Dracula by Bram Stoker. There are Goths and there are Vampire Weekend fanatics, but I’m not among them; I wouldn’t have re-read Dracula if I hadn’t had to for a literature class in graduate school. But wow. Written in 1897, Dracula is a fractured, multifaceted narrative told in journals, letters, diaries and newspaper clippings, from the point of view of four different characters. If I’d turned in such a thing in workshop, I would have been accused of the crime of postmodernism. Anyway. It’s a terrific crime novel that chases the villain across Europe, and Mina Murray is one ballsy Victorian heroine.
The Long Embrace: Raymond Chandler and the Woman he Loved by Judith Freeman. Judith Freeman tries to get to the heart of Raymond Chandler’s relationship with his wife Cissy – she was eighteen years his senior, a fact that was kept secret, even, for some time, from Chandler himself. During her research, Freeman begins to stalk his ghost: she goes from house to house across Southern California, trying to see how the couple’s many moves inflected what Chandler wrote. I did not always agree with her read of Los Angeles and its neighborhoods, but as a work of biography The Long Embrace is more honest than most. Freeman’s obsessions are a frame for her work; she exposes them where more formal biographies keep them under wraps. Yes, she loves reading Raymond Chandler; yes, she is entranced by his marriage; and no, she will never get close enough.