Stoker on Stoker: Celebrating History on Bram Stoker’s Birthday

Dacre Stoker, great nephew of Bram Stoker, visiting author speaking at UNG Cumming campus.

Bram Stoker was born on November 8, 1847, in Dublin, Ireland, to a world that was dark and gothic and primed for vampires. Bram suffered from an unknown illness through his childhood, but it complemented the gothic reality of life. Ireland suffered from severe famine and illness, not just in his childhood, but his mother’s as well. She would recount the famine and illness of her own childhood to Bram since it was his favorite bedtime story. Her stories included mass graves whose inhabitants weren’t always dead.

As an adult, Stoker gained a love of the theater and the dramatism that went along with it. He was close friends with Henry Irving and managed Irving’s Lyceum Theatre in London. Bram would research dialogue and culture for the plays, to ensure they were as accurate as possible.

Dacre Stoker is Bram’s great-grandnephew. He decided to follow in his Great-Uncle’s footsteps, and spoke to UNG late September. Dacre’s research provides many clues into Bram’s mind as he wrote Dracula. Bram’s childhood experiences created a dark story, and combined with the skills from his adult career, his story seemed too real.

Dracula is an epistolary novel, meaning it’s written like a journal or diary, making the events more personal and intimate. Bram heavily incorporated current scientific discoveries, such as blood transfusions and the phonograph, and made them essential to Dracula’s defeat. Bram’s theater skills gave him the research and ability to create convincing identities for his characters, cementing the worry that Count Dracula and his undead court were real.

Meeting Dacre Stoker after he spoke at UNG Dahlonega campus.

Dracula possess such well-crafted details, and Dacre’s work helps readers see their favorite vampire in a new horrific light. Bram’ forgotten journal, written between 1871 and 1878, was discovered and published in 2013. In his presentation, Dacre showed many never-before-seen notes about Dracula. Included was an early character page. We saw the early development of Jonathan Harker and Van Helsing’s characters, but we also saw the moment of discovery where Dracula became Dracula. The Count’s description resided at the top of the page, and as Bram worked through the other characters, he found inspiration. The vampire’s previous name was struck, and “Dracula” was written across the page.

Dacre’s research led him to write Dracula’s first authorized sequel, Dracula: The Un-Dead, along with Ian Holt. The novel follows Quincey Harker, Jonathan and Mina’s son, as worry grows that Count Dracula is not truly dead.

If you get the opportunity to, we highly suggest meeting Dacre Stoker and listening to his talk. It’s a rare moment in history to see the creation of folklore, and Dacre’s hard work makes Bram’s life accessible to each vampire-fan, even if they don’t have their own fangs.

Books of Fright

Halloween has arrived, and what better way to get into the spooky spirit by reading scary books! Here are some stories that are sure to send shivers up your spine, and have you looking over your shoulder everywhere you go. Happy reading!

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow-Washington Irving

Ichabod is a teacher and choirmaster at the little town of Sleepy Hollow. When Ichabod woos a rich man’s daughter, he must lay low because Brom, who is also in love with the rich man’s daughter, is after him. When Ichabod is invited to a party, he comes across the Headless Horseman, and must flee, terrified for his life.

House of Leaves– Mark Z. Danielewski

In this maze of a book made up of unconventional format, such as unusual page layouts with some pages only containing a few words, House of Leaves tells the story of three family members: a blind old man, a young apprentice at a tattoo shop, and a crazy woman. The family faces unexplainable changes in their home, and eventually come face to face with the darkness at its core.

Ghost Stories of an Antiquary– M.R. James

This collection of eight short stories captures the suspense and horror which defines good ghost stories. The wit and erudition of these eight classics keeps the reader on their toes, and teaches them be wary of every creak in the night. After all, you can never be sure about what lurks behind you.

Dracula– Bram Stoker

Jonathan Harker, a London lawyer, travels to Transylvania to help Count Dracula purchase an estate in England. Initially impressed by Dracula’s politeness, Harker is soon wary of Dracula’s ability to communicate to wolves in his huge castle. He quickly realizes he is a prisoner in Dracula’s castle, and must find a way to survive this demonic creature of the night.

The Shining– Stephen King

Jack Torrance is hired as a caretaker at the Overlook Hotel, eager for a fresh start, and ready to reconnect with his family and work on his writing. As winter begins to set in, the Overlook Hotel grows more sinister. Danny Torrance, Jack’s five-year-old son, is the only one to notice as the hotel’s horrific past begins to consume them all.

The Tell-Tale Heart– Edgar Allen Poe

This story is told through a nameless, mysterious narrator, who does not sound half as sane as he claims. As we hear about the murder he had committed, there is a beating that grows louder and louder, echoing in the mind. It’s the still-beating heart of the victim under the floorboards, where our nameless narrator buried the dismembered body.

Coraline– Neil Gaiman

When her family moved into their new home, Coraline Jones knew things were weird. But weird doesn’t describe a mysterious door with a brick wall behind it. Weird definitely doesn’t describe the mysterious tunnel that takes its place. When Coraline goes through, she finds herself in another house, one just like her own. But this perfect world is hiding something dark and sinister, and Coraline might be too late to stop it.

A Stranger in the House– Shari Lapena

Newlyweds Karen and Tom Krupp happily live in upstate New York, but one day, Karen gets into an accident and loses her memory. When they return home, Karen notices things in the house have been moved. Nothing is quite right, and she realizes someone’s been in the house. This psychological thriller makes you doubt everything you know about your own life.

The Night Circus– Erin Morgenstern

This circus appears with no warning; no announcements or advertisements to display it, and it disappears as quickly as it comes. Only open at night, the circus tents hold amazing sights within, but the Night Circus holds a dark secret., and the performers must pay the price.

Nightmares: Poems to Trouble Your Sleep– Jack Prelutshy

Instead of bedtime stories, read a dozen horrific poems to keep you up at night. Ranging vampires to ghouls, these poems cover a variety of creepy stories that will scare even the bravest individual.

Link-N-Blogs: October 25, 2013

“Efforts and courage are not enough without purpose and direction.”–John F. Kennedy

 1) How to Write a Book in 30 Days

NaNoWriMo is coming. Nina Amir gives us her advice on how to write a book in 30 days. For all you young authors out there, be sure to check it out!

2) Christian Grey Recast

After originally loosing Charlie Hunnam for the lead actor position for “50 Shades of Grey”, the producers have hired a new, up and coming actor in Jamie Dornan. Dornan was a star in the hit TV show, “Once Upon a Time.”

3) NBC’s Dracula

Great news for vampire fans, NBC has a 10 episode limited series called Dracula. Count Dracula is about Abraham Van Helsing (Thomas Kretschmann), who is not Dracula’s vampire-hunting nemesis, as he is in Bram Stoker’s novel, but is seeking the Count’s assistance in a revenge plot that spans centuries.

4) Penguin Partners with del Toro

Publisher, Penguin, has managed to get one of the best horror directors of all time, Guillermo del Toro, to sign off on their book covers for six new books!

5) Halloween Books for Kids

Check out the selection of new, must-have books for Halloween 2013! Just because Halloween is on the 31 doesn’t mean you can’t be scared the whole month!

 “The decline of literature indicates the decline of a nation.”–Johann Wolfgang von Goethe 

Halloween Books
Halloween Books


Stories We Love to Hate

People who truly enjoy reading always have a list of books that they love for various reasons. Whether it is the way it’s written, the message, or the characters, people tend to read and re-read certain books. However the interesting fact is that people also tend to identify one book that is their least favorite. That one book you cannot stand to read and cringe at the idea of it. You might even be thinking about yours right now. The University Press posed this same question to faculty and staff of the English Department at the University of North Georgia, and here where the top picks of literary works they love to hate and why that is.

1. Bram Stoker’s Dracula (nominated by Kristin Hiler; University Press) dracula

The main reason is the organization of the story. I feel that the way the story is told, through the journals and letters of the characters, leaves it unhinged. I always felt lost while reading and found myself re-reading certain entries to try and understand how it fit together. This situation disconnected me from the characters and the storyline.

2. Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (nominated by Kimberly Martin; Writing Center)

heart of darknessWhile it is a literary classic and has many themes that are intriguing to discuss, I personally find the writing style a complete chore to deal with. Rarely do I call a book flat out “boring,” but the writing used in Heart of Darkness could easily put me to sleep. It’s a shame because the concept is great, but the writing style utterly ruins it and makes it a pain to read.

3. J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (nominated by Christopher Shull; University Press)

I cannot stand The Lord of the Rings. The plot isn’t bad at all, however the style and tone are horrendous. Tolkien should’ve stayed in Book Tolkien Hobbit LOTR Set Random Houseacademia, leaving the novel-writing to novel-writers. Yes, he deserves credit for the wonderful exercise in world-building that The Lord of the Rings is, but that doesn’t mean he has to remind us of it every other page; allowing the story to tell itself amidst that mythic and colossal backdrop would have been a much better move. If he’d wanted to share all of the wonderful background information, he should have added it in appendices or in a supplementary source, such as an encyclopedia or a book of myths, etc. Instead, he inundates his readers with all sorts of background tales that make no sense in our world.
For example, what does the tale of Beren and Lúthien, the only other human/elven pairing besides Aragorn and Arwen, add to the novel? To me, it seems like very little, especially when it’s repeated what seems like six million times. I would never argue that these myths, legends, and histories add nothing to the novel because they do allow us a peek into the characters’ psychologies. However, their addition to the novel slows down an already sluggish plot and leaves this reader dissatisfied.sister carrie

4. Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie (nominated by Dr. David Brauer; English Department)

To put it simply, the story is depressing and the writing is tedious and drab.

5.  William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (nominated by Melody Boggs; Writing Center)

romeoI’m often able to find something of merit in any literature I read, but one I just cannot reconcile with myself is Romeo and Juliet. It’s a shame, because I’ve loved everything else of Shakespeare I’ve read. However, I cannot quite suspend my disbelief enough to actually accept what’s going on in this play. Maybe if the two main characters were actually older and not teenagers–Juliet being thirteen and Romeo being an unspecified age but estimated to be in his late teens–I would be able to accept it better. Am I putting an age on love? Yes, I suppose I am, since most teens do not have the proper judgment to deal with love, especially not Romeo and Juliet. Their relationship was more lust than love, which makes the whole thing seem even more outrageous. As it is, the actions the characters commit in the play are too overblown and, dare I say, overdramatic, even for a work of drama. The whole thing was just one big mistake.

6. Henry James’ Portrait of a Lady (nominated by Corin McDonald; University Press)

portrait of a ladyAny redeeming qualities to be found in this book are drowned out by countless pages of narrator dialogue, idle chatter between characters, and uninteresting plot points. Long, rambling descriptions give vague impressions of characters and places, giving the idea that the author himself couldn’t decide how to describe them. It involves no real central conflict; the few plot points that can be seen throughout the work are all alike, and even from the start fail to capture any interest.
Quite simply, there is a lack of interesting plot and character. And given the length and the sheer quantity of idle chatter and dialogue that one must drag themselves through in order to get through the book, it takes the crown as the most horrifyingly mind-numbing piece of literature that I’ve ever had to read for class.

7. Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow (nominated by Dr. Tanya Bennett; English Department) gravity's rainbow

I want some semblance of coherence in a novel, and this just did not have any. I could not follow along with the story as it progressed. While I want to give it the benefit of being a great piece of literature, I personally did not like it. Call me lowbrow if you will!

8. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter (nominated by Amy Sprague; Library Technology Center)

the scarlet letterI find this novel boring, stuffy, and it has no relevance today’s time. I like to have a connection with the stories that I read, but I cannot relate to this one. No matter how much Easy A tries to make it relatable; it just isn’t.

9.  Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird (nominated by Toni Guest; University Press)

While I do not mind the subject of slavery being discussed, I cannot get past the action of the main charactersmockingbird—especially Atticus Finch. In order to save Boo Radley he must sacrifice his own son? Really? As I read through this story I found myself forcing each page turn until I finished the novel. By the end I thought “Well that was a waste.” I do not see this novel as great or as literature, I just don’t. However I could read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which discusses the same subject, over and over again.

10. T.S. Elliot’s “The Waste Land” (nominated by Hannah Bridgeman; Writing Center)

TS-Eliot-The-Waste-LandThis poem is a highly praised work of literature, and though I love reading literature, I absolutely despise it. Why? “The Waste Land” is so full of obscure references and allusions that unless you have studied exactly what Eliot and his contemporaries did you’ll be completely lost and confused, which to me makes this invalid as literature. Although the book has a very loose theme overall, the individual parts seem so disconnected that you have no idea what’s going on as you read.

11. Herman Melville’s “Bartleby, The Scrivener” (nominated by April Loebick; University Press) bartleby

After reading it in high school, I vowed never again. In college, I planned my entire semesters around skipping the day that this short story was going to be discussed in class. I find it painfully dull–literally! I get twitchy, restless, and irritable when I try to read it. So when it comes to reading Bartleby, “I would prefer not to.”

12. Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace (nominated by Dr. Linda Williams; English Department)

war and peaceThere are few books I dislike, but I definitely do not remember with fondness the parts of War and Peace that I read.  Because I had placed it on my “bucket list,” I bought a paperback copy of the text about two years ago and dived eagerly into its contents.  I was not daunted by the 1200 pages the book includes—I expected to savor every single page because this novel is a “great classic,” right?  With a copy of the oh-so-scholarly Spark Notes for the novel close by, I began reading and reading and reading.  Before long, I realized I was spending an inordinate amount of time trying to figure out which character was saying what, or which character was doing what, or which character was going from one unfamiliar destination to another.  After all, many of the characters have more names and titles than any rational reader should have to keep straight.  My state of mind was not improved by the fact that the plot of this novel has much more to do with War than Peace.  My frustration increased to the point that I was at War with this novel much more often than at Peace.   One day when I simply could take it no more, I closed this “classic” for the last time. Finally, I was at Peace again!

You may agree or disagree with some of the selections and opinions of our faculty and staff, but I am sure there are some works that you personally dislike. Please comment below and tell us what your least favorite literary novel is and why.

*Images courtesy of Penguin Publishing USA and Random House Publishing

Toni Guest