I've been reading some more non-fiction lately than usual - a lot of technical stuff for work, and a lot of food stuff for my foodblog. I did manage to squeeze in a Star Trek novel, and I do manage to hammer out a little more on the fantasy novel everyday, but since March or so, my brain and time have been occupied with things other than keeping you folks on the edge of your seat.
My last published entry dealt with Moby Dick (1851), an American classic. This entry, though, will deal with a European classic that straddled the shifting literary trend from Gothic fiction to the slowly building age of Romantic literature. You know it as "Frankenstein" by Mary Shelley. Technically, it's "Frankenstein; or The Modern Prometheus," but that's usually something only us real geeks know.
It's a brilliant novel which explores themes of the general nature of mankind, morality, compassion, vengeance, and revenge. It's nothing like the Universal monster movies that everyone knows; it lacks the iconic character of Igor, who was created strictly for the movies, and Victor Frankenstein is not a doctor. In addition, there is even an entire section where the unnamed "monster" tells his side of the story.
At first, Shelley published it anonymously in 1818 to only fair reviews. A few years later, the reprints included her name, which caused a small handful of critics to argue whether a woman could have written it, and another small handful of critics who said the novel's few flaws were directly because a woman wrote it.
With time, as we all know, it has become a classics novel in its own right, and can be credited with being one of the earliest science fiction as horror stories. The story is compelling, enough so that it's difficult to put down at times, and the language is quite beautiful throughout despite the novel's themes and mood. As an example, I thought I might include a few of the more thoughtful quotes below:
When Victor Frankenstein realizes that he's become obsessed with creating life from inanimate flesh:
"If the study to which you apply yourself has a tendency to weaken your affections and to destroy your taste for those simple pleasures in which no alloy can possibly mix, then that study is certainly unlawful, that is to say, not befitting the human mind."
The point in the narrative when the unnamed creation decides to turn to evil to punish mankind for its sins:
"For the first time the feelings of revenge and hatred filled my bosom, and I did not strive to control them, but allowing myself to be borne away by the stream I bent my mind towards injury and death."
And another line spoken by the unnamed creation:
"Of what a strange nature is knowledge! It clings to the mind when it has once seized on it like a lichen on the rock."
Finally, I've decided to include this last quote as well, solely because the Mel Brooks comedy "Young Frankenstein" included it when Frederick Frankenstein read from his grandfather's private library, and I'm a geek who is always on the look out for little bits of trivia like this:
"After days and nights of incredible labour and fatigue, I succeeded in discovering the cause of generation and life; nay, more, I became myself capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter."
Overall, it's a short novel per se, and one that's well worth reading, especially if you've only ever seen movie versions. I've read it multiple times now and I'm always discovering and rediscovering numerous wonderful parts. If you take the time to give it a spin, I'm sure you'll enjoy it.
Until Next Time...