I have ready many books over the course of my life, and books have become a central part of who I am. I read books for pleasure, for study, and for examination. I teach books in my literature classes at Lehigh University and Muhlenberg College, I write about them in scholarly work, and I write novels. As I was considering the topic for this post about Gothic and Horror novels, I knew almost immediately which book I should begin with.
I have spoken of Dracula before in a series about books that have influenced me the most, but in this series, I will focus on those that are Gothic and Horror, which is fitting, given the upcoming holiday of Halloween.
So many come to mind and are possibilities for discussion; among these novels are Dracula, Frankenstein, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Carmilla, The Shining, Interview With The Vampire, and many others. I hope to cover these and other books during this series.
Today, I will focus on Dracula and what its influence on me was and is. This was one of the first Gothic novels I had read, and its power caught me immediately. I was a youngster, probably 12 years old, when I first read this novel, and I was drawn to the images of dark castles, terrible villains, and the supernatural. This book helped to set me on a path both of study and writing from that point to today. That I love Gothic is still clear, because not only do I teach Gothic literature, but also I write it.
Dracula, however, had a much deeper impact on me that simply the horror aspect; I was drawn to the idea of the need for good people to oppose evil. It is a theme that, on the surface, might seem simplistic, but a person need only look at the history of the 20th Century into our contemporary time to see that evil does exist, especially in the form of people who would oppress, torment, exclude, and bully others. Of course, I am not making an argument that the supernatural evil in this novel exists, but that human evil certainly does. The Nazis demonstrated that human horror in its full capacity, and Putin continues to show that face of human evil.
In this book, a fellowship of human beings is created, and they decide to fight a creature, an ancient vampire, that is far more powerful than anything they could have imagined, and they do so at the risk of their lives. This act of defending others, even if the people do the battle are put at risk, became a central part of my ethos. There will always be those who would bully and oppress others, and they must always be opposed. While in early high school, Dracula helped to form that idea in my mind.
Dracula is a far more complex book than many in the academic world give it credit for being, and it is one that I recommend highly. If you have not yet read Stoker’s brilliant book and you love horror, then you should read it!
Are there any horror novels that you love? I would certainly enjoy hearing from you.