There are two authors I would gleefully meet for dinner if Doc Brown were kind enough to offer me a lift, after he drops off Marty, of course. They are Bram Stoker and Arthur Conan Doyle. Failing that, I will gladly meet any one of their descendants, which is what I am going to have the honor of tonight at Ames Hall in Salem, Massachusetts.
Brainy is the new sexy, but for now, I won’t elaborate so much on Doyle as this post is an almost review of Bram Stoker’s most popular work.
I don’t know how revolutionary Dracula was for the time. Vampires certainly weren’t Bram Stoker’s invention, but he could be credited for bringing the vampire into the 19th and 20th centuries. For the most part, however, it is not the vampire that made me fall in love with the book.
Although the book borrows from history, it doesn’t quite qualify as historical fiction, since the titular character was more of an amalgamation of the misconceptions of the day. Although the Impaler was certainly known for his quirks, I have no doubt that much of what we think we know about him is as fabricated as what the general world thinks it knows about the Salem Witch Trials. And when you consider how much longer and more pervasive the sensationalized accounts of an event as opposed to the reality, it’s not such a stretch to believe that Stoker took some creative liberties with the facts, as any author can be expected to do.
What I love most about Dracula is the fact that this is a story written and set in the late 19th century. As such, things like the electric lamp, the recording phonograph, and the general feelings of British citizens after the Civil War are being presented to us from someone who actually lived in this time. This isn’t some late 20th century author projecting modern viewpoints onto the past.
Dracula provides contemporary readers with a genuine look into a century that may as well be as different to us as the 18th would have been to people in the 19th. So the idea of Mina Murray, trying to strengthen her skill set so that she can be readily useful to her future husband, Jonathan Harker, makes me wonder at the educational pursuits of women in the 19th century and how progressively minded the author must have been to want such a strong female character in the ensemble of his final work.
There’s a bit of an etiquette for tonight. I decided on it when I first got the chance to meet the descendant of Charles Dickens, who was in Salem for his book signing at Wicked Good Books. I did not get to actually meet the author at the bookstore, but I was fortunate enough to run into him at the signal light, just across the street from the Hawthorne Hotel. Not one to stick my nose up at Serendipity, I asked the man if I could shake his hand, and I told him it was a pleasure to get to see him. But I did not press him for further questions, as he was on his way back to his hotel room, and all of my questions would have been about his ancestor. Even if the book he was promoting was about Charles Dickens, I felt it would be disrespectful to treat the man as if he was not his own individual with his own accomplishments.
Similarly, I respect Dacre Stoker as his own man. Even though he is here to talk about his ancestor, I will endeavor to leave him with a positive impression of his visit to Salem. So that means I will also be unlikely to get a picture of him, with the intent of boosting traffic to my blog, as I just don’t want that kind of karma looming over me this early in the stages of my career as an author.