The Kindle, Sexism, and Dracula

I got a Kindle for Christmas. My dad purchased them for all of us (mom, sis & fiance). Opening it was a mixed bag of emotions at first. My reactions ranged from “Cool! A new literary toy!” to “Oh shit! I’m contributing to the downfall of print literature.” I’m aware this is ridiculous.

The long and short of it is: the Kindle is cool. I like that you can loan books. I like that books are cheaper to download on the Kindle. I like that when I think or hear of a book I want to read, I can add it to my wish list and then download it. I like that I can make notes and annotations on the Kindle. Will I ever stop buying paper books? Does the sun shine in the sky? Please.

One of the aspects of the Kindle I like the most is you can download classics for free, so over Christmas I read Dracula. It was enjoyable; however, I was struck by the contradictory roles of women in the book. The two main female characters Mina and Lucy, are annoyingly traditional and yet interestingly progressive at the same time. For instance, before Lucy has the misfortune of becoming a vampire, she enjoys the attentions of three separate suitors who desire her hand in marriage. She talks about each of them, in detail, in a letter to Mina. Her view of them and how she handles their proposals reminds me a little bit of Sex & The City. She’s an attractive, intelligent capable woman who can have the pick of the litter. However, at the same time the way the men treat her in the book is very stereotypical. It is obvious Lucy is tough. She braves the transformation of becoming a vampire, she puts up with her dying mother and she manages to deal with strange incidents of sleepwalking and waking nightmares. However, the men in the book treat her like some sort of wilting flower. I mean, she’ the waking dead for crying out loud.

This is even more apparent in Mina’s character. After all of the men in the book come together for the common purpose of hunting down and destroying Dracula, they realize they need to organize all of their written accounts. Who volunteers to do this? Mina. She’s brilliant and as far as I can tell, a lot more organized than any of the men. However, even before she falls victim to Dracula herself, there is a constant (almost irritatingly constant) discussion about whether she should be spared the details of their quest for this fanged phantom. This is the only part of this book that I find ridiculous because it seems to me that if Mina has the strength to deal with her husband, Jonathan’s, terrible ordeal, the loss of her best friend Lucy, and the ravings of Renfield, she can probably hear about travel plans.

Despite all of this, I do enjoy this book. I like the way Stoker used diary entries and incorporated different viewpoints into the story. I also love reading a book about vampires that does not mention the names Bella, Jacob or Edward. Me? I’m on team Bram.

Sunday (Pittsburgh) Musings

Don’t blame this carnage on the recession or any of the usual suspects, including increased competition for the reader’s time or diminished attention spans. What’s undermining the book industry is not the absence of casual readers but the changing habits of devoted readers.

For a decade, consumers mostly ignored electronic book devices, which were often hard to use and offered few popular items to read. But this year, in part because of the popularity of’s wireless Kindle device, the e-book has started to take hold.



Sometimes it can’t be avoided
even though you might decline
the invitation to step outside—
sometimes you are outside
maybe in the repose of your garden
among rose petal and fern, but the whole
unvarnished spectacle of do
before you’re done unto unfolding
as spider devours beetle, beetle, aphid,
and the cat red in the tooth and claw.

No need to bring up bombs bursting
in synch or the rockets’ red glare
or every laser fescue pointing out
all that’s erasable, good-bye good-bye.
It’s among school children now,
maybe even in your neighbor’s house,
eating ravenously at his table,
agreeing with everything he says.
Inside, your daughter is locking
all the basement windows, your son
is drawing a truth machine to zap
the bad from the good, and when
your wife comes home to tell you
of a small injustice she’s endured,
the arrow of your steely retribution
thwunks into a soft, imagined heart.
No one immune here, no one
merely a small flash in the pan:
everything hugely combustible.
In the garden, you’re deadheading
lilies, the petals spiraling down
like crushed wings, and your fingers,
steeped in pulp, are turning yellow,
orange, incarnadine, damage
creating its own aesthetic,
painting itself on your skin.
And if anyone asked you now
you’d confess you’re damage, too,
you’re for wreckage of heart and bone
wrenching out the smallest penance.
Above you, purple bruising the edges
of the sky. Even the heavens.
In another moment, someone
might come looking for you,
touch you on the shoulder
and you’d flame up.
Nothing seems so improbable
as the world of a few minutes ago.
Here’s the night full of stars.
Behind each one, the darkness
you can never see.
Gregory Djanikian
The Southern Review
Autumn 2008

Those are pleasant thoughts, but awful poetry — probably the worst three lines Robert Frost ever put to paper. Tellingly it was work for hire: the opening lines of “Dedication,” the poem Frost composed for John F. Kennedy’s 1961 inauguration.