A couple of years ago, I found an omnibus of Bram Stoker’s work (Dracula/The Lair of the White Worm/Dracula’s Guest) at a book sale and thought, great! Not just his best known piece then. Having read it … well, I think there’s reason Dracula is his best known work.
The book starts with a thoroughly useless intro by Fay Weldon, full of breathless speculation about Stoker’s sexuality. The ideas about vampires, menstruation and sex might be interesting but it’s all so overblown, I can’t take any of it seriously. Added to which she can’t even get the character’s names right. Renfield is called Penfield, Mina is called Mimi, Arthur Holmwood is mixed up with Dr Seward … one typo I could understand but this was ridiculous.
( Dracula )
Well, I’ve read it but I wish the introduction had actually discussed how much of Dracula and the vampire mythos was Stoker’s creation and how much already existed. Reading the book, it is clear that Stoker had an enormous influence on later stories but I would like to know who influenced him.
Lair of the White Worm
Dreadful. It’s as though Stoker came up with a number of interesting ideas, threw them all at the page and let them stay where they landed without any effort to figure out what the story was about, who the story was about, how the story would progress and why the hell any of the characters would behave the way they did. There ware instant bonds of deep trust, first impressions are always correct, nasty sexism, truly vile racism and an absolute mess of a plot. And it was boring.
Dracula’s Guest and Other Weird Stories
Dracula’s Guest was originally part of the Dracula manuscript but edited out – and I think Dracula is better for it. If it is Jonathan Harker in the story, I would have lost all respect for him as an arrogant idiot long before he reached the castle.
As for the rest of the stories I found most of them not creepy or horrifying but nasty and miserable. I thought of giving up before the end but I was determined, having made it so far, to finish the whole book. And the last three stories weren’t bad. ‘The Burial of the Rats’ has a tense chase scene and depicts a part of Paris rarely seen. ‘A Dream of Red Hands’ is somewhat maudlin but it ends with some form of hope. ‘Crooken Sands’ reminds me of a Sayers short story. It’s no great piece of writing but it’s a bit intriguing and has what all the other stories utterly lacked – a touch of humour.
If you’re interested in Dracula – just read Dracula. Don’t bother with the others!