November 8, 2012

Celebrate Stoker's 165th Birthday With These Reads

Google is celebrating Bram Stoker's 165th birthday with a doodle featuring the infamous count and his brides facing off against Harker and his band of merry vampire-hunters. Stoker is credited with creating the archetype of the vampire we all know and love--the blood-sucking aristocrat with a snazzy cape and Transylvanian accent-- but his other works, without the larger than life Count, are often overlooked. So get stoked and discover a new side of Stoker with these reading recommendations:

Dracula's Guest and Other Weird Stories (1914) 
Published posthumously, this collection of Stoker short stories capitalized on the success of Stoker's novel Dracula. The story that makes this collection worth reading is the titular "Dracula's Guest." Intended to be the original first chapter of Dracula, it follows an unnamed Englishman (assumed to be Jonathan Harker) on his way to Dracula's castle when he makes a stop at a local graveyard. There he discovers the tomb of "Countess Dolingen of Gratz / in Styria / sought and found death / 1801" and inscribed on the back of her resting place the words "The dead travel fast." The Englishman is unsettled and falls into a swoon only to awake and find a wolf lapping at his neck. He is saved by Dracula's attendants who convey him to the castle. Stoker's Styrian countess is a reference to another literary vampire, the countess Mircalla Karnstein of Sheridan Le Fanu's Carmilla (1872). In Le Fanu's novella she is the title vampire who preys on the young daughter of a family in Styria. By referencing this undead countess, Stoker places Count Dracula in a tradition of vampires that extends back to Le Fanu and even Polidori's "Vampyre" (1819).

The Jewel of the Seven Stars (1903)
The basis for the Hammer horror film Blood from the Mummy's Tomb (1971), this novel follows an archaeologist's efforts to bring the ancient Egyptian mummy Queen Tera back from the dead. Click here for my review of the film and little more about the book.

The Lair of the White Worm, or The Garden of Evil (1911)
This novel is actually based on the folklore of the Lambton Worm. Legend says the lord of an estate went fishing on the Sabbath rather than go to church. He caught a lamprey-like creature, declared it to be the devil's spawn and disposed of it down a well. Like most good monsters, the worm came back to terrorize the countryside and was vanquished by the errant lord who put it in the well in the first place. Stoker's White Worm runs along the same lines of the myth with Adam Salton, the would be-heir of a country estate, coming into contact with a horrible worm-like creature with glowing green eyes. The creature lives in a well and is only destroyed after a thunderstorm ignites a charge of dynamite placed there by Adam.

Full-text works by Bram Stoker: 
The Lady of the Shroud 
The Jewel of the Seven Stars
The Lair of the White Worm

More Vampires on Monster Land:
The Year of the Vampire
Ten Unconventional Vampires
Transylvanian Concubines

October 29, 2012

My Life in Horror Gifs

The everday horror of my life presented in horror gifs.

When I give my students a pop quiz

When I realize I brought the wrong handouts to class.

When I tell my students about the final exam.

What the campus looks like the week after final exams.

When a student e-mails me to ask if we did anything important in class.

 What my office hours normally look like.

What my office hours look like the day before a big assignment is due.

When I tell a student they have to revise their entire paper.

My face when a student asks for an extension on their paper.

When I see my students after Spring Break

When I see former students off campus

When I can't go out with my friends because I'm grading.

When I realize I haven't worked on my dissertation in two weeks.

When I bump into my adviser and I haven't made any progress on my dissertation.

How I will feel when I finally finish my dissertation.

When I attend an academic seminar and I don't know anyone

 When my conference abstract gets accepted.

When I realize I have to write the conference paper.

When I find cookies/muffins/brownies in the break room.

When I think about getting a tenure-track job after I graduate.

October 28, 2012

A Visit to Mockingbird Lane

This update of the 1960's show The Munsters revisits the monstrous clan of Lily, Herman, Eddie, Marilyn and Grandpa as they move into the creepy "hobo-murder house" on a sunny street in quiet middle America. A lot of what you love about the campy original series survives including the stair trapdoor and the theme song.

The elements that do change are for the better. Marylin for instance is a lot creepier than I remember. Charity Wakefield plays her with a certain creepy innocence and despite her obvious handicap--sunny blond disposition and lack of obvious monstrosity--she is certainly a Munster through and through. Jerry O'Connell plays Herman like a modern version of the Tin Man from The Wizard of Oz. He's a self-made monster with a bum ticker because he loves too hard. Finding Herman a replacement heart becomes one of the show's main conflicts.

Far and away, Edie Izzard steals the show as Grandpa. He rocks a version of Gary Oldman's imperial red robes in Francis Ford Coppola's Dracula and bakes blood cookies that turn the neighbors into his slaves. I have been a fan of Izzard since his stand-up days and he brings the same comedy to this role. His character is a departure from the original goofy Grandpa and he plays grandpa "D" with a suave, biting humor.

Overall, the aesthetics of the show remind me of another of my favorites, Pushing Daisies--and it turns out the show-turned-special was actually written by Pushing Daisies writer Bryan Fuller--but like that show I doubt this one would have succeeded past a few episodes.

For all it's charm, the episode did leave me wanting more. All the major action is resolved at the episode's end, but it felt more like a pilot that could have spawned more episodes, which is what it was originally intended to be, instead of a standalone piece. So much work and money ($10 million to be precise) went into the crafting the world of the show and I am disappointed that we won't be invited back to 1313 Mockingbird Lane. Or will we? 

Watch the special on Hulu


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