Bram Stoker’s Dracula is a much beloved classic, originally published in 1897 by Archibald Constable and Company, and bound in yellow to signify warning. Back then, if a book dealt with experimental or transgressive themes, they would often be published with yellow covers, in order to warn prospective readers of the poison within… and to pique interest. Years later, Dracula still enjoys its reputation as an era-defining novel and a prime example of gothic fiction.
The novel is epistolary, made up mostly of diary entries, letters and telegrams, and takes place within the same calendar year (between 3rd May and 7th November, to be exact). Dracula Daily is a free newsletter that sends subscribers the novel by email – whenever there is an entry on that day, that is. This is a deviation from how the original novel was published, with letters arriving late and diaries being found by the central characters weeks after they were written.
Having not read the original Dracula in its intended order, I cannot compare the reader’s experience. However, what I will say is that I think I would have really struggled to read Dracula in its intended form. Though an important work of fiction, for a modern day reader it can be quite slow-moving and I can imagine DNF-ing this, had I had a physical copy.
Instead, these bite-sized morsels that would arrive in my inbox made the novel much more approachable and kept me intrigued. Being unable to read on further kept me wondering what would happen next, and I enjoyed being put in the character’s shoes when awaiting an update on Lucy Westenra’s condition, or on Renfield’s progress. You are truly able to feel the agony characters are going through as they await the arrival of an all-important telegram.
In a day and age where music, films and books are so easily accessible, and binge culture is so prominent, where often TV show episodes are not released weekly but all at once or in batches, I really enjoyed this slow-burn approach to reading.
It was also lovely to encounter people in my day-to-day life who were also following the project. One of my co-workers, for example, was also subscribed to Dracula Daily, which meant we could talk theories together at lunch or at the printer. Without joining a book club, it’s not often you come across people who are reading the exact same book, and are at the exact same point in said book, as you. This added a small community aspect to reading, which I found very enjoyable.
Overall, this was a really lovely experience for me and, as I said, I think this may have been the only way for me to get through this specific novel. If you too find Dracula a little daunting but still want to engage with the work that gave us the most famous and iconic vampire to date, then I highly suggest signing up to Dracula Daily.
Because good news! Matt Kirkland, who runs Dracula Daily, has already confirmed that it will run again in 2023.
If you don’t like the idea of reading on-screen, then fear not. The team at Dracula Daily are putting together a book that puts Dracula in chronological order, so that readers who prefer to read on paper can do so.
If you’re looking for other novel subscriptions, I just signed up to Whale Weekly which sends Herman Melville’s Moby Dick to readers. Moby Dick is not an epistolary novel, but the people at Whale Weekly have scoured the text for dates in order to make approximations. Moby Dick is a favourite of mine, so I look forward to how the novel will be adapted to this structure. It starts on 21st November and runs for approximately 2 years so if you’re thinking about starting it, you may want to do so soon! Like Dracula Daily, Whale Weekly will also have an archive, so if you sign up a few days (or months!) late, you will easily be able to catch up.