November 6, 2008

Dracula by Bram Stoker

I just read Dracula for, I think, the fifth time - could be the sixth, I'm not sure, so it goes without saying that this is one of my favorite books. In fact, Dracula has become a sort of friend, a book that gets better with every reading, disproving the old adage that familiarity breeds contempt. It's my number one choice for comfort reading - the literary equivalent of a blanket and tea on a rainy day (which may be why I tend to read it in the fall, just when the seasons are turning). So, instead of writing a review that I'm too biased and unqualified to write, I'm going to use this post to plug a three editions that I've especially enjoyed, and one that I would very much like to. 

1. For anyone who has already read Dracula and wants to do it again, I recommend The Essential Dracula edited by Leonard Wolf. This edition is the one I just finished, and while I think that the footnotes would most likely distract a first-time reader, the inclusion of so much scholarship was fun for me. Wolf's introduction is informative without being too stuffy (as are most of his copious footnotes). The other thing I like about this edition is that it includes the deleted first chapter of Stoker's text, now called "Dracula's Guest," which implies certain things about the origins of Dracula's famous brides. 

All of this said, the first time you read Dracula, it really should be to get lost in the story, which remains charming, funny, tragic and suspenseful, even after a century. So, onto the next edition.

2. Dracula by Bram Stoker, published by Modern Library Classics. This is a great, basic, 
trade paper edition. Peter Straub's introduction is informative without being distracting, the text is nice and big, and the appendices are both relevant and interesting if you happen to like appendices, which I do. Also, included in one of the appendices (which I thought was just cool), is the alternate ending that Stoker didn't use - hours of fun for comparative purposes and lit. geeks everywhere.

3. For those of a more visual frame of mind, it gives me great pleasure to recommend the Barnes and Noble edition of Dracula illustrated by Edward Gorey. While every page does not have a picture, this edition is peppered with them - not to the point of distraction, but just enough to charm. This edition also includes "Dracula's Guest" and a lucid introduction by Marvin Kaye. The appendices, also compiled by Kaye, include a brief "Sampling of Contemporaneous Opinion," and a nice snippet of biography on Stoker, who was a pretty interesting character himself.

4. Lastly, the edition that I haven't read yet, but want to: The New Annotated Dracula, edited by Leslie Klinger, with introduction by Neil Gaiman. Just released in October of this year, The New Annotated Dracula is the newest addition to Norton's "Annotated" series, which has proved to be pretty excellent across the board. The series has, so far, included The Annotated Brother's Grimm, The Annotated Classic Fairy Tales, and The Annotated Alice among others. But what makes The New Annotated Dracula so exciting is Leslie Klinger's involvement (although Neil Gaiman is neat). Klinger worked for years on The Annotated Sherlock Holmes, which James gave me for my birthday, and which is also FABULOUS. I can only say that the prospect of reading Klinger's annotations and scholarship in conjunction with Stoker's text is a very happy one for me.

So there you have it. Four editions of Dracula just waiting to be picked up. Actually, there are probably over five hundred editions out there by now, so there's no excuse - go out there and get one and enjoy it to pieces, hopefully more than once.


JimDesu said...

My wife is such a geek! :o)

I just re-read it too, and it's much better than I remembered it.

Annamaria said...

Mmmm, annotated editions. ::sigh:: There goes my book budget for this year AND the next, methinks...
Yep, I was pleasantly surprised about just how much better Stoker's Dracula was than I remembered, too, James...

Madeleine said...

I am *totally* a geek - I love annotated everythings :-)