Because our selection this month is DRACULA, we here at The Artist’s Bookshelf thought it might be fun to check in with author Bram Stoker. One small problem: he supposedly died in 1912. Not to be easily discouraged, we followed the rumors that Stoker himself had become a vampire in 1905. After the death of a “close friend,” Stoker’s behavior and appearance became somewhat bizarre, and this sudden transformation was attributed, at the time, to a stroke. After some frantic googling, we were finally able to reach Mr. Stoker via his London agent.
ME: So, Bram. What have you been up to for the last hundred or so years?
BRAM: I enjoy reading. And I’ve always been a fan of the theatre.
ME: Do you still live in London?
BRAM: Well, I wouldn’t say “live,” but I reside here for the most part, yes.
ME: We’re reading your masterwork DRACULA and are intrigued by a number of facets of the novel.
BRAM: Intrigue is good.
ME: We’re curious to know, how prevalent was the story of Dracula before you immortalized him in your novel?
BRAM: My guess is that not many knew of his existence. There were many vampire stories floating about, quite commonly told to children as bedtime stories.
ME: Bedtime stories?
BRAM: You must remember that there was no television, no cinema.
ME: But vampires, for children?
BRAM: Oh, yes. Some of my fondest memories are of my mother telling vampire stories as I nodded off to sleep.
ME: And this was considered… normal?
BRAM: Oh, by all means, yes. We lived in Dublin where there was a tremendous fascination with monsters of all types, the occult, the dark side in general.
ME: And why Transylvania?
BRAM: The Carpathians were considered the last frontier of Europe, an equivalent, I imagine to your concept of the Wild West in America.
ME: And Count Dracula was a real person?
BRAM: To the best of my knowledge, yes.
ME: Did you ever actually meet him yourself?
BRAM: I prefer not to answer that question.
ME: Okay, let’s move on to the novel. Much of the novel is written in the form of letters, correspondence back and forth between characters. Why did you choose to utilize this epistolary form?
BRAM: Letters are so revealing. What any individual chooses to say or not to say tells us more than any description of events provided by a supposedly neutral narrative voice.
ME: What do you think of today’s vampire literature?
BRAM: I must admit I am NOT a fan of Anne Rice. I find her work to be rather pedestrian. But I was intrigued by the recent novel of the science-fiction writer Octavia Butler.
BRAM: Yes, that’s it. Did you read it?
ME: Yes. We read it as a group, several months back.
BRAM: Marvelous. She seemed to capture what it really means to be trapped in the world of vampirism.
ME: We’re reading DRACULA in conjunction with the Diane Arbus exhibit currently on display at the Walker. Are you familiar with her work?
ME: She claimed that DRACULA was one of her favorite books.
BRAM: I am honored.
ME: Any connections to her work?
BRAM: I believe that her work is deeply humane. She is quite often misinterpreted as being the provocateur of freakish, iconic images. But I don’t see her work that way at all. I find it very intimate, personal, and quite moving on some kind of subliminal emotional level.
ME: You should have been an art critic.
BRAM: I did review plays, you know. Back in Dublin.
ME: I’m sorry to hear that.
BRAM: It’s dirty work, I know, but somebody has to do it.
ME: Any final thoughts?
BRAM: Nothing is final.
ME: I’ll remember that.