I’ll be honest, I needed a quick read again this week. I wasted most of the bank holiday and only had one day to finish a whole book. So, I went to my bookshelves to find the shortest book possible. It’s not my favourite method for picking which book I read next but, sometimes, you have to just get something done. I bought this book back in March because it sounded really silly. We’ve had horror versions of classics in the past so why not drag queen versions? And a drag version of Dracula had the potential to be an amazing thing.
Dragula is as simple a concept as it sounds. It takes the story of Dracula and gives it a drag queen twist. This is a story full of people saying “yaaaas kween” and lip-syncing to everything. When basic-bitch Jonathan Harker makes his way to Castle Dragula, he thinks he’s just there to talk about possible renovations. Little does he know that he’s about to be dragged into a dispute between two famous drag queens. Count Dragula was once the most beloved queen in Transylvania but is now a recluse living with her 3 drag daughters. Van High Heelsing was once Dragula’s friend but has now taken her crown. When the local VAMPageant comes to town, Dragula has to make sure that she makes the comeback to beat all comebacks. But just what do Jonathan’s fiance and her cousin have to do with it all?
The problem that I’ve always found with these parody style retellings is that, after a few pages, the jokes start to wear very thin. I know it’s kind of the point but the story is very one-note. It does get grating that it never goes beyond a very basic level of humour. To be honest, it feels as though this simplifies drag culture. I admit that my own knowledge of the drag community isn’t extensive but I know that there is more to it than this book suggests. It feels as though this was a book written by a straight white woman whose only experience of drag is watching Drag Race.
Which gives the book an overall cringy feeling. I felt bad reading it. I know that it’s meant to be a silly and irreverent so criticising it is meaningless. And, to be honest, I wouldn’t mind so much if the book was funny. The problem is, I didn’t find myself laughing. I couldn’t stop cringing but the laughter never came. There is a sense of desperation to get as many references in there and it all comes down to references. It’s The Big Bang Theory of books where the humour comes from someone thinking “I’ve also heard of that thing”. There’s no inwit here and the story just can’t sustain itself for too long.
There are some very weird and interesting choices within the story. It is set in the same period as the original novel but the narrator continually breaks the fourth wall by mentioning modern pop culture. It’s a conceit that never quite works and, frankly, gets quite irritating. I feel that this would have been a stronger story had it at least kept up the period of the original. Although, overall, this book promised more than it could actually deliver. It was all just a bit too much and trying too hard to be funny. I had such high hopes for this and it just ended up being disappointing.