Tuesday 30 March 2010

Bram Stoker is henceforth banished from my reading list

Bram Stoker’s The Lair of the White Worm is not the worst book I’ve ever read, but it’s pretty damned close. If I had to quickly come up with ten bitter adjectives to describe this book, I could. Don't believe me? Here you go:
  • Atrocious
  • Absurd
  • Disorganized
  • Ridiculous
  • Incomplete
  • Overlong
  • Boring
  • Laughable
  • Enraging
  • Pathetic
There. That took me 10 seconds.

I enjoyed Dracula, and so thought another novel of Stoker’s would be a safe bet. Wrong. Wrong. This novel is a total failure, both as a novel generally and as a horror tale specifically.

Structurally, it is a total mess, with more threads than I can count having been dropped. The characters are flat and uninteresting, and their motives, when revealed, make no sense in the context of what’s happening. And almost every opportunity for convincing horror is annihilated because of Stoker’s frequent decision to present scary happenings not directly but through dry and interminable conversations between Adam and Sir Nathanial.

When we are presented directly with supposedly terrifying moments, they’re too stupid to be borne, with people dying from staring contests and villains being defeated by young ladies who know how to vogue. Also, there is the destruction of primeval white worms through…the purchasing of real estate, which is also a very sound business investment for a young man.

My god, I can’t believe how awful this novel is! I stopped after every chapter and banged my head. Well, not every chapter, because if it’s unremitting awfulness had been apparent before I was a third to halfway through, I would have dropped this bitch like it was a plague-ridden baby-child with an ugly mug and a squall emanating from it like a Siamese cat in heat.

The novel did begin badly, but in a truly awesome and kind of hilarious way. For example, here is Stoker engaging in some subtle foreshadowing:
She was clad in some kind of soft white stuff, which clung close to her form, showing to the full every movement of her sinuous figure. She was tall and exceedingly thin. Her eyes appeared to be weak, for she wore large spectacles which seemed to be of green glass. Certainly in the centre they had the effect of making her naturally piercing eyes of a vivid green. She wore a close-fitting cap of some fine fur of dazzling white. Coiled round her white throat was a large necklace of emeralds, whose profusion of colour quite outshone the green of her spectacles – even when the sun shone on them. Her voice was very peculiar, very low and sweet, and so soft that the dominant note was of sibilation. Her hands, too, were peculiar – long, flexible, white, with a strange movement as of waving gently to and fro. (pp. 22-23)
But this sort of deliciously kitchy moment turned out to be very rare and the shiteous aspects described above represent the true order of things. Also, there were so many horribly racist comments dropped that this novel makes Kipling look like an equal rights advocate, there was enough fear and disgust at female sexuality to fuel a Freudian’s entire career, and then there was the gigantic kite flying from Castor Regis – because, you know, madmen with mesmeric skills like also to fly gigantic kites from the tops of their castle for no good reason.

In answer to your unspoken question: yes, I did, in fact punch this book hard, several times in succession, after finishing reading it.

I am now on to Yukio Mishima's Forbidden Colors which, if it turns out to be terrible as well, will at least do so in grand, ambitious, and raging style!


Steven said...

Dear Blogkeeper,

Yes, _Lair of the White Worm_ and _Jewel of the Seven Stars_ are, shall we say, exceptional works?

Thanks for this--I found it reminiscent of my own encounters with the Off-Dracula Bram.



Hannah Stoneham said...

Thanks for sharing this candid and also quite hilarious review. I have not read this book but think that now I will maybe leave it for others... In fact, come to think of it, I didn't like Dracula all that much - I much preferred the film.

Thanks for sharing


Gilion at Rose City Reader said...

Your review has me laughing at my desk. Just the work break I needed today.

Sarah said...

Having only read Dracula (which I enjoyed), I've been hesitant to read more by Stoker as I had a feeling he was a bit of a one-hit wonder. Your review has confirmed this, and is hilarious so perhaps your time wasn't entirely wasted!

Unknown said...

Stick to J-Lit: much safer ;)

Anonymous said...

If you say it sucks, I believe you. No need to check it out on my own. Thanks for the warning!

Bookphilia said...

Steven: "Exceptional" - how diplomatic of you! I can't believe you also read Jewel of the Seven Stars - you're clearly made of sterner stuff than I am.

Hannah: Well, if you didn't like Dracula all this much...reading this would make you resort to homicide, I'm sure.

Rose: I have the power to induce desk-laughing! *Prolonged "villain" laugh*

Sarah: Well, I certainly enjoyed writing the review much more than I enjoyed reading the book.

Tony: Except when that J-Lit is written by Ryu Murakami or Banana Yoshimoto.

Bellezza: Again, I am becoming drunk on my power.

Heidenkind said...

But don't you want to read the rest of his stuff now, just to see how bad it is? ;)

Meytal Radzinski said...

I was just wondering if I should read this (literally yesterday). Now at least I have a good idea of what to expect, should I have a large enough aneurysm to want to read it! Though I do have to give a man props for having a book be "boring" and "enraging" simultaneously. It takes some talent...

Dr. Kunstsprecher said...

Is it is as egregious as Ken
Russell's film adaption? I still have nightmares about that!

Bookphilia said...

heidenkind: I'm not mad at myself, for gawd's sake!

Biblibio: Not talent, really: just the ability to make the potentially awesome totally dull. Sigh.

Dr. K: The one with Hugh Grant being crucified? Yes, but for entirely different reasons. *Shudder*