compared to several in Dracula? It's been ages since I read the latter, and I honestly don't remember too much about it.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rater202 View Post
    The entry contains some stuff that I'm not sure I'm allowed to discuss here due to the forum rules regarding the discussion of real-life religions. I choose to er on the side of caution... I hope that choosing to review this novel here doesn't end up being a mistake.
    The Mod on the Silver Mountain: I've read Dracula, so I can say that everything that happens in the book you can talk about, since it's explicitly in a fictional context. So long as you steer clear from real-world applications of stuff in the book, you should be fine. And if ever in doubt, feel free to PM me to ask if anything is allowed. While PMs are part of the Forum and subject to the same rules, I never infract anyone for asking if something is permissible via PM.
    Last edited by Peelee; 2021-12-17 at 09:37 PM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peelee View Post
    The Mod on the Silver Mountain: I've read Dracula, so I can say that everything that happens in the book you can talk about. So long as you steer clear from real-world applications of stuff in the book, you should be fine. And if ever in doubt, feel free to PM me to ask if anything is allowed. While PMs are part of the Forum and subject to the same rules, I never infract anyone for asking if something is permissible via PM.
    Okay then.

    To retread with this in mind: In the second entry, it is the fact it is specifically Saint George's eve that makes it so that evil is up to bad juju, and the landlord's wife gifts Harker a crucifix for his protection when he makes it clear that he has to go now, which sparks a bit of conflict in him becuase it seems rude to refuse a gift meant for one's safety but at the same time his own religious upbringing means that he somewhat sees putting stock in such things as akin to idolatry. He ultimately accepts it, but having it on his person makes him uncomfortable even as he sits wearing it waiting for the coach.

    That... that suggests something about his character. A willingness to sacrifice his own comfort or act against his own beliefs to give other people peace of mind...

    And well, knowing what we know about vampire lore and how this novel influences and is influenced by it, I imagine his doing so is going to save his life.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rater202 View Post
    In the second paragraph, he describes stopping for dinner(or supper, a distinction I don't quite get)
    So far as i know, there isnt a practical difference these days. Its strictly a regional dialect.

    In the context of the book and its setting, supper implies a lack of formality, while dinner is a proper, formal meal with all that entails.
    “Evil is evil. Lesser, greater, middling, it's all the same. Proportions are negotiated, boundaries blurred. I'm not a pious hermit, I haven't done only good in my life. But if I'm to choose between one evil and another, then I prefer not to choose at all.”

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    Quote Originally Posted by Keltest View Post
    So far as i know, there isnt a practical difference these days. Its strictly a regional dialect.

    In the context of the book and its setting, supper implies a lack of formality, while dinner is a proper, formal meal with all that entails.
    Spoiler: Modern usages:
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    Ooo, it’s been ages since I read this one. I will try not to spoil anything, but I will note that I enjoyed it more than Frankenstein.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rater202 View Post
    That concludes the first entry and I fear I will have to finish the chapter sometime later as I find myself suffering from a killer headache and sudden lethargy.
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    Default Re: Rater Reads Dracula

    This thread would not be completed without Overly Sarcastic's take on Dracula, which Rater might want to see after he reads the book to avoid spoilers.

    Red's pretty cool and smart, though her output has suffered since COVID started.

    In the 19th century when the book was written, Vampirism was very closely tied to religious beliefs. I can't go into details on this forum, but apparently you could become a vampire just by converting from one belief system to another.

    At any rate, you can also check out extra credit's special on Vlad the Impaler, on whom the Dracula legend was based.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rater202 View Post
    He compares it to "Londons cats meat" and... I know that there have been several times in London history where the poor and/or desperate have been forced to eat stray cats but I don't know if this is a reference to that or if he's comparing the food to meat cooked for cats.

    Honestly, while I personally don't particularly care for what I imagine to be a large chunk of onion on a skewer, there are probably a lot of good dishes you could make with just those ingredients so... Yeah Johnathon's a bit elitist.
    He's referring to meat of dodgy origins, so may well have been cat or 'roof chicken' as they were euphemistically referred to.

    As for a being a bit elitist, while there's a bit of that, there's a fair amount of just being English mixed in. The English can be weirdly picky about their food (one lady I know can't eat eggs and baked beans if the sauce has splashed onto the eggs; she's happy with them being on the same plate, they just can't touch), so him quite happily snacking down on chicken paprika in the comfort of lodgings, while turning his nose up at the same thing cooked over a camp fire, seems perfectly in character for me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rater202 View Post
    Not a bad introductory chapter, but I feel like a modern writer would have told the same stuff in fewer words.

    and that I'd have gotten an F if I wrote this in school.
    While a modern writer could streamline it, would it have kept the same feel of someone's personal journal? Especially since the fastest mode of travel is train, leaving plenty of free time for a middle to upper class traveller to do nothing but stare at the countryside, read or write.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Rater202 View Post
    Now, something that I knew before reading this but that I don't think is common knowledge: This isn't a traditional novel where we are told the story as it happens. Rather the narrative is told through a series of letters, articles, and journal entries written by various characters in the story and compiled after the fact. I find that notable becuase... I can't really think of very many stories that are told that way for more than a single chapter.
    I believe that falls under the umbrella of what's known in the parlance of horror media as "found footage"
    Last edited by Bohandas; 2021-12-18 at 04:07 AM.

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    Rater, isn't Harker's first name "Jonathan"? That's how I remenber it and that's how it is spelled on Wikipedia ( I can't find my copy of the book right now).
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fyraltari View Post
    Rater, isn't Harker's first name "Jonathan"? That's how I remenber it and that's how it is spelled on Wikipedia ( I can't find my copy of the book right now).
    Jonathan (no 'h') is how it's spelt in the Project Gutenberg version as well (I can't find my physical copy at the moment either).

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    Look, I'm bad with names.

    There's a reason why I just start calling him Harker midway through.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Peelee View Post
    Spoiler: Modern usages:
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    Isn't that a purely US-centric quizz, though?
    Last edited by Fyraltari; 2021-12-18 at 06:25 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by pendell View Post
    This thread would not be completed without Overly Sarcastic's take on Dracula, which Rater might want to see after he reads the book to avoid spoilers.
    Since most people know Dracula by the film(s) rather than the source book, Which Dracula Film is Most Faithful to the Book is probably worth a look as well. James Rolfe (Cinemassacre/AVGN) goes through the film adaptations to see which is the most faithful to the book (and comes up with some consistency in surprising places).

    (There's also one for the game adaptations as well, which is more on the AVGN side - will be watching that shortly...)
    Warning: This posting may contain wit, wisdom, pathos, irony, satire, sarcasm and puns. And traces of nut.

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    Nice to see you doing this. I read it a couple of years ago in a german translation, so it will be nice to revisit.

    Quote Originally Posted by Rater202 View Post
    I note that Harker seems to have a fondness for the word "picturesque" and something I feel is notable is that Transylvania is described consistently as being a beautiful place. In most of the adaptions and works that follow and imitated this novel, the tradition is that the "vaguely Eastern European rural community" around the vampire's castle or the mad scientist's laboratory or whathave you is a dreary hellhole. so it's weird that the progenitor of that concept... doesn't.
    Reminded me of that quote:

    Quote Originally Posted by T.P.
    Picturesque meant - he decided after careful observation of the scenerey that inspired Twoflower to use the word - that the landscape was horribly precipitous.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Fyraltari View Post
    Isn't that a purely US-centric quizz, though?
    Places outside the US exist?
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    Default Re: Rater Reads Dracula

    Quote Originally Posted by pendell View Post
    Vlad the Impaler, on whom the Dracula legend was based.
    That's a common misconception, but while that's where the name comes from, Dracula's not supposed to be Vlad (this bit should be immediately apparent from the novel), and nor is he inspired by Vlad. From Stoker's notes we know that Dracula was originally called Count Wampyr (no, unfortunately I'm not kidding) and he was a Styrian aristocrat. If that rings a bell, it's probably the right bell. Dracula was originally conceived as something of a male Carmilla.

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    Default Re: Rater Reads Dracula

    Quote Originally Posted by Peelee View Post
    Places outside the US exist?
    I count at least three.
    Quote Originally Posted by Metastachydium View Post
    That's a common misconception, but while that's where the name comes from, Dracula's not supposed to be Vlad (this bit should be immediately apparent from the novel), and nor is he inspired by Vlad. From Stoker's notes we know that Dracula was originally called Count Wampyr (no, unfortunately I'm not kidding) and he was a Styrian aristocrat. If that rings a bell, it's probably the right bell. Dracula was originally conceived as something of a male Carmilla.
    I think I remember Dracula vividly talking about Vlad in a way that implies that he was him, but does not want to admit to between centuries old for obvious reasons.
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    Default Re: Rater Reads Dracula

    Quote Originally Posted by Fyraltari View Post
    I think I remember Dracula vividly talking about Vlad in a way that implies that he was him, but does not want to admit to between centuries old for obvious reasons.
    There is such a passage taken almost verbatim from a history book, but Dracula never really implies the ancestor in question was actually him. Van Helsing later theorizes that he is identical with a descendant of the ancestor based on Vlad.
    At any rate, Dracula self-identifies as a Székely, is a Count and hints at having been a Voivode of Transylvania. Vlad was none of those, and while he had estates in southern Transylvania, southern Transylvania is nowhere near the Borgo Pass around which Castle Dracula is located (it's in northeastern Transylvania, in case anyone wondered).

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    Default Re: Rater Reads Dracula

    Quote Originally Posted by Peelee View Post
    Places outside the US exist?
    Some silver dragon once mentioned this "Eee-You" place he's a citizen of to me.
    “Evil is evil. Lesser, greater, middling, it's all the same. Proportions are negotiated, boundaries blurred. I'm not a pious hermit, I haven't done only good in my life. But if I'm to choose between one evil and another, then I prefer not to choose at all.”

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    Default Re: Rater Reads Dracula

    Missed this joke opportunity the first time:
    Quote Originally Posted by Rater202 View Post
    ... Yeah Johnathon's a bit elitist.
    Well yeah, they openly admit he's a 19th century Englishman.
    Quote Originally Posted by Fyraltari View Post
    I count at least three.
    Yeah, but that's in metric. Who knows how that translates to American units.
    Quote Originally Posted by Keltest View Post
    Some silver dragon once mentioned this "Eee-You" place he's a citizen of to me.
    Sounds like the fevered dreams of a madman.
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