Finishing “Hollywood Gothic” by David J. Skal

I first encountered David Skal in the documentary Universal Horror, one of my favorite videos of all time. It was during that when he first mentions his story of the various Dracula adaptions since Stoker’s own first attempts at bringing his book to the stage. I would not get the book for several years, but when I did I ended up giving it a couple reads back-to-back. I just finished another reading.

Although not his first book (he had written a few science fiction novels before) this is the book that really made Skal’s name as both an author and literary and cultural historian. It recounts the history of the novel Dracula from the days of Stoker writing it up until the (then) most modern adaptions.

In short, the book is brilliant. The author had the chance to meet with several of the actors and behind the scenes figures who have since passed and let their stories be told, and dusts the cobwebs off some of the most intricate details of motion picture and Hollywood history that otherwise would have been doomed to crumble away. Rich detail, snarky and captivating chapter titles and bylines and a style so sophisticated but at the same time sympathetic to the lay reader that you can’t help but respect it. Hollywood Gothic truly made David J. Skal the foremost name in Dracula studies, which paved the way for several more books, including a recent biography of Bram Stoker himself.

Now that I’ve read all about the history of Dracula and the various mediums the character and story have bitten the necks of, I decided to put aside my hatred of ebooks and continue reading the classic itself.

Will write more on that when the book is finished…

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Work, Books, and Bookshelves

I started my new job today as the full-time Key Holder at the Vitamin Shoppe down the street from my apartment complex. I haven’t worked in over three months due to the extended Cali vacation–clocking in for the first time this morning was a really great thing.

As I was waiting to start I was looking in my newly-downloaded Nook app and found that I do in fact have Bram Stoker’s Dracula after all! I managed to read a tiny bit before my shift started and again when I got home, but reading on a tiny phone screen that which is best suited for the written page is not ideal, so I abandoned it until I could get my hands on an actual physical book.

Instead, I dug into the totes and found my copy of David Skal’s Hollywood Gothic, which is a sort of a history of the Dracula/vampire phenomenon. The Historian seems to have rekindled my old fascination with Dracula and all the books, movies, shows, and culture that rose along with it. I think once this book is done, and once I’m waiting for my hard copy of Dracula I will probably take a crack at Kim Newman’s Anno Dracula series. Alternate and faux history have always kept me hooked as a reader.

Digging Hollywood Gothic out gave me the harsh realization of how much procrastinating I’ve been doing when it comes to unpacking, and the daunting prospect of having to unload and organize all of my books. I do not have the same bookcase I did back at my parents house, so I might not be fit them all on the ones I have now. And now that I’m working and have some other projects going on, the time I have to really invest in the unpacking is very limited. When you add in bills and paying off debt, there is not going to be much leftover for a new bookcase.

I don’t mean to vent. Everyday seems to be a new lesson in adulthood and independence. With my time going more from gaming back to reading and soon, I hope, writing, my mind and thoughts have started to go all over the place. The little things, such as a clean bathroom and finding places to store my budding library, matter more now than I ever thought they would.

Which is weird, since this is not my first time ever out of the house and on my own…

Finishing “The Historian” by Elizabeth Kostova

Fiction. Nonfiction. Detective story. Thriller. Travelogue. Gothic romance. Collection of folklore.

Even these labels combined do not begin to describe Kostova’s debut masterwork. I have just finished re-reading it for the third time, and the first time in years I’ve touched it apart from packing it in a tote when I moved a couple of weeks ago. I remembered the overall plot of the book fairly well, but knew that there would be a wealth of details I would be soaking in yet again as if it were my first time reading it again.

Without giving too much away, the novel follows three generations of the Rossi family, who have unwillingly been dragged into the notice of the Devil–well, his son, anyway. Vlad the Impaler has survived the rest of time, and it takes every bit of history, folklore, tradition, and legend the historian protagonists can come up with to even begin to get on his scent. This led to the book, weighing in at a little less than 700 pages, feel much longer than it should be, but then again there are three generations being covered here.

Kostova’s transitions between past, present, and the remote past are seamless. One moment we are following along with the unnamed narrator’s vacations with her father and the next reading the old letters of her grandfather, each one ending just when the stories are starting to get good and leaves you craving for more.

The author has styled herself as an heiress of the Victorian tradition, and if her first book is any proof then she is not lying. What it lacks in action and excitement it makes up for in rich detail, and provides an atmosphere that makes even the book’s fictional history seem like it actually happened. The epistolary approach that served Bram Stoker well when penning his own Dracula tale also makes “The Historian” work great.

While it will always be number two on my own list of all-time favorite reads (losing only to, ironically, Stoker’s book) I have the absolute utmost respect for “The Historian”. I have always been a minor history buff, but I find myself now utterly fascinated by Eastern European history after this third run through. I’ve already begun teaching myself a few words of Arabic for the future…

If literature is to be judged by both its entertainment and educational values, this book deserves the highest praise. I’ve read that Kostova has taken similar approaches with her other two books, which have quickly been added to my To Buy List. Ironically, she includes a recommended reading list at the very end of the book, which I copied and added to the List.

I’m digging through all my totes and boxes right now trying to find my next read. I long-ago misplaced my Dracula tome otherwise that would be what I’m reading. But one thing is for certain. Now that I’m in the mood for reading again I don’t plan on stopping. It helps make the long loading times for Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey worth the wait.

Re-Reading “The Historian” by Elizabeth Kostova

I made the decision the other day to give up Pokémon. Alexis and I went to GameStop and I traded in my 2DS and my few games and we purchased Assassin’s Creed: Odyssey, which is freshly out. My girlfriend is the world’s biggest AC geek, and I’ve become quite the fan of the franchise myself.

My main motive for the sale, though, was to focus on my biggest passion: reading. The entire three months I was in California the 2DS was almost pasted permanently in my hands. Games that are made with a child’s brain in mind was all that I was focusing my attention on when Alexis was at work. No stimulation whatsoever. Now that I don’t have them to tempt me any more, I can focus on the many boxes and totes of books that I’m slowly but surely unpacking.

The first book I grabbed happens to be one of my all-time favorite books: Elizabeth Kostova’s debut masterpiece “The Historian. Only Bram Stoker’s most famous work tops it, and ironically both deal with the legendary vampire.

I’m about halfway into it right now on my third read-through, and I’m still blown away by how well-written and informative it is. I’ve never seen so many different genres combined into one beautiful book before. European and Eastern European history–hell, history in general–has become a big interest of mine after really taking the time to dive into it. I’m paying far more attention than I have in the past to it, and am far more interested and entertained than I ever was with those little Japanese games.

I’ll write a full review when I’ve finished the book, either tomorrow or the day after. I have plenty of time on my hands as I wait to hear back from the jobs I was offered, so while Alexis games and naps while I wait for my turn at the Playstation I will be reading.

I forgot how much I love it…

Justice Kavanaugh!

Short and sweet, I want to say a quick congratulations to Judge Kavanaugh for his confirmation and swearing in as the Supreme Court’s newest Associate Justice. I never believed the allegations leveled at him for a variety of reasons, none of which I’m going to talk about right now, and hold him in very high regard based on his academic and professional achievements.

I wish him well in his future on the Court, and will continue to pray for all the insanity and anger in Washington to die down so we can really focus on the important issues again.

Chi-Town, the Next Seminole Heights?

As many of you know, I have been a lifelong fan of crime shows, mysteries, and true crime. Separating fact and fiction, I’ve known for a long, long time that serial killers are so much rarer than TV would lead us to believe, and that in this highly-technological age the chances of high-profile serial episodes happening are very slim.

That is why when I caught news last year of a third victim in Seminole Heights, Florida shot dead by a shadowy figure believed to have ended up killing a total of four random people before blundering, I was hooked. I followed the breaking story multiple times a day, and when Howell was finally brought to justice I was super relieved, but at the same time the crime buff in me was like, “Well, excitement’s over. Back to sci-fi.”

Yesterday I first read about the new Rogers Park killings in Chicago. Not much has been released about the case, but it’s very clear that two random people were shot in the head by the same gun–and presumably the same shooter. A heavy police presence has erupted in the area, but the killer has vanished into thin air–for now.

As of yet, he’s not a serial killer. He’s only killed two (that we know of) and serials need three over a period of time. I sincerely hope that police get to him (or her, though the figure in the footage and images strongly appears to be a man) before anyone else gets hurt but if the similarities continue, I predict the killer will strike again in the coming weeks or sometime next month.

Let’s hope that the Chicago PD has better luck on this murderer’s trail than Florida did…

No Place Like Home

It might be a very minor, unimportant task to most people, but this morning I put the legs on my dining room table and set it up.

Why is this important? Because slowly but surely our apartment is beginning to feel like home instead of an empty series of rooms. Alexis and I went to Texas Roadhouse for dinner, which is a decent little walk from us. The weather was beautiful, neither too hot nor too cold. We were both so happy to be able to leave OUR apartment and be able to come HOME to our own home when we were done. I lived on my own once before but up until now I never thought I would feel as happy and independent as I do now.

It’s only been a few days but I already feel ten times more like a grown-up than I have in years. Being responsible for all the little things like what to buy for groceries and what brand of toilet paper to get definitely puts your brain to work. You never realize how much freedom you have until you realize how many tiny decisions need to be made and you realize that you’re the one who is going to be making them.

Comcast came to hook up the internet this morning (waking me up a half hour before the scheduled arrival time, which annoyed the crap out of me) so having high-speed internet was another plus. Alexis has her second interview at Macy’s tomorrow and I have training there myself starting on Thursday (unless one of the other two jobs i interviewed at get back to me first) so we spent the whole day relaxing and slowly but surely unpacking.

It’s almost unreal. We arrived early last Tuesday morning and her we are settled into an apartment. My mood hasn’t been this great in quite a while and I really feel like I’m turning over a brand new leaf in life. I can’t even begin to tell you how at ease and happy Alexis is. Obviously she’s a little homesick for California, but feels more at home among all the midwestern colors and cool fall breeze than the liberal West Coast.

Ah, adulthood. It’s about damn time.