Rebuilding Frankenstein’s Monster

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Lecture-time is doodle-time.

I’m still alive!
This past week I have been busy doing a university, rereading and studying Mary Shelly’s classic novel, Frankenstein. It’s one of those words so embedded in Western culture that the mere title is enough to conjure up images of the lumbering brute with the bolt through the neck – even among those who haven’t read the book. Especially among those people.

The Frankenstein’s monster that most people, myself included before reading the original, imagine, and which pops up a thousand times over with a Google image search, is the one portrayed by Boris Karloff in the 1931 film version. This guy:

The part in this film version where he throws the little girl in the lake is always unintentionally hilarious to me. Does that make me a bad man?

And yet, this version, iconic and enjoyable though it is, strays heavily from the novel in terms of both plot and aesthetics. Here is the first description of Frankenstein’s creature from Mary Shelley’s 1818 original, after the hapless scientist succeeds in creating life by infusing ‘a spark of being’ into a lifeless body:

How can I describe my emotions at this catastrophe, or how delineate the wretch whom with such infinite pains and care I had endeavoured to form? His limbs were in proportion, and I had selected his features as beautiful. Beautiful! – Great God! His yellow skin scarcely covered the work of muscles and arteries beneath: his hair was of a lustrous black, and flowing; his teeth of a pearly whiteness; but these luxuriances only formed a more horrid contrast with his watery eyes, that seemed almost of the same colour as the dun white sockets in which they were set, his shrivelled complexion and straight black lips.

Seems fairly different to the monster which most of us have locked away in our shared/public memory. Frankenstein is a difficult novel to adapt faithfully to the screen, due to its framing narrative device, extended internal monologues, and various convoluted plot points. The closest version to a faithful adaptation I’ve seen so far is the 1977 film ‘Terror of Frankenstein’ (dir. Calvin Floyd), an Irish/Swedish production which takes the story very literally. It’s enjoyable, but quite dense and heavy handed at times.

The various adaptations go to show, I think, that this is a novel with an incredibly enticing imaginative prospect, so enticing that curious re-writers everywhere are happy to overcome the problems with representing such a profoundly creepy being in a visual form.

Finally, here is my own attempt at this, in watercolour paint. It’s only when you try to do it yourself that you realise how difficult it is to create an image of a being that is unbearably ugly, unsettling and not quite human, despite Shelley’s seemingly specific descriptions above.

Frankenstein: 'Begone! relieve me from the sight of your detested form.' 'Thus I relieve thee, my creator,' he said, and placed his hated hands before my eyes.' Even ungodly walking corpses have a sense of humour.

Frankenstein: ‘Begone! relieve me from the sight of your detested form.’
‘Thus I relieve thee, my creator,’ he said, and placed his hated hands before my eyes.’
Even ungodly walking corpses have a sense of humour.

– SYKES

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Based on a True Story

I have been quiet this week on the blog front, mainly because of persistent intervention of the so called REAL WORLD dragging me away from my computer and off into the misty wastes of the outside land.
In other words, it was time to leave home and go back to uni for a new term.

Here’s how it went down.

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Despite my best efforts to stay hidden and hunched over a laptop, I was eventually seized by those terrible monsters some call ‘responsibilities’ and forced to leave my room.

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Luckily for me, in this case I was spared the full brunt of adulthood as I have one more year’s respite, returning to university after 3 years to study for a Masters degree. And so I did, with only a tiny bit of earth-shattering complaint and unreasonable fear. It’s actually pretty great to be back.

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END

Disclaimer: This is more or less how it happened, though I may have exaggerated ever so slightly with the part about the glowing ethereal arms of reality dragging me kicking and screaming into the light. The part about the bowl is true though. It all got very Withnail and I.

-SYKES

Where do you get your ideas from?

A lot of people like to use the phrase, ‘standing on the shoulders of giants’ when talking about thinkers – particularly scientists who have built up a legendary career of invention and innovation from the meagre beginnings of studying their predecessors.

Writing, I think, is a little bit different. Not too far removed, but standing on shoulders doesn’t quite fit. Rather than picking up where the literary giants of the past left off, it’s more that you’re required to pick bits and pieces from the work that came before you, jumble them all around, then stitch them back together, interspersed with your own personal reflections and optional witty banter.

So here is my preferred phrase:

NB: Not thrown out for being bad, they just had extra copies, as you do.

NB: Not thrown out for being bad, they just had extra copies, as you do.

It isn’t so much ‘stealing’ as it is creative recycling, or perhaps borrowing. Anyway, so long as you’re ‘meta’ enough about it, no one should mind.
It certainly isn’t a bad habit. This is what writing is. You take all the things you know about and you juggle and spin around and drop the less interesting ones, then you’ve got your own unique story. Even Willy Shakes did it!

Alternatively, you can creatively recycle current fiction instead and come up with a cheap Twilight or Fifty Shades of Grey knock off. C’mon, man, everybody’s doing it…

– SYKES

Selling Organs: A six word story (Daily Prompt)

From the daily prompt – Six of One, Half a Dozen of the Other
‘Write a six-word story about what you think the future holds for you, and then expand on it in a post.’

Sold organs in desperation. Church furious.

Selling organs

This was drawn very quickly, so the organ may not be anatomically correct.

Judging by the current state of my finances, this is looking to be a likely outcome for my future. Desperate times, eh?

Love a good six word story. This website has a good collection of them, if you’re interested.

– SYKES

Lord Tredegar threw the best house parties

This doodle might require some background info.

My Dad owns a book called ‘I Never Knew That About Wales’ by Christopher Winn. While reading it he came across a passage which he felt the need to show me, about a big old mansion in Monmouthshire called Tredegar House. It had a number of eccentric Lords, the best of which was a guy called Evan:

‘He saw himself as an artist and poet and filled Tredegar with exotic animals such as gorillas, bears and, his particular favourites, kangaroos, with whom he used to box. To break the ice at stuffy parties he trained his parrot, Blue Boy, to climb up inside his trousers and peep out through the fly, causing strong men to pale and well-bred ladies to swoon.

His mother, the former Lady Katharine Carnegie, thought she was a bird, and would go about the house making nests where she could roost. Apparently, when hungry, she would emit a noise something like a jackdaw and a footman would appear with her favourite tiffin, a dish of corn seed, steeped in medium sherry.’

I think I have a new hero.

Artist’s impression:

Apologies to any well-bred ladies who swoon as a result of this doodle.

Apologies to any well-bred ladies who swoon as a result of this doodle.

Shakespeare’s Greatest Hits

And so goodnight unto you all.

‘How will this fadge?’ That is the real question.

Shakespeare is so often hailed as a great wordsmith, quoted over and over again, and used out of context to justify more or less anything with an air of literary sophistication.
But it’s all ‘To be or not to be?’ or ‘Some are born great, others achieve greatness’, etc. Where is the appreciation for the all the early modern innuendos and creatively bizarre metaphors? Here, that’s where.

Credit to Phil.