Monday, October 3, 2022

A Heroine of Fictional Stenography

I'm not sure how many of you are participating in Dracula Daily, a free service that sends chapters of the classic novel Dracula to your inbox on the dates corresponding to each letter, newspaper clipping, or diary entry comprising the novel. One thing I definitely didn't notice when I read Dracula for the first time many years ago is that Bram Stoker is a giant nerd for the newest technology of his day, constantly namedropping Kodak cameras, dictation gramophones, aerated bread, blood transfusions (spoiler?), and of course pen shorthand. You might know that Charles Dickens was a shorthand reporter in the courts before he became a novelist, and that Dostoyevsky once dictated an entire novel at high speed to his wife, a proficient pen stenographer, in order to get money to pay off his gambling debts as expeditiously as possible, but when it comes to dashingly competent and heroic stenographers of fiction, Wilhelmina "Mina" Harker has got to be right up there. Her skills prove invaluable to the hunt for the wicked count more than once, and at one point she even plays a prank on Professor Van Helsing by offering to let him read her diary and handing it to him, smirking when he realizes that the whole thing is in shorthand. Classic steno jape right there. Anyway, I recommend the Dracula Daily social readalong experience highly, and welcome additional recommendations of heroic stenographers in fiction.

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