Back in the Dark Ages, when I decided to go to college, I thought, since I loved to read and write. That I would be an English major. That meant I could read and write to my heart’s content and get paid for it. Oh, the fallacies of youth!
I’m sure, somewhere along the way, if I had taken a different path (like actually become an English teacher like I had originally planned) I would be getting paid to read and write. Maybe in a parallel universe, this is happening to a parallel version of me.
But I digress. All of this is to say, that yes, I have read Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In fact, I took an entire course in college that covered film and classic fiction. So we read Jane Eyre, Great Expectations, Dracula and Frankenstein. After we read each book, we watched one of the movie adaptations. So, we watched Kenneth Branagh’s Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Francis Ford Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the version of Great Expectations with Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow and some version of Jane Eyre that I don’t recall because I hated Jane Eyre.
Three Things I Learned From Reading the Classics
- I hate Dickens. I was force fed Great Expectations in 10th grade. By force fed, I mean, we had to read it silently to ourselves, take regular quizzes and in the end, watched a wonderful black and white adaptation with a delightfully CRAZY Ms. Haversham. I didn’t get the story. I hated reading every minute of it. And when I encountered it in college, I still hated it even with the added point of being able to discuss it with people who “got it.”
- I thought, perhaps, my hatred for Great Expectations came from only having encountered it in an educational setting. I thought, perhaps, when SYNC offered it a year or so ago, I would give it another run, because maybe hearing it would afford me some greater understanding.
Yeah, nope, didn’t work. I still found Pip annoying (maybe even MORE annoying because of the narrator) and Joe as dumb as a bag of rocks. Sorry, Dickens, no dice. Three strikes you’re out.
Yes, I came out of that course loving Frankenstein (that movie adaptation with Kenneth is weird) and Dracula. In fact, at the end of the course, we had to write a long-ish paper about one of the books and tie it to the movie adaptation we had watched. So, I picked Dracula because I love Anthony Hopkins and Gary Oldman (Have you seen Gary in Immortal Beloved? Damn, that movie is one of my favorites. Love me some Beethoven.). Plus, at the time, I thought Keanu Reeves was a pretty good actor. (Watching as many movies as books I read in a year changed my opinion on that one.) I wrote about the color red and the religious imagery. I don’t remember what grade I got on the paper, but I remember loving Dracula.
Oh, Dracula How I Love Thee…
How much did I love Bram Stoker’s Dracula? Well, while on a business trip in 2010, I finished to book I was reading on the plane and was left scrambling for a book to read at one of the dreadfully small airport bookstores. I needed something to read on the flight home. So I grabbed Dracula the Undead by Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt. What sold me? Dacre is apparently a descendant of Bram and Holt is a Dracula historian. It had to be good.
Nope, it wasn’t, it was horrible. Here’s my review.
I picked up this book on a whim because I was stuck in an airport nearly done with the novel I had brought with me and the thought of a sequel to Dracula, which I read in college, was intriguing.
After about 10 or 15 chapters I was so confused about what happened in the original novel, that I actually dug out my copy of Dracula and re-read it before continuing with Dracula The Un-Dead. Perhaps that was a mistake because after finishing B. Stoker’s original novel and picking up the sequel brought to light all the plots points and characters that were changed from the original novel. I found it amazing that the entire plot line of the original novel was shifted to get D. Stoker/Holt’s plot to fit within the timeframe of the Ripper murders and the launching of a famous ship. I was also floored by one revelation at the end of the novel, which I don’t think is even possible whether you believe vampires could exist or not. It also made me flashback to Stephanie Meyer’s last Twilight novel, Breaking Dawn.
I’ve read other novels that alter or make you look at classic fiction in a new light that I have really enjoyed. This was not the case with Dracula the Un-Dead. My advice, stick with the original and if you want modern vampire fiction, check out Anne Rice, Charlaine Harris or Elisabeth Kostova’s The Historian.
That’s right, folks, I went through boxes of my old college texts, grabbed some Cliff Notes or Spark Notes and re-read Dracula on my own. That’s how much I love the original text. It’s pretty amazing that I did that, looking back to that review in 2010. I pretty much stay away from Classic works of literature because they are somewhat boring and dense in their original form. But I guess, as was the case in 2010, sometimes the original form is the best form.
So. how about you? Which Classic stories have you read? Have you seen any movie adaptations? Which books and movie adaptations of those books did you like best?