Recently I decided to reread both Dracula and Frankenstein. I first tackled them in my early twenties – a long time ago. Now they both seemed unfamiliar.
I think that's because when I was twenty I was both depressed and impatient. I did not recognize large chunks of both books. In the case of Dracula that must be because the seductions were too slow and the activity too long coming. With Frankenstein the reason must have been because Mary Shelley was even more depressed when she wrote the book than I was when I read it.
It's time to confess that I skipped a lot.
This time I didn't skip a single sentence. This time I really appreciated the slow pace of Dracula. We seem to have lost the art of the long, teasing seduction in literature. But what startled me was Bram Stoker's description of the Count as ugly and grotesque. These days I'm so accustomed to vampires being sexy high school kids with pain and love in their hearts. It's so much more interesting to read about how mesmerising the ugly old Count is than to witness the banal sight of beautiful people falling in and out of lust.
Mary Shelley, however, is still a source of great heartache – not surprising when you consider her life. Then too, she was doing something a lot more complicated than Bram Stoker. She was inventing a whole new genre: science fiction. She was looking at the consequences of man playing God, and she saw it in terms of a child being utterly rejected by a father. How could she not? But consider how many synonyms she brought to bear on words like 'grief' and 'pain'. The woman was a Thesaurus.
Both books are hard going for a modern reader, but worth the effort.