Friday, 30 September 2011

Klinger's Annotated Dracula

The New Annotated Dracula 


Bram Stoker Klinger 

Publisher: W W Norton & Co (2008)

Travelling through two hundred years of popular culture and myth as well as graveyards and the wilds of Transylvania, Leslie S Klinger illuminates aspects of Bram Stoker's gothic novel, including an examination of the original typescript with its shockingly different ending. He investigates the many subtexts - from the masochistic, necrophilic, homoerotic and dentophilic implications of the story to its political, economic, feminist, psychological and historical threads. Employing his literary detective skills, Klinger mines this 1897 masterpiece for nuggets that will surprise even the most die-hard Dracula student and enthusiast.

The New Annotated Dracula is a feature-packed presentation of Bram Stoker's original 1897 novel, presented in its unabridged version, together with 1500 notes, maps, illustrations, points of history and trivia, excerpts from Stoker's edited additional material. In brief, everything the Dracula acionado could want in a volume, including additional chapters on Stoker's life, information on TV and Film versions of the story etc.

The editor has applied his brand of detective work to the Victorian novel about vampires that has no equal, and his edition is an extension of Stoker's attempt to give a work of fiction authenticity by telling it in the form of letters, diaries and such like. Examining their often faulty chronology has given commentators much entertainment. The notes are quite informative. For example, the hair-raising arrival of the Russian ship Demeter in Whitby harbour with the dead Captain lashed to the wheel was based on a real-life (but less unpleasant) incident from 1885. Bram Stoker, who made little money from his vampire novel, would have been surprised, but surely pleased, if he could have known what an impact it has had on our culture.

The illustrations, though interesting in themselves, however, are very poorly reproduced. This is a hefty tome, and the notes are informative for any scholar of Victorian literature. Less impressive are the essays on vampire films and subsequent literature which are little more than Klinger's personal taste and biased opinion. 
The editor's conceit of taking the text as a factual narrative is at first amusing, but for some will be found ultimately unsatisifying. Leonard Wolf's 1975 edition is vastly superior in this regard, and somehow has an impact and atmospheric effect which Klinger's more recent effort does not achieve.
Bram Stoker deserves to be taken more seriously as a writer in the Anglo-Irish tradition and a more precise approach to this great cultural influence is deserved. Klinger's edition will still appeal to many collectors.