Posts Tagged ‘Dracula’
October 27, 2016 | by David J. Skal
To celebrate the spookiest of holidays, we’re publishing a selection of excerpts from David J. Skal’s Something in the Blood, a biography of Bram Stoker, published this month by Liveright. First up: the origins of Dracula.
There are many stories about how Bram Stoker came to write Dracula, but only some of them are true. According to his son, Stoker always claimed the inspiration for the book came from a nightmare induced by “a too-generous helping of dressed crab at supper”—a dab of blarney the writer enjoyed dishing out when asked, but no one took seriously (it may sound too much like Ebenezer Scrooge, famously dismissing Marley’s ghost as “an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese”). But that hasn’t stopped the midnight snack of dressed crab from being served up as a matter of fact by countless people on countless occasions. While the nightmare aspect may well have some validity—Stoker’s notes at least suggest that the story might have had its genesis in a disturbing vision or reverie—it exemplifies the way truth, falsehood, and speculation have always conspired to distort Dracula scholarship. An unusually evocative piece of storytelling, Dracula has always excited more storytelling—both in endlessly embellished dramatizations and in the similarly ornamented accounts of its own birth process. Read More »
February 9, 2016 | by Dan Piepenbring
- Breaking news: Bram Stoker’s great-grand-nephew has rejected a scholar’s recent claim that Dracula hailed not from Transylvania but from Exeter. “People will be surprised and sometimes shocked by my findings, as most of what they now hold true will be proven to be false,” the scholar said humbly. “It’s a bit like finding out who Father Christmas really is.” Dacre Stoker retorts: “Everyone tries to find something a little bit new or different about Dracula, even now, 118 years after it was published, which is wonderful ... But to me it is a bit of a stretch to argue that Dracula came from Exeter.”
- Maurice White died last week, prompting Sam Lipsyte to remember “some odd family history”: “In 1975, when I was eight, a film called That’s the Way of the World was released in America. Harvey Keitel starred in the story of a hotshot record producer’s struggles with art and mammon. The screenplay was written by my father, the sports journalist and fiction writer Robert Lipsyte, and the soundtrack was by Earth, Wind and Fire, who also appear in the movie as the Group, a band with a groundbreaking sound but not enough commercial appeal … White called my father a few years ago and asked him to write the liner notes for a reissue of That’s the Way of the World. They had some long conversations my father cherished.”
- Today in improbable connections between Oscar contenders and classic American lit: Mark Mangini, the sound designer for Mad Max: Fury Road, says he put together the film’s aural palette with Melville in mind: “I had this notion that the truck itself was an allegory for Moby Dick … We wanted to personify it as this giant, growling, breathing, roaring beast … It had to be grounded in reality, but we wanted it to be more than that, so we designed whale sounds to play underneath all those truck sounds to embody the real sounds and to personify it … We go into a beautiful ballet-like slow motion sequence as the War Rig upends and turns on its side and crashes. All those sounds, there are no realistic sounds there. Those are all whale sounds and actually slowed-down bear sounds,” He said. “What we wanted to say to the audience was, ‘This is a death. This is the death of the great white whale.’ All you hear as it rolls over in slow motion is the final death rattle of a dying creature. It just felt like the right sound to use.”
- A. O. Scott’s new book Better Living Through Criticism provides critics with an unprecedented, mouth-watering opportunity to review criticism itself. Christian Lorentzen is up to the task, so much so that he went on a road trip with A. O. Scott just to talk about it: “ ‘To the extent that there’s a polemical thrust that this book has,’ Scott told me, ‘it’s a fairly simple one: in favor of thinking. It’s against the notion that we’re just supposed to have fun. Turn off your brain and eat your popcorn. I’m offended by that. If someone is spending $200 million to make and market a movie, there’s no way you can say, “That’s just nothing.” Plus, it’s two hours of your own life, $15 of your own money, and all the dreams and emotions you bring into the theater with you. Why empty out your own experience? Why be passive about it? Why accept it on the terms that it’s given to you? The book is a plea to be more active, more engaged, and more thoughtful.’ ”
- Remember when Malcolm McLaren released an opera record? I don’t either, but Stephen Akey does, and he remains really fond of the thing: “If on the radio that day I hadn’t heard Malcolm McLaren’s gleefully debased six-minute version [of Madame Butterfly]—identified by the disc jockey as the first of six workings of Puccini on an album by McLaren called Fans—I might never have known grand opera at all … Fans survives McLaren’s brazen talentlessness because the concept animating it is so ingenious and because McLaren was smart enough to hire accomplished musicians to execute the concept … It may be that Fans is little more than a clever novelty item with classical pretensions, but I think that McLaren’s cleverness points to a profound intuition about opera, namely, that it is (or at least can be) a music of the masses.”
May 20, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
- 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.”
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:
October 29, 2010 | by Kate Waldman
When I was in second grade, I wanted to be a werewolf. I’d been raised to think that most of my goals were within reach, if I only applied myself. Also, a good friend had just upped and moved to Martha’s Vineyard, so I had time on my hands. I practiced my snarl for half an hour after school each day, baring my teeth in the bedroom mirror. At recess, I crawled under the shed, convinced I was allergic to sunlight (I’d gotten my horror myths confused). I’m not sure where my werewolf fascination came from—maybe I felt social cliques tightening around me, and monsters suggested the blurring of boundaries: between humans and animals, for instance, or earth and the underworld. More likely, though, it was about power. I longed for the thrill of being feared, of commanding fear. Not all the time, of course. Once I attained shape-shifter status, I knew I would spend the majority of my day undercover. The secret would be part of the fun: Who would suspect that, beneath my quiet facade, a supernatural fury waited to erupt? Lycanthropy was an insecure girl’s backup plan, for use as needed.
As I got older, the fantasies took a new form. I started to imagine dating werewolves. They were, unfailingly, cute guys who turned into dangerous beasts when I needed protection. One, who showed up during my Ben Folds Five phase, played rock piano and hated the suburbs. Another, an ice-hockey player, memorialized a very short-lived interest in the Washington Capitals. They melted in and out of my high-school existence at odd intervals. Feeling lonely or undesirable, I would retreat to my inner woods, where they waited: strong, loving, but also ineffably menacing. I was deliciously aware that any one of these soul mates could hurt me if he wanted to. Apparently, it was intoxicating to be scary, but being scared was even better.