Posts Tagged ‘Bram Stoker’
March 5, 2013 | by Jason Resnikoff
Mrs. 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 »
December 19, 2012 | by Sadie Stein
December 13, 2012 | by Sadie Stein
November 8, 2012 | by Sadie Stein
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:
May 14, 2012 | by Leanne Shapton and Ben Schott
Paint Samples, suitable for the home, sourced from colors in literature. As seen in our two-hundredth issue.
|Fox Stain1||Graham Greene2||Iteration Pudding3||Hood4|
|Fence5||Skipper’s Whiff6||Pizza7||Noise White8|
|Martyr’s Tongue9||League10||Funeral Suit11||Dead Sea12|
|Doze13||Dishwater Blonde14||Stupid Blue15||Dorsal16|
|Bible Black17||Lo’s Socks18||Poop Poop19||American Autumn20|
|Damned Spot21||Spit Black22||Georgie’s Pins23||Oatmeal Tweed24|
|Treasure Blue25||Nimbus Card26||Felon Yellow27||Wine-dark28|
- “The season’s ill— / we’ve lost our summer millionaire, / who seemed to leap from an L. L. Bean / catalogue. His nine-knot yawl / was auctioned off to lobstermen. / A red fox stain covers Blue Hill.” “Skunk Hour,” Robert Lowell.
- Graham Greene
- “But if you stir backward, the jam will not come together again. Indeed, the pudding does not notice and continues to turn pink just as before. Do you think this is odd?” ‘Arcadia,’ Tom Stoppard.
- “Her mother was excessively fond of her; and her grandmother doted on her still more. This good woman got made for her a little red riding hood.” “Little Red Riding Hood,” Charles Perrault.
- “Sighing, he dipped his brush and passed it along the topmost plank; repeated the operation; did it again; compared the insignificant whitewashed streak with the far-reaching continent of unwhitewashed fence, and sat down on a tree-box discouraged.” ‘The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,’ Mark Twain.
- “Wendell takes a whiff of Skipper, who is wearing what used to be a pair of pink flowered pajamas. A small bit of satin ribbon is still visible around her neck, but the rest, including her smiling face, is wet brown mud and something else. ‘Part of this is poop,’ Wendell hollers.” “Cousins,” Jo Ann Beard.
- “She noticed a piece of bright orange pizza stuck between his teeth, and it endeared him to her.” “A Romantic Weekend,” Mary Gaitskill.
- “I heard a noise, faint, monotonous, white.” ‘White Noise,’ Don DeLillo.
- “St. John Nepomucene was martyred in Prague in 1393 for refusing to reveal a secret of the confessional. His tongue has been entirely preserved. Experts examined it 332 years later in 1725, and testified that it was the shape, color, and length of the tongue of a living person, and that it was also soft and flexible.” ‘Beautiful Losers,’ Leonard Cohen.
- “Then, again, I have heard it is no use your applying if your hair is light red, or dark red, or anything but real bright, blazing, fiery red.” “The Red-Headed League,” Arthur Conan Doyle.
- “In the meantime I unpacked my bag, opened the wardrobe and hung up the dark gray suit I had taken along to Chur as my funeral suit, so to speak.” ‘The Loser,’ Thomas Bernhard.
- “I remember the maps of the Holy Land. Colored they were. Very pretty. The Dead Sea was pale blue. The very look of it made me thirsty. That’s where we’ll go, I used to say, that’s where we’ll go for our honeymoon. We’ll swim. We’ll be happy.” ‘Waiting for Godot,’ Samuel Beckett.
- “And then I went off into a blue doze, sitting there in the car next to William. I was thinking about Josephine who is also this very dear friend of mine.” ‘Novel on Yellow Paper,’ Stevie Smith.
- “... a jewelry box in which a strand of Mary’s dishwater-blonde hair lay bedded on cotton.” ‘The Virgin Suicides,’ Jeffrey Eugenides.
- “I had forgotten about his eyes. They were as blue as the sides of a certain type of box of matches. When you looked at them carefully you saw that they were perfectly honest, perfectly straightforward, perfectly, perfectly stupid.” ‘The Good Soldier,’ Ford Madox Ford.
- “It took Brody’s eyes a moment to adjust, but then he saw the fin—a ragged brownish-gray triangle that sliced through the water, followed by the scythed tail sweeping left and right with short, spasmodic thrusts.” ‘Jaws,’ Peter Benchley.
- “It is Spring, moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black, the cobblestreets silent and the hunched, courters’-and-rabbits’ wood limping invisible down to the sloeblack, slow, black, crow-black, fishingboat-bobbing sea.” ‘Under Milk Wood,’ Dylan Thomas.
- “Officer, officer there they go— / In the rain, where that lighted store is! / And her socks are white, and I love her so, / And her name is Haze, Dolores.” ‘Lolita,’ Vladimir Nabokov.
- “They reached the carriage-drive of Toad Hall to find, as the Badger had anticipated, a shiny new motor-car, of great size, painted a bright red (Toad’s favorite color), standing in front of the house.” ‘The Wind in the Willows,’ Kenneth Grahame.
- “The afternoon was perfect. A deeper stillness possessed the air, and the glitter of the American autumn was tempered by a haze which diffused the brightness without dulling it.” ‘The House of Mirth,’ Edith Wharton.
- “Out, damned spot! out, I say!” ‘The Tragedy of Macbeth,’ William Shakespeare.
- “The restaurant to which he took us was a theater people’s one, not very far away, and filled with gentlemen in fancy waistcoats just like himself, and with girls and boys like Kitty, with streaks of greasepaint on their cuffs and crumbs of spit-black in the corners of their eyes.” ‘Tipping the Velvet,’ Sarah Waters.
- “Then she hitched up her skirt and some layers of stiff white petticoat and began to draw on a pair of peacock-blue stockings which I had given her.” ‘A Severed Head,’ Iris Murdoch.
- “You wouldn’t be able to decorate out a table in afromosia teak veneer, an armchair in oatmeal tweed and a beech frame settee with a woven sea-grass seat? ” ‘The Caretaker,’ Harold Pinter.
- “He then explained to me that it was commonly believed that on a certain night of the year—last night, in fact, when all evil spirits are supposed to have unchecked sway—a blue flame is seen over any place where treasure has been concealed.” ‘Dracula,’ Bram Stoker.
- “Suddenly the restaurant seems far away, hushed, the noise distant, a meaningless hum, compared to this card, and we all hear Price’s words: ‘Raised lettering, pale nimbus white...’” ‘American Psycho,’ Bret Easton Ellis.
- “Conrad now surveyed the pod room with a horrible clarity. It was a foul gray chamber inhabited by grim organisms in yellow felony pajamas who arranged themselves in primitive territorial packs.” ‘A Man in Full,’ Tom Wolfe.
- “As far as a man seeth with his eyes into the haze of distance as he sitteth on a place of outlook and gazeth over the wine-dark sea, so far leap the loudly neighing horses of the gods.” ‘The Iliad,’ Homer.
October 19, 2011 | by Sadie Stein
A cultural news roundup.
- After a particularly contentious run-up, Julian Barnes (finally) wins the Booker.
- The ceremony was ... eventful.
- On the other side of the pond, the National Book Award apologizes for its error.
- Lauren Myracle withdraws.
- Roz Chast: “I think that children’s books should be censored not for references to sex but for references to diseases. I mean, who didn't think after reading Madeline that they were going to get appendicitis?”
- Amazon hoards its superheroes.
- Stan Lee creates new ones.
- Tintin, the movie.
- The Seagull, the movie.
- Spot the fake title.
- Bram Stoker’s notebooks!
- Spalding Gray’s journals!
- C. S. Forester’s lost novel!
- Emily Post 4.0: “Just because someone’s IM service shows them as being ‘available,’ doesn’t necessarily mean they are ... Respect ‘do not disturb’ status. Remember, each time you IM you are interrupting someone.”