The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Bram Stoker’

Live in Dracula’s Castle, and Other News

May 20, 2014 | by

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Bran Castle—go on, buy it! Photo: Myrabella, via Wikimedia Commons

  • Dracula’s castle is for sale. It dates to the twelfth century, it sits on a hill in Romania, and it costs eighty million dollars, purportedly. It is probably not air-conditioned.
  • Remembering Nellie Bly, a journalist from the late nineteenth century: “Her name was, at one time, on the tip of every literate and tabloid-loving person’s tongue. Her work changed public policy, her outfits influenced fashion trends, and her adventures inspired board games.”
  • Achieving Godzilla’s roar: “They tried to use recordings of animal sounds to get the beast’s distinctive shriek; Godzilla is more than a mere animal, though, and nothing quite captured the shriek they wanted to achieve … So they coated a leather glove in tar resin and then rubbed it along the string of a double bass.”
  • Say it’s the fifties and you’re hanging out in Nevada, photographing the mushroom clouds from atom-bomb test sites. How do you make sure your photos end up in the newspapers, rather than some other schmuck’s? Simple: put a ballet dancer in the foreground.
  • “Who destroys books? Cities, churches, dictators and fanatics. Their fingers itch to build a pyre and strike the match … And I, too, have committed murder in my library. I have killed my books.”

 

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Barbarian at the Gates

July 1, 2013 | by

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“Going native” is usually the preserve of white travelers. In literature, it’s a genre study, one mastered by the British: Graham Greene, Bruce Chatwin, and Jan Morris wrote more than just potboiler anthropology in distant colonial latitudes. England’s fascination with other cultures led to a certain occupational hazard. For two hundred years, from William Hawkins, the East India Company’s first representative to the Mughal court of Jahangir, to the Indologists William Jones or Charles “Hindoo” Stuart, British men often forgot about conquest and commerce, preferring to sink into the warm bath of India’s manifold charms. In the mid-nineteenth century, the crown took over from the EIC, or John Company, and discouraged social intercourse precisely because it was bad for business. Evangelicals and mortified memsahibs petitioned the authorities and warned that past its jungles, where one could always nab tiger skins or indulge in the shade of the crocodile bark, India was a strange land of disfigured heathens. For some Englishmen, transformation was irreversible.

Sir Richard Francis Burton, the international spy, ethnographer, and professed “amateur barbarian,” came to Bombay with high expectations in 1842. At twenty-one, he’d been kicked out of Oxford, reduced to begging his father for a pricey commission in the Indian Army, which was granted under the condition that he go to any lengths to see combat. Burton spent four months at sea sparring with his boorish compatriots, a bunch of “yahoos” whose idea of fun amounted to firing their pistols into the black tide, until he detected that “faint spicy odor crossed with the aroma of drugs” that signaled Bombay. Read More »

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The Indescribable Frankenstein: A Short History of the Spectacular Failure of Words

March 5, 2013 | by

frankenstein-jj-001Mrs. Chesser taught me that there is never any reason to use the word indescribable. Invoking the indescribability of something does no work except to tell everyone, quite explicitly, that you are incapable of describing. Indescribable is not a quality something can possess, only a failure that can overwhelm a writer. Even now, years later, I can practically hear Mrs. Chesser, her voice languid with existential weariness, pleading with all of us in third-period English: “For the love of God, ask ourselves why a thing is indescribable and then write that down. Never be so lazy as to just dash off, ‘It was indescribable.’ It’s a waste of everyone’s time.” I remember her making profound eye contact with me just as the words “waste of everyone’s time” escaped her lips. Chastened, and most likely the prime offender, I made a note to myself, much of it capitalized, and have since made all-out war on the indescribable in my life.

But the indescribable has a history, and a distinguished one at that. In her novel Frankenstein, Mary Shelley uses the word “describe,” or some version of it, twenty-one times. Of those twenty-one, fourteen are coupled with a negation. Which means that approximately 66 percent of the time Mary Shelley uses the word “describe,” it is to describe how she, in fact, cannot describe something. “I cannot describe to you my sensations,” or, “How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe,” or, “I cannot pretend to describe what I then felt,” or, “a hell of intense tortures such as no language can describe.” But these romantic, brain-feverish testimonies to descriptive incompetence are often immediately paired with very precise descriptions, as in, “Over him hung a form which I cannot find words to describe—gigantic stature, yet uncouth and distorted in its proportions,” or when the explorer Robert Walton writes his sister, “I cannot describe to you my sensations on the near prospect of my undertaking. It is impossible to communicate to you a conception of the trembling sensation, half pleasurable and half fearful, with which I am preparing to depart.” What is that indescribable sensation? Well, trembling, half-pleasurable, half-fearful, which is actually quite descriptive. Read More »

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New Bram Stoker, and Other News

December 19, 2012 | by

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Leo Tolstoy, Emerging Author, and Other News

December 13, 2012 | by

  • Target inexplicably shelves Tolstoy under “Emerging Authors.”
  • “My feeling was, if you’re going to propose to your girlfriend this way, you’ve got to do it right … You do it in the finished book.” An illustrator pops the question in print.
  • The unlikely friendship between Walt Whitman and Bram Stoker.
  • The fiscal cliff for English majors.
  • Why we reread.
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    Happy Birthday, Bram Stoker

    November 8, 2012 | by

    Web surfers will have noticed Google’s celebration of the Dracula scribe’s big 1-6-5 in today’s doodle. But the celebrations don’t end there: Galleycat has rounded up free Stoker e-books, while those across the pond enjoy a Bram Stoker Wedding. Enjoy an excerpt from the 1922 silent film version of Nosferatu:

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