Not long ago, I finished listening to an audiobook of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (thanks to LibriVox). I quite enjoyed it on a number of levels.
Here’s my cheeky little synopsis:
A lovely tale about a writing group that gets together to solve a mystery and take down a vampire.
Just before listening to Drac, I’d finished Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. They are two very different stories written in two very different styles. Now, I can appreciate Frank for its novelty (pun, pun, pun!) as well as its place as a forerunner for the horror genre, but I don’t know if I could say I enjoyed it. Make no missed stake (get it?), I’m still glad I gave it a listen, but I think it’s now very dated, while Drac still holds up as an excellent work of prose.
That said, the purpose of this post is not an untimely book review.
As you might expect, both books include a good dose of madness. That’s pretty standard for horror stories. In Frank, the protagonist, Victor Frankenstein himself, suffers through quite a lot of (very drawn out) mental instability. In Drac, nearly all the main characters question their sanity, but only Renfield, a patient in Seward’s asylum, has truly lost his marbles (and not the fun way, as in the movie Hook).
There’s one line from Dracula (the book not the vampire) on the subject that really stood out to me:
Stop; that way madness lies!
In context, it comes from a scene where things have taken a turn for the worst and the heroes are tempted to dwell on regret. They’ve made some costly mistakes and also missed picking up some very big clues. I believe the line is also a reference to Shakespeare's King Lear, who himself went quite mad.
So, what’s the point?
Dwelling on our past decisions and mistakes only leads to one inevitable destination: madness.
Have you gone far down that path yourself? I know I’ve tread those steps. I’ve sauntered up the very doors of the Mansion of Madness itself (also a title of a great board game, so I hear). Therein lies a bottomless pit where your thoughts spin over and over in crazy, tumbling circles, on and on without end.
It is the endless mantra, if only, if only, if only, drilling into your skull.
It is a deadly poison wrought from a most vile brew: a concoction for insanity.
I bid thee, turn thine steps from that avenue of shadows, the one called Regret. Heed my words, learn from my own bitter woes, that trail will lead you nowhere good. Turn back, turn back, before it be too late!
Oh, ahem, sorry about that. What were we talking about then? Ah, yes, keep your creativity moving forward and let the past be the past (or Rafiki will hit you on the head with a stick and knock some sense into you).
Well, that was interesting. Now, what should I read next … some Poe or Lovecraft perhaps? Hmm, I think a bit of lighter fare may do me good. Until then, adieu, and keep the garlic and the holy symbols ever at the ready, lest the sharp fangs of regret sink into your so tender flesh!
Apologies, I simply don’t know what has gotten into me lately. Oh, the sun, how it burns! Someone pass the aloe vera please.