strange_complex: (Dracula Risen hearse smile)
Back in November, I pondered the question of why Dracula invites Jonathan Harker to his castle in the 1958 Hammer film, and concluded that it was because he is a bookish sort who genuinely wants his library put in order (i.e. Dracula does not simply lure Jonathan there with the intention of killing him). In comments on that post, both [livejournal.com profile] matgb and [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan drew my attention to the existence of The Historian, in which a rather different Dracula likewise lures a series of librarians and / or historians into his clutches for the same purpose. Not long afterwards, [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan, Dracula-enabler that she is, found me a copy in a local charity shop, and I got stuck in.

Between them, [livejournal.com profile] matgb and [livejournal.com profile] ms_siobhan used words like 'dull', 'dry' and 'ponderous' to describe it, but while it is certainly slow-moving, and has various other flaws which I shall cover below, on the whole I absolutely loved it. Though set in the 20th century, it is basically about modern characters slowly working out that the historical Vlad III Draculea not only survived his own death and became a vampire, but is also an active threat to them in the present day. I am increasingly finding the historical Dracula almost as fascinating as the Hammer Dracula - and Hammer do, thankfully, provide just enough of a thread to link the two together in the first film, via Van Helsing's single line, "Records show that Count Dracula could be five or six hundred years old."1 So naturally the story of how the one became the other then becomes of great interest, and this book seemed to me a very compelling and impressively historically-grounded take on that story. (Another rather more fantastical and action-oriented take on the story hits cinemas in October.)

That's not to say it's perfect. It takes a long time to get going, and a lot of the early material in particular is basically gratuitous scenery porn )

A few other things could have been tightened up a bit, too )

Anyway, I have criticised a lot, but that's because this book was so close to being really incredible that its flaws are frustrating. So let's move on to some of the things I liked about it.

One was the meta-fiction )

Another thing I liked were the inter-texts )

And then there is the portrayal of Dracula himself - a topic which becomes rather spoilery )

Oh well, he was good while he lasted. And meanwhile some interesting ideas are left tantalisingly-unresolved for ongoing musing. In particular, the precise nature of the relationship between the daughter who is the main narrator and Dracula, which also can't be discussed without spoilers )


1. Obviously, so does Stoker in his novel, which is nice, but the Hammer films are the primary canon to me, even though I'm well aware that that is rather unfair, given that Stoker created Dracula-the-vampire in the first place. I guess as a Classicist I am just comfortable with the idea that the first version of a story doesn't necessarily need to be viewed as the definitive one, and while Stoker's novel is certainly extremely good, I just prefer the Hammer films for all sorts of reasons - and saw them before I read the novel anyway, so that they did come first for me.

Click here if you would like view this entry in light text on a dark background.

Excess baggage

Thursday, 14 August 2008 11:37
strange_complex: (Leeds Parkinson building)
About a year ago, the University library here at Leeds started selling coloured canvas bags with the word 'Sshhh!' printed on them, for people to carry their library books around in. For the sorts of unfathomable reasons that I suppose usually lie behind such fashion trends, they became a massive hit, quickly selling out and having to be re-ordered in vast numbers. It's unusual to walk across campus without seeing about twenty of them, hanging from people's hands, sitting on desks or lying on the grass in the (rare) sunshine.

Now, the library have set up a website which is charting the travels of these bags across the world as people take them on their summer holidays. They've got to Japan, Finland, the Cayman islands and sub-Saharan Africa. As yet, however, none seem to have been photographed in Belfast, Vienna or Bratislava - all cities which I will be visiting in late August and early September. So today I am going to buy one (in purple, natch), and be sure to photograph it in distinctive local venues when I go.

I am, incidentally, massively behind with LJ, because I have spent far too much time recently doing interesting things or having guests round, and far too little writing about it. Probably the right way to lean, really, but it does mean I won't then have records of the interesting things in the future. So this is me trying to break the ice and get back into the habit.

strange_complex: (Lee as M.R. James)
You've probably heard about this on the news already, but the government is planning to cut the budget of the British Library by up to 7%. The library is saying that the only way it can survive if this happens is to dramatically reduce its opening hours, and charge fees to use its reading rooms.

In other words, the nation's greatest and most comprehensive repository of printed information could be changed from a freely accessible resource into one which is only available to those with the wealth to pay its entrance fees and the flexibility to attend during limited opening hours. Personally, I feel very strongly that this should not be allowed to happen.

Thankfully, over 6000 people so far have shown that they feel the same way by signing a petition on the new Downing Street petitions website to protest against this. If you'd like to join them, the link is here. (But only UK residents and ex-pat citizens can sign up, I'm afraid).

Edit: or, as [livejournal.com profile] sushidog advises, go to Write To Them to send an email about it directly to your local MP. It only takes a minute or two, and you don't even have to know who they are - just where you live.
strange_complex: (Penny Farthing)
Nothing spectacular - just one of those days that you feel good about at the end of it. So far, it has gone like this:

Morning - made good progress with chapter four. Finished the process, started yesterday, of collapsing the first 3000 words of it into 2000 better words. If things continue at this rate, of both speed and reduction, I've a good chance of finishing according to my current schedule (i.e. by April 18th).

Lunch - ate microwaved remains of last night's Taste the Difference goat's cheese and red pepper pizza. Yummy.

2pm - met [livejournal.com profile] stompyboots for coffee. Chatted about Leeds (which for some reason I kept calling 'Liverpool'), book, laptops and her current crush. It felt like a high-quality, well-deserved break after a productive morning - rah!

3pm - headed for the library. Continued to be happily productive. Tracked down useful and interesting references easily and efficiently. Left feeling I'd made significant progress.

5pm - bought tasty things at Sainsbury's and took them home.

And now, [livejournal.com profile] davesangel will be arriving shortly to stay over for the night! I haven't seen her since December, and am really looking forward to spend the evening eating some of the tasty food I bought earlier and chatting together.

So, in short - hooray!

Profile

strange_complex: (Default)
strange_complex

October 2017

M T W T F S S
      1
2345678
910111213 14 15
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031     

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Tags

Style Credit

Expand Cut Tags

No cut tags
Page generated Wednesday, 18 October 2017 00:05
Powered by Dreamwidth Studios