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Kevin Fanning's Journal

Dear Diary I Am Freaking Out

10.19.09 | 15 Comments

So, wow this is starting to get pretty awesome, yeah? I guess going into this I was expecting it to be a kind of historically quaint little vampire tale? Dracula being creepy-ish but mainly overwrought, most of the good action either implied or happening off-screen, me going “NOT AS GOOD AS BUFFY S3″ after every chapter? Needless to say, Vampire Lucy biting a kid and tossing it to the ground to go after Arthur kind of reset my gauge, as far as creepiness goes. I mean right? And then Arthur, with the stake? Eesh. Basically I’m on board at this point, is what I’m saying.

Although, I have to note, Van Helsing is driving me crazy. The never telling anyone anything. The rushing here and there with little explanation or reason. I’m all: Let us in to your world, guy. Ugh and plus the accent. Actually let’s do this here:

Top 5 Annoying Accents In Order of Annoyingness:

  1. Van Helsing
  2. Thomas Bilder, the wolf-keeper guy
  3. Mr Swales
  4. Lucy’s impression of Quincey Morris (“I know I ain’t good enough to regulate the fixin’s of your little shoes”) (?)
  5. Drac

That’s just my humble, folks, but annoying accents are almost a leit-motif in this book. Surely there’s a barista somewhere who will be more than happy to share his master’s thesis on the topic.

Van Helsing is on my nerves because in this section there are multiple places where—stay with me—Stoker has written Seward having recorded Van Helsing expounding at length on basically nothing. I’ll suspend disbelief about vampires no problem, and I guess I’m suspending disbelief of the fact that Renfield has broken out of his cell four times so far, so fine, I’ll suspend disbelief about everyone’s ability to perfectly remember everything everyone ever said, accent and all.

It serves me right to be irritated by Van Helsing—I put up a big fuss about Harker being all talk and no action. Now I get a guy who’s mostly action and very little explication, and when he does explicate, it makes no sense whatsoever. The parts where VH goes on at length (e.g. Side 2 of Diver Down KIDDING little VH joke there) are the only parts of the story that really drag for me, and they often plainly illuminate the author’s stitchwork. Arthur being the one to pound the stake into Lucy is a hugely affecting and memorable scene, but we arrive at that scene because Van Helsing first convinces himself and Seward that they don’t need to kill Lucy right away. Which, uh, what? We’re talking about the same undead creature of the night who is attacking children all over the city, yes?

But the fact that the seams occasionally show is OK, because what I’m really loving about this book, beyond the whole vampire thing, is that the entire story is basically one big crush note to writing. Every chapter is written by one of the characters. They rush to write in their diaries before they forget what happened. They send each other urgent notes and letters that would have been full of !!!s and OMGs if they’d been written 100 years later. The scene in Chapter 17 where Seward and Mina are talking shorthand vs. phonograph was really sweetly endearing to me, and struck me as the Victorian equivalent of a Moleskin vs. Tumblr debate.

Even if Stoker wasn’t the perfect writer, I like that we can see him trying, putting words down just as passionately as his characters do. Yes, garlic and decapitation and stakes through the heart are going to be what get the characters through the night, but recording everything, writing it down and sharing copies and making sure the stories they have inside them get told to the right people—that’s what fuels everyone’s passion here, that’s what gets them through the days. I like that Stoker seems to feel the same way about writing that I do.

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