Anyway, this post is going to be about my three favourite Vampire books to date – Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice, The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova and Dracula by Bram Stoker. I’ve read loads (and loads) of books dealing with vampires and these three, I can say with confidence, are the best.
Interview with the Vampire is definitely my favourite. The mixture of blood & gore and implicit eroticism is magical. Anne Rice does away with the superstitions that abound in the myth of the Vampire – no garlic, sacred water and crufixes here. Rice’s vampires are not fiends…they’re philosophical, powerful, surprisingly human and above all – beautiful. As a matter of fact, I’ve always felt that Rice’s vampire stories are not so much about vampires as they are about vampires’ love affair with all things beautiful.
The Historian is not as sensual or as beautiful, but it is quite interesting. Loads of research and hard work are evident in this book. I love the academic discussions that are to be found here (not everyone’s cup of tea) and the history of the Carpathians suddenly seems so interesting. The best thing about the book is the portrayal of Dracula or Vlad Tepes – a prince, a warrior, a psychopath and a scholar. What I didn’t like about the book is, again, the portrayal of Dracula – as a vampire who shies away at the sight of a crucifix and who can be killed by a silver bullet ( i thought that was a way to get rid of werewolves). I found these little things too pedestrian. Also, a vital question remains unanswered – how did Dracula turn into a vampire? There are hints of some great heresy carried out at a monastery in France, but nothing specific.
Dracula is the book I read most recently. I started out with a few prejudices – my dad had told me that I’d find the book ludicrous and I generally end up agreeing with him. Also, I was not sure I’d like the idea of Count Dracula, after I’d just read about Prince Dracula.
But I ended up loving the book. Stoker’s book is quite attractive in its own way. I like my vampires to look like Rice’s Louis, Lestat and Armand – eternally young, beautiful and rather like Boticelli’s angels. Stoker’s Dracula “has hair growing on the palms of his hand. His ears are long and pointed. His red eyes glare out from under thick eyebrows that meet over a knife of a nose. His red, swollen lips are flagrant against the glimmer of his face, with its extraordinary pallor, its long white mustache, its prominent teeth”. But I loved him nevertheless – he’s unabashedly evil and takes genuine pleasure in victimising poor mortals. Who wouldn’t love such fiendish honesty?
The book has some truly hair-raising moments, but surprisingly they have nothing much to do with Dracula’s blood-sucking moments. The mental patient Renfield with his hunger, literally, for ‘life’ is far scarier. And the chilling description of Jonathan Harker’s ride to Castle Dracula with slavering wolves in the gloomy forests….horrifying! And then there is the mother whose child Dracula has stolen from her ( I shudder to think what happened to the child). Harker’s simple description of the scene where the bereaved mother comes wailing to the castle , ” …I heard the voice of the Count calling in his harsh, metallic whisper. His call seemed to be answered from far and wide by the howling of wolves. Before many minutes had passed, a pack of them poured, like a pent-up dam when liberated, through the wide entrance into the courtyard.
There was no cry from the woman, and the howling of the wolves was but short. Before long they streamed away singly, licking their lips.
I could not pity her, for I knew now what had become of her child , and she was better dead.” I found this to be one of the more striking passages in the book.
Then of course, there is the sheer eroticism of Dracula and Van Helsing and his comrades’ horror of it. There’s a scene where Dracula attacks Mina Harker. In the words of Dr. Seward “…with his left hand he held both Mrs. Harker’s hands, keeping them away with her arms at full tension; his right hand gripped her by the back of her neck, forcing her face down on his bosom. Her white nightdress was smeared with blood, and a thin stream trickled down the man’s bare breast which was shown by his torn open dress.” And then there’s the time when Jonathan Harker is cornered by three blood-sucking beauties. He looks at them in “an agony of delightful anticipation” and in a “langorous ecstacy” as one of the ladies ” went down on her knees, and bent over me, simply gloating. There was a deliberate voluptuosness which was both thrilling and repulsive, and as she arched her neck she actually licked her lips like an animal, till I could see in the moonlight the moisture shining on the scarlet lips, and on the red tongue as it lapped the sharp white teeth’.
There are also moments of sly humour in the book like when Dr. Van Helsing says “…there is a terrible task before us, and once our feet are on the ploughshare we must not draw back.” Van Helsing says many such unwittingly funny things since he’s Dutch and does not have a proper grasp over the English language and its many idioms and the various diarists – Jonathan Harker, Mina Harker and Dr. Seward – record his words faithfully, hilarious or otherwise. That is another interesting thing about the book – it is written entirely in the form of diary entries, letters, telegrams and newspaper reports.
All in all, I wasn’t at all disappointed with the book, even though hair grows on the palms of Dracula’s hands.