Monday, February 11, 2019

Random thoughts on Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

  • 201 years old, and it is amazing how accessible the novel is to the modern reader. I expected a struggle; it never materialized.
  • The Guardian regards Frankenstein as the 8th best novel ever. It’s never been out of print.
  • Forget everything you think you know about Frankenstein. Your understanding of it has undoubtedly been shaped by the movie and hundreds, if not thousands, of modern interpretations.  There’s no plundering of graveyards at the stroke of midnight. No hunch-backed assistance named Igor. No proclamations that “it’s alive . . . it’s alive.”
  • We never actually see how Victor Frankenstein — he’s never referred to as Dr. Frankenstein — imbues his creation with the spark of life. Only that he does.
  • Is Frankenstein the first science fiction novel? The first work of horror? Yes, on both counts. Although the book is much more.  It’s a gothic romance, too.  A ghost story. And, patently, a warning of the evil that can materialize from man’s hubris and a definitive reminder of the law of unintended consequences.Victor Frankenstein’s creation is, initially, unformed; the potential for both good and evil exist within him. He craves companionship.  Companionship he hopes to garner from a French family living in exile. The creature has observed them silently for months, and contemplates his approach: 
  • “The more I saw of them, the greater became my desire to claim their protection and kindness; my heart yearned to be known and loved by these amiable creatures . . . I dared not think that they would turn . . . from me with disdain and horror . . . I required kindness and sympathy; but I did not believe myself utterly unworthy of it.”
  • Victor Frankenstein is not a sympathetic character.  He brings doom upon himself and his family through his own folly, arrogance and all-to-sudden rejection of the thing he has created. The creature observes that, after creating man, God furnishes man a paradise, whereas Frankenstein recoils in horror, casting his creation into the darkness.
  • Frankenstein is sub-titled The Modern Prometheus.  In Greek mythology, Prometheus, a Titan, is said to have created man from clay.  In similar vein, Victor Frankenstein fashions his creature from crude materials.  
I also read a second Sunny Randall novel, Shrink Rap, by Robert B. Parker.  An easy read; almost 300 pages in one day.  Enjoyable enough, as Sunny observes at the novel’s close — “nothing wrong with fun.”

Books read -- January
1.   Our Mutual Friend, Charles Dickens
2.   Voodoo River, Robert Crais
3.   Yossel, April 19, 1943, Joe Kubert
4.   Lie In The Dark, Dan Fesperman
5.   A Canticle For Leibowitz, Walter M. Miller, Jr.
6.   Flash, The Making of Weegee The Famous by Christopher Bonanos
7.   Neptune's Brood, Charles Stross
8.   Perish Twice, Robert B. Parker
9.   The League of Regrettable Sidekicks, Jon Morris
10. Casino Royale, Ian Fleming
11. Mrs. Palfrey At The Claremont, Elizabeth Taylor

Books read -- February
12. The Golden Tresses of the Dead, Alan Bradley
13. The Problem of Susan and Other Stories, Neil Gaiman & P. Craig Russell
14. The Rhesus Chart, Charles Stross
15. Frankenstein, Mary Shelley
16. Shrink Rap, Robert B. Parker

Currently  Reading --
The Big Fella, Babe Ruth and the World He Created, Jane Leavy
Distrust That Particular Flavor, William Gibson
Wish You Were Here, Graham Swift

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