Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What Dracula Can Teach You About The Bible

One of the creepiest elements of Stoker’s vampire novel doesn't bite or turn into a bat. It’s a collection of wax cylinders. Dr. Seward dictates his notes onto them through a phonograph, telling his part of the story while at his job. They’re scary because of what they hint at.

“You’ve got to imagine the sounds that are behind his voice,” the scholar Bryan Alexander points out. Seward worked at an asylum. One would hear the screams and sounds of crying drifting through the halls, the tones indecipherable, barely audible.

Alexander is a writer and an academic who published Dracula as a series of blog posts. The novel was told through the notes and journal entries of the characters, and Alexander uploaded each of them on the date it was written so readers could experience the tale unfolding in “real time.” 

Dracula, a tale in fragments, was the ancestor of the found footage horror movie. These kinds of stories are disturbing because the media within them – the cylinders, film cans, and videotape – suggest an entire dark world just outside the borders of what you can see and know. Which brings us, of course, to the Bible.

The Bible is the original Western tale of fragments isn’t it? It’s a library of different genres and styles by an army of authors, some of them hidden from history. And it sits embedded in centuries of commentary and dogma about where each word came from and what it really means. But you have to pay attention to the borders of this book. The borders are where the victims are. 

Every divine plague and every righteous massacre suggests a world of small horrors just beyond the edges of the story:

The mother smothers her baby just after the walls of Jericho fall and the Israelite army spills in.

The little boy clings to the wreckage of his home as the flood waters sweep his family away.

To the extent the Bible is true these stories are true as well. There are no unimportant characters in an account like this – even if the truth is of a metaphorical or metaphysical kind. If you’re supposed to read this book for answers then the obscenity of Scripture – obvious and undeniable – is part of the narrative. It runs through every passage, and it turns each happy tale of survival and faith into a record of loss and despair. And so the Book’s real message, the answer to all those easy Sunday school lessons, becomes apparent:

You must open your eyes to horror, or you will shut your heart to suffering.

Yes. It's clear now. Remember it.

I am the author of a novel about the dark side of Scripture. It is called The Black Book Of Children’s Bible Stories, and you can find it on Amazon.

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