Friday, August 06, 2010

Vampires, vampires everywhere and not a drop of blood to drink..

The vampiremania is just too much for me to handle. Firstly, I have to say I am a vampire fan. Back in late 90’s, I was right there with Anne Rice and LeStat, the lean rockin’ vampire. I was a vampire for Halloween my senior year of college. I loved Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” and craved prequels and sequels to the classic story. I tried to fall for Keanu as Jonathan Harker and Tom Cruise as LeStat, but I prefer my men real and vampires literary.

Secondly, I must state that I have not fallen victim to the current wild trend of vampire stories. Haven’t read “Twilight” and feel less inclined to do so after seeing the movie. I've wanted to get engaged with "True Blood", but I missed the beginning and now I believe it might be difficult to join midstream.

My real problem with the cinematic vampires is the whole blood thing since I'm not into gore. Somehow it's easier to accept reading a vampire saying "I have to feed" than actually watching him feed and come back all bloody or hanging over a dead body. That was the cool thing about Rice's vampires - some were happy with small animals.

With so many choices these days, I decided not to make a choice. I pulled "Dracula" off my shelf and decided to reread. I had read this years ago, some time after college. I had read "Frankenstein" for a number of English lit classes and loved it. Shelley's book is a beautiful story about relationships, responsibilities, desires and emptiness. There are underlying themes of parenting. So, when I landed upon Bram Stoker's book, I simply figured it'd be similar. Sure, why not?

Well once I started reading this, I was quite surprised! What the bloody hell -- people are dying? Ok, I'm really creeped out by this vampire that changes forms and climbs the walls outside window. I was genuinely surprised by the fear evoked by this story.

When I read this again, I had to laugh at my notes in the margins, which were obviously leftover from my English major days. For example, there is a scene where a female vampire kidnaps a child and laughs wickedly and luredly at Jonathan. I wrote "antithesis of motherhood... excessive sexuality is animal.." (Oh wow.. I totally missed that link.. glad I wrote that note! Didn't realize I was so astute!)

Stoker's "Dracula" is one of my favorite books for its use of narrative. Every chapter is either a diary or a letter of sorts. It did seem funny that Lucy had the blood sucked out of her, yet she managed to scribble her encounter on paper.

Nonetheless, the feminist themes in this book are quite evident. I loved how the men remarked that Mina was a woman with a man's brain. She's probably the most practical person in the mix, and rather than a straight forward compliment, it has to be in context with her gender. Sexual politics and desires are also evident in this book (e.g., women are proper ladies, until they are defiled by the vampire and become sexually aggressive).I don't want to turn this blog into one of my old term papers from 19th century English lit. But there's definitely lots of material in this book.

By the way, I also found the xenophobia intriguing. Dracula is from Translyvania creeping into English society. On the other hand, Quincy & Van Helsing are American and Dutch, respectively. Van Helsing's "foreignness" is important because he has knowledge of other cultures and practices.
The most exciting part of reading "Dracula" is remembering this is where it began. In 1897, the idea of an un-dead man sleeping in a coffin was new.  Today, it seems obvious to us that is where all vampires are found. All the traits of a vampire - lack of reflection, fear of sunlight, the elongated canine teeth - are identified in this book. I don't know if Stoker took these from folklore or took artistic license to invent them.

Of course, vampyric folklore has always been around. There was evidence of vampire stories circulating in the regions. Theyv've even discovered vampires in Indian folktales. What ties these together is the innate human fear of the dead stealing life from the living. There is the fear of untimely death. This fear embeds itself into different cultures.

What I find fascinating about my interest in vampires is that I don't believe in them. I don't read ghost stories or alien encounters because I do believe in them. With vampires, it's so far off that it's unfathomable. Hence, it feeds my imagination even more. If I were to write a vampire story, I know the first task is to create "rules of engagement."


Unknown said...

Very nice article. I don't believe that Bram Stoker would recognized the modern vampire characters. The scariest vampire movie that I remember seeing is the made for tv movie, Stephen King's "Salem's Lot". Of course, I saw it when I was only around 11 or 12- so the vampires were pretty scary to me then. :)

J.Doe said...

Great to see you posting again.
I'm with you, vampire feedings are so much easier to read about in a fiction novel then to see on TV.