I always had a tender spot in my heart for Sesame Street’s Count von Count. He had his organ and a mysterious castle, and mysterious music. I love Toccata and Fugue to this day. (My dad can play it on the organ and it sounds so cool!). The Count was just plain cool.
Now that I’ve experienced the story of the original Count (Count Dracula), I have to wonder why Sesame Street wants to align themselves with such a morbid creature. I’d never read a vampire story before (of any kind), and I have to say, I really don’t think they are for me. There’s something about the dripping blood. While at first I was excited for an adventure story, by the end I was a bit disgusted by the bloody concepts. (I didn’t include a cover picture here because they all look disgusting.)
I was glad when Dracula by Bram Stoker had finally ended.
Part of my problem was an amateur narration via Librivox.org. It was just bad. I believe that a compelling story with well written characters and setting, or at least good writing, can stand out, even when it is narrated on audio by amateurs. In places, I felt Bram Stoker succeeded in writing with each of those. I just didn’t feel he did them all at the same time ever.
Is it unfair to judge this book by the narration? Yes. Maybe someday I’ll read the book too. But I’m observing my experience with Bram Stoker’s words as narrated by amateurs, and there was little in this experience that compelled me. I think it was more than the poor narration; I just don’t think vampire stories are for me. I found Dracula to be overly dramatic and morbid for my tastes.
I was very excited in the beginning. When Count Dracula welcomed Jonathon Harker to his home, I thought, “This is going to be good!” It remained “good” in my mind until the narration changed (until the end of chapter 5 of 27 chapters).
As was The Woman in White (which I read recently), Dracula is told in an epistolary manner. Some chapters have memorandums, some have journal entries, some have letters. But unlike Collins’ tale, Dracula’s various narrators all sounded the same. None of them had a distinct narration style (except Dr. Van Helsing, who wrote with uneven broken English), so when it switched from a woman to a man it all just sounded like Bram Stoker to me!
There were lots of comparisons in my mind to The Woman in White. In some senses, the black, bat-like Dracula himself (the image of the devil) was a foil to the white-clad innocent lady in Collins’ tale. Yet, Dracula, as a vampire tale, was so ridiculous to me that even now I struggle to put in to words the ultimate point of it. Dr. Van Helsing had a penchant for long speeches about right and wrong: I suspect I was supposed to come away from Dracula with a sense of pride in the fact that these people were able to do right.
Throughout the novel, there was a degree of confusion between what was chosen and what was forced. “The devil made me do it” often seemed a liable excuse! And yet, the ridiculous tale, the bloody “adventure” scenes, and the gothic settings made it seem overly dramatic.
It wasn’t even suspenseful to me, since I knew Dracula was a vampire. From the beginning, I knew what had to happen in the end. It felt tedious to me because it took forever to get there.
Someone is going to tell me that my poor audio narration “ruined” a wonderful book. I agree that my amateur narration made this worse: Dracula, for me, would have been better skimmed quickly. (I read the last chapter on Project Gutenberg because I was so eager to be done, and it was much less painful that way.) But I’m sure that those who love this story also like Edgar Allan Poe, horror stories in general, and dripping, bloody vampire tales. I don’t even like Halloween, so I’m sorry to say that this book probably would not have been a favorite for me, even if I skimmed it quickly.
These, however, are simply my impressions after listening to Dracula once. For a more professional assessment of why Dracula is worth reading, note Michael Dirda’s analysis in Classics for Pleasure (which I read after I wrote the majority of this post):
Dracula is … among the scariest books ever written. … The first third of the book could hardly be better in its carefully designed journey into fear, one that starts quietly and gradually ratchets up the tension. … Stoker modeled his novel after Wilkie Collins’s The Woman in White, unfolding its tense narrative through letters and journals. This allows him to build suspense to a braking point, then suddenly change key, forcing the reader to squirm with apprehension. …
Today more than ever, Dracula seems a text built, if only half consciously, on sexual anxieties. …[O]ur fear of the vampire lies in his seductiveness. He threatens our values, our public socialized selves; he tempts us from the path of salvation.” (excerpts from pages 196-198, Classics for Pleasure)
So you, like Michael Dirda, may like Dracula more than I did. For me, there was nothing likeable about the devilish vampire, and the people fighting to save the world from his undead influence were flat, boring, and overly dramatic.
I suspect that I’ll stay away from vampire tales for the foreseeable future, but maybe Dracula is for you.
Now, I return to my question: why on earth does Sesame Street include a Dracula figure in their line up?!
If you have reviewed Dracula on your site, leave a link in the comments and I’ll add it here. Since I didn’t enjoy it, I’ve included as many reviews as I could find so you can find someone who did enjoy it!
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