Wednesday, October 29, 2008

New This Month: The New Annotated Dracula by Leslie S. Klinger

In 2004 he rocked us with The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes, a look at the classic fictional detective that was closer -- and in some ways more intimate -- than any that had gone before. Author Leslie S. Klinger offered up an almost line-by-line commentary on the great work. In the process, he unearthed bits and pieces that had been left behind over the years -- a bit of literary archeology, if you will. Fans were floored at the offering of riches about the much celebrated Holmes. On the one hand, the book seemed to cover every possible corner of Holmes legend and lore. On the other, it brought it all together in a handsome volume worthy of gift-giving and collection. The only question left, really, was: What comes next? How do you follow up that sort of action? And with what? After all, not every literary icon is worthy of the Klinger treatment. But, certainly, there are a few.

Klinger found one worthy of his attention in Bram Stoker’s original Dracula. And here again, Klinger follows Stoker’s tale line by line, offering up trenchant observations and tidbits of all sorts of information about this classic novel. We begin with an introduction by Neil Gaiman. “Dracula is a book that cries out for annotation,” Gaiman tells us. “The world it describes is no longer our world.”

And Klinger responds, in a way, with his annotations: perhaps making our worlds collide. As he says in his own preface, “My principal aim ... has been to restore a sense of wonder, excitement and sheer fun to this great work.” He succeeds.

There is a fiction is Klinger’s annotations, however: he proceeds as though Stoker’s Dracula were a historical non-fiction. The device works -- adds, somehow to Klinger’s magic -- and while reading The New Annotated Dracula (Norton) you often feel transported, as though to a world that never existed, an in-between world where magic is real... and ever so frightening.

Ironically -- or perhaps not so much -- Eric Nuzum’s very successful 2007 non-fiction work The Dead Travel Fast: Stalking Vampires from Nosferatu to Count Chocula (St. Martin’s Press) is released this month in paperback. January Magazine reviewed that book favorably when it was published last year, but I mention it here because, while Nuzum and Klinger’s books are very, very different what we have here is not an either-or type of proposition. In fact, you may just find that one fuels the need for the other: there is no duplication between the two books, only an ever-broadening knowledge in a fascinating -- and fictional? -- field.

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