If you’ve ever wanted to pick up Bram Stoker’s “Dracula,” now is your chance. Since May 2021, I and countless individuals have been receiving emails directly to our inboxes that feature small snippets of the novel all via a free subscription called Dracula Daily. Although I was instantly drawn in by the format and the novel itself, the chronological format changes the reading experience from the printed version.
Dracula Daily first launched last spring, when creator Matt Kirkland decided that he wanted to share the novel in real time as events transpire. The novel is told in an epistolary format, meaning that it is compiled of letters and other documents. When writing his novel, Stoker dated each character’s letters, journal entries, telegrams and newspaper clippings, allowing for Kirkland to create a newsletter in which letters and documents are sent to your inbox on the corresponding day.
Kirkland decided to relaunch Dracula Daily for another year after hundreds “overwhelmingly said: YES” to his inquiry about a relaunch, Kirkland said in a post on the Dracula Daily website. On May 3, anyone who had subscribed to the newsletter received their first email from Jonathan Harker, one of many main characters throughout Stoker’s novel.
When I first began receiving emails from this newsletter, I was instantly hooked by the novel. As a result, I decided to pick up my physical copy of “Dracula” so that I could read it without waiting days or weeks between letters. Immediately, I noticed that there were some differences in the formats.
As already stated, “Dracula” is an epistolary novel. In my Norton critical edition of Bram Stoker’s work, the novel begins with the assertion, “How these papers have been placed in sequence will be made manifest in the reading of them.” I take this quote to mean two things: first, that Stoker is taking on an archival approach to the construction of the novel, and second, that Stoker ordered the letters and documents in an intentional order to give readers a specific experience while reading the work. This means that certain letters and documents are not in chronological order.
According to an article published by the literary magazine “The Curious Reader,” the epistolary format provides a dramatic irony as “the reader knows the significance of the events long before the characters.” As readers, we are able to compile a comprehensive narrative based on the fragments provided to us. Readers are the ones who have the complete picture, making for a frustrating read at times because all of the information reaches us before it reaches the characters.
So how does Dracula Daily change this?
Well, because Dracula Daily provides the novel to individuals in small, chronological vignettes, the dramatic irony is lost. Sure, it is hard to go into “Dracula” without knowing that Count Dracula is a vampire, but there is still plenty of suspense given to the reader by delivering the novel in this way. One of my favorite examples of this is the introduction of Lucy and Mina into the narrative. In Stoker’s ordering of the novel, readers do not get to meet Lucy and Mina until chapter five, where readers have already experienced the horrors of Count Dracula’s household. In Dracula Daily’s ordering, readers are left in the dark about Jonathan Harker’s status and are delivered letters recounting Lucy’s various proposals. This provides a bit of a comedy to the story, but now readers are left waiting in anticipation for whenever the next “letter” from Jonathan is set to arrive in their inbox. We readers feel the real-time anxiety of what it means to not receive word from Jonathan, allowing more dread to build and for a better connection to be formed between us and Mina, who is concerned about her partner.
The success of Dracula Daily has been an inspiration for others to create their own daily novel deliveries. For example, if you are interested in reading “Frankenstein” in short, digestible bits, you can sign up for Frankenstein Daily, which will send you real-time emails in the same vein as Dracula Daily. If you’re looking for something a little bit older and even more classic, you can join Ovid’s Summer Book Club or Ovid’s Fastorum Libri Sex, which is set to begin on January 1, 2023. Finally, if you want to conquer an intimidating classic, you can join Whale Weekly starting in December 2022, where updates of “Moby Dick” will continue for approximately three years.
While I do not believe that these daily fragments of novels serve as a full replacement for the novels themselves, I do believe that this delivery form encourages those who may have been intimidated to pick up the books to be more inclined to do so. Not only is it an easy, fun way to engage with classics, but it provides a sense of community with those who are doing the same thing. If you look up Dracula Daily on social media, you will find tons of people reacting, making memes and drawing art all inspired by this collective experience. It’s truly been something special to witness and I encourage others to join in on the fun.