I read Dracula during sixth grade. Every day we had a period called SSR, Sustained Silent Reading, where we’d sit wherever we wanted and read, silently, for an hour or 45 minutes or whatever. I remember quite clearly (an increasingly rare thing for me) sitting beneath a table on the windowed side of Mr. Williamson’s classroom with the green carpet reading my Penguin mass market paperback version of Dracula, enthralled by its revolutionary (to me, at least) format as a series of journals and letters. It blew my 11 year old mind. It was lush and suggestive, filled with horrors and darkness only ever hinted at indirectly. You never experienced the event as it unfurled, but were left to fill in the gaps for yourself based on what the characters had elected to describe in their writings, what they thought was important, how they felt about things. It turned what can be a very passive arrangement between author and reader into a more dynamic, exciting, interactive experience. Like 1898’s version of the best video game ever, but so much more because you got to do all the work. You were allowed to make the world your own. Indeed, to get the most out of the book, you needed to make the world your own, lest the experience become a disjointed, jumbly mess of conflicting view-points.
Let’s just say that Bram Stoker’s Dracula was important for me as a boy.
Today, Tiffany sent me a blog that is posting the entirety of Dracula as it happens in the book. The novel starts on May 3, and their first post is May 3. Such a cool idea. You can add it to your RSS feed and it will update you every day as the novel progresses.
If you get reading it, and find you can’t wait for the next chunk, you can read the entire novel for free on Project Gutenberg.
A side note, a few years after reading Dracula, they canceled SSR which is a real shame. I’m confident that, as grueling as it was sometimes to convince a bunch of post-recess 11 year olds to sit silently and read, those mandated reading periods were instrumental in the development of my love of reading and writing and my supreme respect for the power of words. There probably would never have been The Black Laser if I hadn’t been forced to read after lunch every day. Imagine a world where you delightful people would have no place on the internet to abuse your optic nerves with my black and pink layout. Horrifying, I know.