Thursday, March 12, 2009

Non-Human Knowledge in Bram Stoker's Dracula :

This is a book one has to revisit once in a while. Finally it dawned on me that Dracula scares us because the fiend knows something we don't. Non-human knowledge.

Bram Stoker's Dracula is one of the scariest books ever written. The reasons for its perennial appeal are basically two: (1) the vampire theme in which the supernatural is thrown into the natural world (2) Writing techniques: use of Absolutes.

At one point he says, "There are far worse things awaiting than death." Ah, what could that be? The only exploration of the other shore, comparable to Dracula, is Marciano Guerrero's Poison Pill in which the Vampire Donato Sabellius tempts the hero Ivon Bates with "knowledge," just as the serpent tempted Adam and Eve, or Calypso Ulyses.

Stephen King--the unsurpassed master of horror--on the other hand, terrifies us with human knowledge. Sins. Transgressions. Cruelty. King, with adroit prose and even voice, knows that fear is a visceral emotion--primal and vestigial.

Yet, what always puts a chill in my heart and mind is the lingering question: what worse things did Dracula refer to? What does Donato Sabellius know that we don't?

Because the novel Dracula does raise questions rather answer them, it will go on delighting readers for many generations. And what a treat it is! The author doesn't spare a single rhetorical figure to touch the reader's central nervous system where horror resides. In some scenes, the narrating voice employs the 'Nominative Absolute' to add the sensation of simultaneity.

While we think that Hemingway was the inventor of the Absolute, Stoker was way ahead of him. Hemingway abused the technique, Bram Stoker was measured and sober in his use of it. Mary Duffy's e-book has an entire chapter of this technique.

Though we, humans, instinctively seek beauty in what we read, we find it in Dracula, not in the theme or the plot, but in the composition itself, since it is beautifully written. Readers and writers who are serious about literature will find plenty of material that tingles the spine--and that is what literature accomplishes.

What makes Dracula a beautiful piece of work? There's only one answer: it is well balanced, it is harmonious, and its sentences sparkle with a radiance that is short of wondrous.

The writing techniques I employ in this article are all explained in Mary Duffy's writing manual:

Mary Duffy's Writing Guide



Augustine, City of God
Austen J, Pride and Prejudice
Austen J, "Marriage Proposals and Me"
Austen J, Emma
Borges, The Aleph
C. Bronte, Jane Eyre
Burroughs E,Tarzan
Cervantes, Don Quijote
Chaucer, Wife of Bath
Coelho P,The Alchemist
Coyle H, They Are Soldiers
Dante, New Life
Dickens C, David Copperfield
Dostoevsky, Crime&Punishment
ConanDoyle,Hound of Baskervilles
Dubner S, Superfreakonomics

DuMaurier D, Rebecca
Ellis B. E. American Psycho
Fitzgerald S, Great Gatsby
Flaubert G, Madame Bovary
Fleming I,Doctor No
Freud S, Leonardo Da Vinci
Friedan B, Feminine Mystique
GarciaMarquez, Of Love & OtherDemons
GarciaMarquez,OneHundredYrs
Guerrero M,ThePoison Pill

Grass G, The Tin Drum
Harris T, Hannibal Rising
Heidegger M,House of Being
Ishiguro K, Remains of The Day
Johnson S,Rasselas
Kafka,Metamorphosis
Kosinski J, The Painted Bird
Lee H,To Kill a Mockingbird
McBain Ed,Gutter and Grave
Murakami H,Wind-Up Bird Chronicle
Nabokov V, Lolita
Meyer, S, Twilight
Ortega,Dehumanization of Art
Poe E A, Gordon Pym
Prose F, Reading Like a Writer
Rushdie S,Midnight Children
Sabatini R, Scaramouche
Spark M, Prime of Miss Brodie

Stendhal, Red and Black
Sterne L,Tristram Shandy
Stevenson R, Dr.Jekyll & Mr.Hyde
Stoker B, Dracula
Thackeray W,History of Pendennis
Tolstoy L, Anna Karenina
Trollope A, Autobiography
Unamuno M, Tragic Sense of Life
Voltaire, Candide
Webb J, Fields of Fire
Wharton E, The House of Mirth
Woolf V, To The Lighhouse


The secrets of 'no-doze' prose:
Mary Duffy's Sentence Openers



Lindsey Vonn after winning the Downhill World ...
Image via Wikipedia

Lindsey Vonn


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