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Thursday, April 20, 2006

REVIEW: The Book of Renfield by Tim Lucas

XANDER: Where is he? Where's the creep who turned me into his spider-eating man bitch!? I've got a flaming enema with his name on it-

BUFFY: He's gone.

XANDER: Damn it!.. You know what? I'm sick of this crap. I'm sick of being the guy who eats the insects and gets the funny syphilis! As of this moment, it's over. I'm finished being everybody's butt monkey!!

BUFFY: Check. No more butt monkey.

While my 112 classes have been reading Bram Stoker's Dracula for the dialogue sequence of our class, I have been dedicated to reading some of the contemporary novels in dialogue with Stoker's original novel. I've now finished 3 of 4 works, these being: The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, Tim Lucas' The Book of Renfield: a gospel of Dracula and P.N. Elrod's Quincey Morris, vampire. Although both were entertaining, Lucas' work is by far the superior book.

Image hosting by PhotobucketThe Book of Renfield is in essence a continuation and reflection of Stoker's tale. Keeping with the form and language of the novel, Dr. Seward narrates the tale as taking place 10 years following the defeat of Dracula. While time has passed, Seward and the others feel they cannot move on until their tale is told and published via Stoker. Seward primarily reflects on his misery both in losing Lucy to Arthur and then ultimately to Dracula as well as reviews his meetings with new Carfax Asylum patient, Mr. R.M. Renfield and how in these meetings he failed to acknowledge key information that would have drastically changed the results of Dracula's master plan.

While Dracula has become a 20th century icon and Mina a famous literary character in her own right, I, like many others, have always found Renfield a curiosity. Lucas successfully attempts to answer many of those questions about the character first introduced in Dracula. I like what Lucas' has tried to say and found the following quote from the Afterword to be extremely enlightening; (written by Seward's great-grandson) "It is crucial that we remember Dracula not as a pale romantic played by Frank Langella or Gary Oldman, as someone who dressed like a head waiter and mad women swoon by speaking to them of his eternal love. Dracula was not an Elvis rebel in a black leather duster to be longed for like a decadent dessert, but a plague upon humanity ultimately put to permanent death by my ancestor and those closest to him. Dead, yes, but the appetites that gave shape to Dracula live on: the thirst for blood and power, the need for world conquest, death and destruction, horror and apocalypse" (398).

On the other hand, Elrod's novel for me is little more than an amusing trade paperback. In it, our beloved Texan, Quincey Morris, rises from the dead because of a brief "relationship" with a sexy vamp named Nora Jones while in South America. Upon his death, he rises, is mentored by Dracula (who really isn't dead), heads back to Europe, reclaims his life convincing his buddies that he really isn't the same kind of vampire as Dracula (more the kind of vamp we know in fiction and film today, not totally evil & basically the same guy - just blood thirsty, easily sunburned, & slightly immortal). It ends in a very happily ever sort of fashion (all are still friends and Quince marries Arthur's sister) but what is interesting is Elrod's villianization of Van Helsing, who refuses to listen to reason and cannot accept any version of the truth but his own.

So, one to go: Mina by Maria Kiraly but I need a break from the story and characters first. My suggestions - If you liked Dracula, definitely read Lucas' work. I liked The Historian but it moves slow, so be patient. Skip Elrod and we'll see about Kiraly.

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