The New Annotated Dracula by Bram Stoker, edited with notes by Leslie S. Klinger, introduction by Neil Gaiman (Norton, 611 pages, $39.95).
Very few classic movies in this world are quite as different from their source novels as Tod Browning's stark, minimalist "Dracula" with Bela Lugosi ("For a man who hass liffed only von lifetime, you're a vize man, Dr. Van HEL-sing"). Bram Stoker's "Dracula" -- an effulgent Victorian literary classic -- is, as current fantasy meister Neil Gaiman says in his introduction "a book that cries out for notation. The world it describes is no longer our world. The geography it describes is often not of our world. It is a book that is good to traverse with someone informed and informative by your side."
Enter Leslie S. Klinger, fresh from a triumphant annotated Sherlock Holmes, reluctant to leave the plush, lamplit Victorian world and privy to the actual Bram Stoker manuscript of the novel for the first time.
These Norton annotated editions (Sherlock Holmes, Hans Christian Anderson, the Brothers Grimm) are among the more lavish pleasures you'll find anywhere, and this one is, frankly, especially splendid visually, with a whole world of art, film, historic lore and wildly evocative Victoriana festooning the book along with explanations and amplifications of the universe that seems to lie, as Gaiman says, in crevices just outside the pages of its luxuriant narrative.
You'll find, from Klinger, everything from abundant skeptical wit about lacunae in Stoker's text to his dead serious explanation that yes, because of the sudden onset of stress-induced diffuse alopecia areata, a "partly gray-haired individual" might "appear to have turned white-haired almost overnight."
Admittedly, this fiesta celebrating "Dracula" is probably not the best first narrative acquaintance, but for anyone at all familiar with the book, this edition is glorious.
-- Jeff Simon