DRACULA by Leonard Wolf


The Connoisseur's Guide
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 Afraid of the dark? Don't worry, this anemic collection of vampiriana is more likely to put you to sleep than to add to your wakefulness. Novelist, veteran chronicler of the macabre, and consultant to Francis Ford Coppola's film version of Dracula, Wolf (The Glass Mountain, 1993, etc.) returns to some very familiar haunts. In fact, he seems to be fast running out of new things to say, citing his prior work at least 40 times. For the rest, it's a lot of bloodless flapdoodle and flapping about, an if-it's-Tuesday-it- must-be-Nosferatu quickie tour of all the obvious highlights of vampire lore and legend: first off, a discourse on blood, then on to Dracula's historical ``inspiration,'' the psychopathic Vlad the Impaler. Next, we hurry through a history of the gothic novel, a pocket bio of Bram Stoker, and a bite-size synopsis of his Dracula. Finally, we review modern films and fiction (Anne Rice ad nauseam) with vampire themes. Yet Wolf is an intelligent observer and competent writer, and he does occasionally tap into an interesting vein. For instance, he shrewdly analyzes how radically vampirism's mythopoeic import has changed with the times. In Stoker's era, it was all about sexual anxiety. In the '60s, America became the great vampire, sucking up helpless Vietnam's lifeblood. Then, in the '90s, the vampire as eros and thanatos is symbolically entwined with AIDS. More along these lines, more diversion, deeper thought, would have been welcome. This is not a book for connoisseurs, experts, or even dilettantes. Only, perhaps, as a Dracula 101 introduction for the uninitiated does it really work. (30 b&w photos, 4 line drawings, not seen)

Pub Date: April 18th, 1997
ISBN: 0-553-06907-1
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Broadway
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1997


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