Friday, October 29, 2010

Appropos of the Season

The fall is a wonderful time to begin a new mystery. Dracula, if you have not yet read the novel, it is a particularly good choice.

Bram Stoker was born in 1847 in Clontarf, Ireland. Dracula was published in 1897 while he was manager of a London theater. While he wrote the novel, the trial of fellow Irishman Oscar Wilde took place, to great scandal. This is high Victorian era, remember. Stoker reveals in the novel many of the anxieties that characterized the age, such as the repercussions of scientific advancement, the consequences of abandoning traditional beliefs, and the dangers of female sexuality. To this day, Dracula remains a fascinating study of popular attitudes at the end of the nineteenth century.

Wilkie Collins' superb mystery which is generally accepted as beginning the genre, The Woman in White.

"Collins composed his masterworks during one of the most tumultuous periods in the history of English literature. England's cities and industries were booming, poverty and crime filled the news, melodrama ruled the theaters, and newfound wealth made class barriers increasingly permeable. Dickens had just started his periodical All the Year Round, which helped to bring literature to a mass audience and blur the boundaries between highbrow and middlebrow culture. The new audience demanded a new type of novel, a novel as compelling as the scandalous headlines it competed with at the newsstands, able to keep readers in suspense from month to month and eager to buy the next issue."

----- Penguin Reading Guides

I have on my short list some novels by Agatha Christie, Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep), and Dorothy Sayers.

And, why not, even some Poe...

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
`'Tis some visitor,' I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more.'....


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