Then We Came To The End*
*Today’s blog title shamelessly lifted from the wonderful recent book by Joshua Ferris because it popped right into my head when I was thinking of a title and it just plain works.
Right. I finished last night and I’m not really going to worry about posting anything past the spoiler point here. I mean really, there’s only one day left and if you’re not finished yet I doubt anything I could possibly say will be a revelation.
Well, well, well. I enjoyed it but I didn’t love it. As Infinite Detox so eloquently said, meh. It didn’t sink to the level where Dan Brown and The Da Vinci Code reside for me, but it did pretty much level out at what I term “airport trash.” In other words, if you’ve been enough of an idiot to arrive for your flight and you have nothing to read, or you’re stranded and have run out of reading material, you can pick up some paperback from an airport shop and have a perfectly enjoyable reading experience. But is it great literature? Nope, not for me. There are too many inconsistancies; several footnotes in my Norton edition point out that either Stoker or his characters have got their journal entry dates wrong; sometimes the characters are quick on the uptake but more often they’re dumber than posts; do we keep Mina informed or do we keep her in the dark; will we let her become a vampire and gallantly go with her “into that unknown and terrible land” or will we all pledge to cut her head off and drive a stake through her heart to release her soul to God? And Van Helsing? Well, I’ll get to him later. There were many times when I felt like Stoker was making some deeper connections and exploring some larger themes and I got all excited. Then it would just fizzle out and we were back to the boy’s club dithering about. My sense is that he wanted to write a larger (in the thematic sense) work, but either couldn’t or he just went for the quick buck. Maybe he had it in mind all along that he would turn it into a play for Irving and he just needed to crank it out. In any case, I think it’s a fun page turner (most of the time), a quick and easy read that due to the circumstances of the subsequent play and movie has become a cultural icon.
Now, that Van Helsing and his final Memorandum. Wow. Nearly swooning over the three sisters, brides, whatever they are, in their tombs he admits to being nearly a carnal man. But he squashes the “very instinct of man in me, which calls some of my sex to love and to protect one of hers” and proceeds with the “butcher work.” But what really annoys me about Van Helsing is his back story. If I missed it somewhere early on when the pages were turning please let me know. In his Memorandum as he talks about the effect the vamp ladies are having on him he says
Yes, I was moved – I, Van Helsing, with all my purpose and with my motive for hate – I was moved to a yearning for delay which seemed to paralyse my faculties and to clog my very soul.
So, just what the hell was his motive? Did we ever learn that? Why does he know about Dracula and what extra motive for hate does he have?
And what an ending. The snow swirling, the wolves howling and drawing closer, Quincey giving his all in fighting through the gypsies, the vanquishing of the evil from the world, and then that rosy glow lighting up dear Mina as the men fall to their knees in adoration upon seeing that the terrible mark of the unclean is gone from her forehead. Quick cut to seven years later and the happy family – Jonathan, Mina, and son Quincey (who apparently has all of their names in his full name). And we end with Mina’s greatness summed up by stand-in grandfather Van Helsing with little Quincey on his knee. Telling them all that someday the boy would
…know what a brave and gallant woman his mother is. Already he knows her sweetness and loving care; later on he will understand how some men so loved her, that they did dare much for her sake.
In the immortal words of Bill the Cat – oop ack! Thhhpt!