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I'm just gonna keep celebrating Halloween
dracula gilbert
Okay, so. I have talked about Dracula a number of times; I read it in middle school (with big glossy Greg Hildebrandt illustrations, no less) and wasn't ever quite the same afterwards, really enjoyed Leslie Klinger's annotated edition, so on and so forth. Short version: Actors reading Dracula on BBC Radio Ulster. The first four installments (fifteen minutes each) are up for about 20 hours more, so hurry on over there. Long version:

@kiwimouse: @cleolinda *cough* Michael Fassbender reads Dracula: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0170yjj Thought you might be interested.

[Where were all of you when this started running last Monday?!]

@cleolinda: We need to have more actors reading gothic novels. Someone get on this.

@particle_person: actorsreadinggothicnovels is totally a tumblr idea.

@cleolinda: +1 RT @herdivineshadow: If Richard Armitage read Frankenstein, I would actually sit through that monstrosity again

@particle_person: OMG, can you imagine Michael Emerson?

@cleolinda: Hm. Which book?

@particle_person: The Woman in White. I bet he’d be truly creepy with a romantic obsession.

@count_01: When my publishing empire grows only a few billions more, I will acquire the rights to every novel written between 1780 and 1840.

@cleolinda: But… there are no ri… I can sell them to you. I can totally, totally sell them to you.

Basically, it's a streamlined, abridged version (it would have to be), and they've got three actors on the job--Gillian Kearney for Mina, Michael Fassbender for Jonathan, and James D'Arcy for Seward (and thus also Renfield), although the false document/nested narrative nature of the book (diaries recounting monologues recounting dialogues, and so on) means that the actors are basically doing the voices for everyone who happens to wander through their particular stretch of POV. (Fortunately, no one does a wackadoo accent for Van Helsing, although they leave his lolcat grammar intact for a monologue Kearney earnestly delivers. "He make in the mirror no reflect!") This also means that there's no one actually assigned to Dracula--after all, he never gets anything from his own perspective. So the actors take two approaches to Dracula's lines, and--I am trying to say this delicately--Fassbender's is, uh, pleasantly traditional.

@cleolinda: Hey, thanks for looking into [a problem I was having with the player]. I have 23 hours now, apparently. Also: no one told me there would be a Dracula Accent. Hysterical.

@alliancesjr: Hahahahahahaha nice

@cleolinda: oh shit I can't stop laughing, it's just barely on the wrong side of the Count Chocula line

@alliancesjr: Ohgod. At least he's not counting.


@cleolinda: It's like, nice soothing mellow actor voice, very nice, good times, I VELCOM YOO TO MY HOWZ.

@alliancesjr: That sounds like the BEST THING EVER ohmygod

PRETTY MUCH. But can you imagine how disappointed people would be if they turned on a Dracula reading and Dracula didn't sound like ~Dracula~ right off the bat? (OH MY GOD, "THE BAT." I am so sorry, that was not intentional.) So I'm not saying that Dracula Accents are a bad thing! It's just--you know! Really, I'm no one to talk, I'm the one who has this taped to the back of her bedroom door:

(The really interesting thing about hearing a book like this read out loud is that it's even more intense than it is on the page. Jonathan's being approached by the three vampire women and you're like, man, catch that subtext, y'all, the Victorians were repressed. You hear it read aloud and it's like... there is no subtext. It is all text.)

And then... there's James D'Arcy's take on the Dracula voice in Episode 8. OMG YOU GUYS. (Dig my critical literary voice. "omg!!1") Because Seward recounts Dracula's attack on Mina in the book, D'Arcy is the one who ends up performing Mina's big soliloquy about the incident--and, in turn, Dracula's dialogue within that. At first I was sitting there thinking, really? Are you sure you don't want to turn a Mina monologue over to Kearney for a moment? Except that then it is magnificent. I had come down with (another) giant migraine, so I curled up in bed with my laptop, and by the time we were at "Silence. If you make a sound, I shall dash his brains out before your very eyes," I was clawing at the mattress in giddy freakout. Dracula's lines come out in a serial killer's whisper, because, you guys: he is. This is pretty much why I love certain kinds of horror, I think--the moments that are terrific in all senses of the word, frightful and exciting and extraordinary and magnificent. Like, it's so blood-curdling that you feel a sense of joy at how good it is. In fact, the whole program relies on whispers rather than shouts; Renfield, of all characters, is wonderfully hushed on this same episode, and whispers are what make the early Jonathan installments so effective. "Is it then so near the end? Tomorrow... tomorrow."

There's actually two more episodes to go, running tomorrow and Tuesday, it sounds like (not that I'm sure when that is. Since the UK is several hours ahead and today was Daylight Saving Time for us, time has no meaning anymore). Also, someone please go make them put up Episode 6, I don't know why it's missing. And the end of Episode 7 is cut off, presumably because the previous program ran over and that's why there's a full minute of, like, Irish easy listening at the beginning instead. I think that's the one anyway; there's club music on another one--people, just please convince BBC Ulster to sell a clean copy of this somewhere, they will make so much money.

One of the reasons I mention this, though, is that I had a really dry, listless week of non-writing page-staring, and listening to this has made me feel a lot better. I think it's because Dracula is one of those books that makes me want to write, to feel like I can do this. There are some books that are so brilliant, you want to just give up; there are others that are so bad, you just grouse about how you could do so much better. But, true or not, even "I could do better" is more smug than productive. It's interesting to find books that are both good and inspiring, that are admirable without being intimidating. Books with some flaws but with great characters and stories tend to hit that mark for me, I think, and place a very engaging, approachable kind of greatness within reach: not perfect, but wonderful. Since a lot of people are doing NaNoWriMo at the moment, maybe that's a good question to ask: what books do that for you? No, seriously, tell me. I may need to read some of them.

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I believe that there are certain programs that may be able to download them, with a bit of trouble. All I found was a .swf file in the source code that didn't actually have anything in it.

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Pretty much anything by Tanith Lee. Her descriptions are so lush, and most of her characters (particularly her YA characters, IMO), are so easy to relate to - the idea of a girl falling in love with a robot makes absolute sense in her world, or a girl chasing after a unicorn she built from a batch of bones she found in the desert - she makes the extraordinary make sense and you see it as everyday through her character's eyes, despite you knowing just how fantastic the world Ms. Lee is showing you is.

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Yes! BBC Ulster NEEDS to sell this as an audio book, or something, because I am just sitting here, waving my money at the computer screen instead of giving it to them for this unabashed greatness and hilarity.

Also, books that are inspiring and great? The first one I can think of is The Name of the Wind, maybe also it's sequel, not sure on that, though. And as I am in the midst of Carmilla I'd say that, too, but I have not got to the end yet. Um, Emma Bull's War for the Oaks is amazing and makes me want to write like her, and then probably Pamela Dean's Tam Lin, because that story in general is just fantastic. It also makes me want to read more, though, so not as productive as those that just make you want to write.

Thank you for that great (and hilarious) review. I'm not brave enough to actually listen to "Dracula" being read, but the review was probably just as good!

Good but not perfect . . . hm, maybe "The Night Circus"? I really, really liked it -- gave it five stars on Goodreads -- but there's no denying that the characterization was practically nil. But the setting was wonderful enough to make up for it. And that's really saying something, because ordinarily I go for great characterization and couldn't care less about setting.

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I have to agree with *The Woman in White.* Pretty much most of Wilkie Collins. VERY Gothic. I think that if you like *Dracula,* there's a good chance you'll like that.

Also, and I don't mean this as a slight, JK Rowling. The books are really great, but they've also been like a class on How To Do It for me. Characterization, check; GREAT on pov and narrative perpective; excellent on creating a believable, consistent universe; excellent on keeping a good narrative arc, and even a great spin on Scooby-Doo. I enjoy them, but I'm also able to say "O I SEE WHAT U DID THAR," instead of being so knocked back that I can't analyze it and apply it to my own writing.

I used to like *Dracula* more than I do at the moment, but that's probably because I read it so many times that it doesn't surprise me anymore. I do appreciate how well it uses contemporary technology against the vampire story. My God, no one can do railway timetables like Stoker.

Though I admit that SMeyer was a big incentive for me to start my own book. Mostly, it's been a test of "I can write much better first person narrative than that." It's really tricky to do well, and after spending way too much time inside Bella Swan's head--- That's not so much "I can do better than this" as "okay, this is how NOT to do this." That's a writing lesson, too, e.g "don't have everything come to a screeching halt while your main character 'examines the kitchen.' "

EDIT: OMG the death of Renfield. So horrible.

Edited at 2011-11-07 03:00 am (UTC)

I will say, I learned a ton from sitting here bitching about criticizing Twilight. It was really useful to articulate what I had a problem with, particularly why I didn't like Bella as a character, and why Meyer's anticlimactic plotting pissed me off, for when I sat down to my own thing and worked on avoiding those issues.

And I had the same experience with Rowling. I just really, really admire her plotting and foreshadowing and ability to plant seeds entire books in advance.

And yeah, I've loved the idea that, for its time, Dracula was an up-to-the-minute techno thriller.

Dorothy Sayers and Agatha Christie always really inspire me. Christie's books are always so much about the characters; the murder is sometimes secondary. And I love that Sayers managed to weave in really engaging debates about PTSD and the role of women in education -- I think it's so cool that she was using the genre to expose these ideas to people who probably wouldn't have cared otherwise. I'd love to be able to write something that's entertaining but also thought-provoking.

Of course, now that I am doing NaNo this year, my inspiration is largely avoiding the overwhelming depression I feel doing job applications. That focuses my mind beautifully.

I'm reading Sayers right now, but Gaudy Night is on the borderline of "too good to make me actually feel like writing, because I just sit in awe of the layered complexity."

I suggest Pamela Dean's Secret Country trilogy, because those always make me feel like writing. But it might just be me – they don't seem to have the same effect on everyone.

I love reading Dickens. It reminds me that a novel can be fun and engaging and interesting even when it's going off on a tangent about characters you'll rarely see. The Great Gatsby and To Kill a Mockingbird seem like perfect novels to me. I just get lost in them.

I also love Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy because it has a cast of characters who are all amazingly well-fleshed out and as flawed and ordinary as they can be in many ways and yet you find yourself identifying with them. It's like the anti-Twilight.

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Funny I should see you here... ;)

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Okay I owe you forever for the clip of Fassbender reading Dracula. That's like two of my favorite things at the same time!!!!!

On that whole "gothic novels read by actors" thing... http://bigfinish.com/Big-Finish-Classics. They also have Sherlock Holmes and various other texts. Plus all the Doctor Who, Highlander, Robin Hood and assorted things. Most of the listings come with trailers so you can decide if you like the voice work before you buy it.

I'm gonna curl up and pretend Magneto is reading me bedtime stories now.

I actually just finished re-reading Peter S. Beagle's The Last Unicorn. His descriptions are so. . . I don't even know how to describe them. You read them and think, "That's exactly what that object sounds like" or "That's exactly what I feel when I feel that emotion." It definitely makes me want to write (and write better).

Seconding anything by Peter S. Beagle! His writing makes me simultaneously think, "I'll never be half as good as him!" and "That was so awesome and natural-feeling I bet I could do that MUST WRITE NOW!"

we would also like to vote and own property

I haven't actually read Dracula, so when you said the part about being approached by vampire women my mind went straight to Kate Beaton. And now I'm imagining that comic with Michael Fassbender in it and everything is awesome.

Re: we would also like to vote and own property

Thanks for that link. I love her stuff but hadn't seen that yet. Lucy made me almost spit out my coffee.

Ted Chiang. I don't think he's actually written a novel-- or if he has I haven't heard of it-- but I find his short stories really inspirational. IIRC, Scott Westerfeld's UGLIES trilogy was inspired by one of said stories.

Dear BBC Ulster,

Please oh please release this as a proper downloadable audiobook, I will give you monies. *big pleading eyes* Also, please make this a series with other fabulous gothic novels or short stories read aloud, as well. PLEASE OH PLEASE OH PLEASE.


Dracula is actually one of my "holy crap, I wanna write!" books. Gothic stories and certain period pieces tend to do that for me. Like Der Sandmann by E.T.A. Hoffmann or Poe. As a kid, I liked to read before Poe but I liked to write after Poe.

There are certain movies, actually, that give me the desire to write, too, like The Secret Garden. Don't know exactly why but I always want to pick up a pen after watching it.

I enjoy the Hitchhiker's Guide series a lot because I end up having a narration running in Douglas Adams' voice after I read it.

Oh, yessss, another series I haven't read in forever.

Robin McKinley's Sunshine. Aside from being a really excellent vampire novel (and filled with baking), her first-person narration and worldbuilding are so casually perfect. The only downside is I find it difficult to pick apart because I keep getting sucked back into the story. But still, it's not only my favorite comfort novel but also a book that makes me want to experiment and try.

My only complaint with Sunshine is that it also makes me want to bake a lot of cinnamon rolls.

NaNo is kicking my butt this year... I second the use of Dorothy Sayers as inspiration just this side of "Oh God why am I even bothering???" And Gaudy Night in particular.

The only thing that keeps me from falling on my sword in despair is... Gaudy Night is the most meta thing ever. An Oxford-educated writer of mystery novels writing as an Oxford-educated writer of mystery novels, talking about the fundamentals of the importance and power of being a writer as well as the tendency of writing (and over-education in general) to cut you off from humanity and leave you on the outside looking in... all in the middle of a sekrit criminal investigation and possibly the most Britishly British love story ever conducted. It's marvelous. Dorothy Sayers knew how to write a self-insert properly.

*is kiwimouse on Twitter* So glad I could help. :)

Edited at 2011-11-07 11:19 am (UTC)

(:is now going to work today* pretty much solely in order to pick up a copy of "Gaudy Night":)

Thanks for the rec!

* I work at a library.

My second year of NaNo, Stephen King is holding my hand this time. Reading anything and everything by Stephen King almost never fails to make me want to sit down and start _writing_.

Also, Brandon Sanderson. "Warbreaker" comes to mind. He's got a very plain (but engaging, to me) writing style, KICK-ASS three-dimensional characters (including AMAZINGLY realistic female characters), and totally original plots. However, his jokes are a bit lame and the style is, as I said, plain. So it's that good mix of amazingly awesome and just one or two tiny little things that make me think, "... well. Sanderson is this amazing without being perfect; I guess I don't have to be perfect, either."

Also, Arthur Conan Doyle does for me what Bran Stoker does for you. I think it's because (nobody hit me) I sometimes find the plot of a Holmes story brilliant and then other times it's completely lame. So, again: amazing amazingest characters, great tone and style -- but sometimes the mystery doesn't quite work or we go on at length about Utah. And yet: still amazing classics! PERFECTION IS JUST NOT REQUIRED!! Thank God.

amazing amazingest characters, great tone and style -- but sometimes the mystery doesn't quite work or we go on at length about Utah.

I often find myself reading mystery novels solely for the characters, because this sort of thing seems to happen ALL THE TIME. But there's something about the genre that seems to encourage ridiculous, overblown, and therefore somehow marvelously well-drawn characters.

One of my writing inspirations is actually Jim Butcher. I love the way the Dresden Files are written in such effortless first-person, like you're sitting down with this person over coffee and he's recounting something that happens. His narration is conversational, if that makes sense, and it makes it just so easy to read that whole thing zips by. I try to do that a little myself when I find my writing is getting too bogged down.

Wow, given that I just read Dracula for the first time this Halloween and my obsession with Michael Fassbender has been growing exponentially since X-Men First Class, you couldn't have found a more perfect thing. All the awards to you.

As far as inspirational books go, I re-read Good Omens recently and I am just completely in love with it. It's a great example of a book that's immensely entertaining while still being about something. Going through it a second time there were things about it that were genuinely unnerving between all the fun stuff. And since Neil Gaiman's involved there are these little moments of pure horror mixed in with everything else too (those poor telemarketers brrr).

Episode six is now up, if you're curious. (And here I am listening on a very foggy morning.)

YAY! I'm going to pretend it's because we all fussed enough at them.

For me, the author best to make me want to throw in all literary ambitions for all time because oh my god I could never is Ursula K. Le Guin. She's not flawless, actually the first two books of hers I read I was bored for most of them, but yet. There is something so beautiful about her grasp of the written word that I may as well just give up now, I will never achieve that, or anything like that, ever.

Conversely! The writer that makes me giddily happy with the possibilities of writing is Diana Wynne Jones. She bashes through her stories with such joy and unbridled delight, and her writing is always so fun, and she creates these brilliant, memorable characters that you never want to say goodbye to. Sometimes her plots leave a little to be desired, but sometimes she gets it right on the nose, and as far as I'm concerned even when she's not quite hitting it she's great, and when she is hitting it, she's brilliant. I could never write like she does -- my writing doesn't have that sense of glee hers does -- but just reading it makes me feel like the world is awesome and so is writing, which I get the feeling is very much how she felt when she wrote. So there we go.

I second Diana Wynne Jones for the reasons stated above and some others. I discovered her books through Miyazaki's animated movie based on her book "Howl's Moving Castle", and they were probably the first books where I actually noticed on my own that there were different threads of narrative that all got tied off neatly at the end. Sometimes too neatly -- with some of her endings it kind of feels like she had a checklist of Things to Wrap Up in the last chapter -- but it opened doors in my mind in terms of how I understood plot.

I love her fantasy because it's interesting both to adults and to children, and if the writing is too advanced for a kid to read you can just read it aloud to them and they get it and love it. (I've worn my paperback copy of Howl's Moving Castle to pieces reading it to my younger siblings.)

For me when I think of just pure and beautiful writing I think The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon because it is the mostly complex and beautifully layered book I have ever come across and then I want to write and do something even half as good.

It also depends on what I want to write, for example if I am working on a more humorous book I read Terry Pratchett or I just go to the library and pick out first person narratives that seem relative to my interests. (or third person)

I don't know about anyone else but that works all right for me.


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