Heavens, am I behind! My vacation not only caused Read It & Steep to meet a week early in September, but it completely derailed my blogging. So, alas, here it is, October and I’m only now posting about our August book, the great Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus by Mary Shelley. Since we’re a bit removed from it now and I can’t remember just how the conversation progressed, I’ll let you know that we, for the most part enjoyed the novel. For a great many of us, it was a re-read. Personally, this was my first time reading it on an electronic device and it had been long enough that I thought that I might have downloaded the wrong book.
I had no memory of the epistolary format (Bless you, Melissa, who completely deadpanned, “I don’t know what that means” at our meeting after I complemented her on pointing out the epistolary format and how it confused me) between the sailor to whom Frankenstein relays his story and the sailor’s sister. Of course, I shouldn’t have been surprised that the story is told in letters, since that was the prevalent style of the time. That being said, it is a little surprising that a character so wholly unrelated to the action of the story is the narrator … of course; just who would Victor write to?
The Steepers spent a deal of time (when not discussing/quoting Young Frankenstein) talking about the nature of monsters and how this novel has become slightly warped by the contemporary views of it. If you were to ask many a person who Frankenstein is, the answer would be “the monster with the bolts in his neck.” Even some of our more seasoned book club members hadn’t known that Frankenstein is the name of the monster’s creator, not the monster himself. This prompts the discussion, who is the monster of the novel? I argue (not too hard, since the theory was pretty much universally agreed upon) that Victor Frankenstein is the monster of this tale and it seems strangely fitting that his name has become synonymous with the idea of monstrous.
We also discussed how the current idea of Frankenstein’s creation has evolved. Those of us who’ve read the book before are even surprised when we read how eloquently the monster speaks when he relays his parts of the story. We’re all used to the stereotypical grunting hulk … . putting on the Ritz. Now that it’s October, by the way, you can get Frankenberry cereal … I’m certain Mary Shelley would be terribly proud.
Some of our readers also voiced surprise that the book has the subtitle The Modern Prometheus. It does add a new dimension to the read. I also thought the fire ties to the monster’s fear of the same. Turns out that I, too, have been brainwashed by the current depictions of the monster, which shows him turning violent due to his fear of fire. The monster does burn himself when he first sees fire, but then like most people, he realizes that he shouldn’t touch it, but can still enjoy it’s warmth.
Great quotes of the evening included a discussion how Victor Frankenstein would have enjoyed CRTL-Z to undo what he’d done. We also enjoyed how the narrator describes Victor Frankenstein as “the brother of my soul,” to which one of our steepers replied, “Well, you’ve got a messed up soul.”
Finally, the steepers discussed how the original 1818 text (written when Shelley was a teen) and the heavily revised 1831 edition. We speculated that the death of Shelley’s poet husband would have affected her take on her own tale. We weren’t quite sure when Percy had died, but we thought he’d been lost at sea and even if he hadn’t that “someone, somewhere was lost at sea.” In fact, while Shelley did die at sea, his body was recovered. Never-the-less, all the Steepers agree that Frankenstein is still well worth the read even after 200 years.
Steeper Kristin points out in a tweet that “I’d forgotten how much I hate Victor Frankenstein. Seriously, eff that guy.” We all agree.