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Posted at 10:34 AM ET, 11/08/2012

BRAM STOKER BOOKS: In bloody-good fashion, Google Doodle toasts the towering ‘Dracula’ creator

THIS IS the tale of a one-sip wonder.

Perhaps it’s blasphemous to say so, like driving a stake through his art, because Abraham “Bram” Stoker wrote numerous novels (many now read as dated) and short stories (some hold up fine) and nonfiction (noted) and theater reviews (incisive enough to win a vital friendship). But Stoker never again concocted the exquisite literary elixir quite the way he did with his sublime story of “Dracula.”

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“NOSFERATU” (1922) :

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The 1897 novel was originally titled “The Undead” before a late title change, according to lore, and how perfectly apt is that image, since Stoker’s delicious wonder -- adjudged “merely” a Gothic horror tale upon his death exactly a century ago -- has spawned endless and eternal artistic mutation in pop culture. So deeply rooted in our social consciousness now is “Dracula” that the damned seductive thing, unlike the Count itself, will never die. Thank goodness.

For it is on that one wonder that rests Stoker’s secure perch as a towering figure. Bloody genius, that.

It is as if so many elements of Stoker’s life congealed and coagulated precisely to birth his best work.

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“DRACULA” TRAILER (1931):

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Stoker was born just outside Dublin in 1847, a period when millions of starving countrymen would walk dying and gaunt and haunted looking through Ireland during the Great Potato Famine. Stoker himself was a sickly child till about age 7, largely confined to indoors, and his mother would fill the bedridden boy with dark stories of shadowy figures from Irish folklore -- sparking his imagination before he suddenly became strong and athletic by adolescence (one biographer called him a “red-haired giant”). Some say it is these vivid childhood tales, and not real-life Romanian warrior Vlad the Impaler, that actually inspired the bloodthirsty Dracula.

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GARY OLDMAN :

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Stoker toiled in the Irish civil service, prompting nonfiction work; and soon wrote fiction like “The Primrose Path” and “The Snake’s Pass”; and penned drama criticism, including a review of “Hamlet” that reportedly led to his crucial friendship with actor Henry Irving, whose theater he would become acting manager of for decades.

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LESLIE NIELSEN :

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In 1878, Stoker wed Florence Balcombe, who chose Bram over competing suitor Oscar Wilde. Stoker and Wilde nevertheless became friends, and Bram gained entree into a literary circle; he eventually met Walt Whitman, Tennyson and Twain, Conan Doyle and even Teddy Roosevelt.

Stoker would publish his first work (”Under the Sunset” children’s tales) in 1882, and a romance novel (”Snake’s Pass”) in 1890. But it was his “Undead” Dracula that would stir his creative juices for most of the next decade.

DRACULA: THE TRUE STORY:

Stoker, by some accounts, knew that the reading public had an appetite for Gothic horror, and he took note of the fascination with murderous Jack the Ripper. So Stoker painstakingly concocted his tale of not only the Transylvania vampire, but also the assemblage of characters who encounter the count -- and their fin-de-siècle Freudian plunge into life, death and sexual repression/expression.

Stoker’s fifth novel indeed proved popular upon being published in 1897. But his story wouldn’t become a monster hit until after the 1922 Murnau film “Nosferatu,” which Stoker’s widow vocally had issues with, and especially after 1931’s “Dracula” with Bela Lugosi immortalizing the role.

DRACULA (1931):

More than a thousand cinematic vampires later — through Christopher Lee and Frank Langella and Gary Oldman, up to the alabaster-pale-by-comparison “Twilight” series (and this month’s final installment) — Dracula is too virulent to perish. If anything, he can see his cultural reflection all around him, everywhere.

Today, to celebrate the 165th anniversary of Stoker’s birth, Google has created a black-and-crimson Doodle on its homepage. The lettering evokes the earliest printings of the novel, and the illustration summons the “Dracula” characters, including Jonathan Harker, Mina and Abraham Van Helsing.

Stoker died April 20, 1912. He is survived forever by his greatest creation.

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IN SEARCH OF HISTORY: THE REAL DRACULA:

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By  |  10:34 AM ET, 11/08/2012

Tags:  bram stoker, dracula, google doodle

 
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