I do it too.
I buy “classic” books in lovely hardcover editions from the sale racks at Chapters and tell myself that I will read all of them because they are cited as part of the English language canon. I have Wuthering Heights, Oliver Twist, and Vanity Fair all sitting beautifully untouched on my shelf, all of them probably wondering why I bothered to bring them home since they never qualify as a “priority read.”
I know that, as an English major, I should want to read the old standards. But I also remember my experiences with having Ulysses crammed down my throat in all its bitter, post-modern nastiness, and I remember that most of the basis of modern English literature is pretty unpalatable. Many of the pieces are important and I value the contribution that their neurotic, alcoholic authors made; I just don’t have the patience to read them.
“A classic is something that everybody wants to have read and nobody wants to read.”
However, I was feeling a bit guilty about all the money I have spent on unread books over the years, so I broke down and dusted off a lovely little hardcover edition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula that has been eying my hungrily lately. I was always a huge fan of Coppola’s version of the film (especially Gary Oldman’s insane “Old Dracula” hairdo that looked like nothing more than a pair of breasts), so I figured I couldn’t do to badly with the original text.
120 pages in, I have come to a rather unstartling conclusion:
Old vampires are way cooler than new ones.
(I’m even going to include Anne Rice’s brooding, homoerotic creations in the term “new” here, right alongside Twilight’s angsty, teenage whine-bags. Much as I enjoyed the adventures of Louis and Lestat, Dracula would kick their pasty butts in an undead brawl any night of the week.)
There is something strangely refreshing to read about a vampire that lives in a big, dark, abandoned castle along with a crew of gypsy bodyguards and a harem of succubae. I like how he calls wolves to him to rip people apart instead of forming lame-ass love triangles with them and dysfunctional teenage girls. He makes no qualms about eating babies or hunting down vagrants. He plots to invade foreign cities and wreak havoc. He associates with lawyers. He does all things that a good Victorian villain should be doing.
Stoker drifts between numerous viewpoints, hitching the story to series of journals, correspondences, and notebooks, telling the story as if it had come from the collected memories of a real event. It feels authentic and dark and creepy. It draws you in. I look forward to being creeped-out by him when I get a chance to sit down at night, curled up on a chair by the light of a single lamp.
That’s why this vampire is so much better than all of the ones that came after him: Dracula scares me.