My Slightly Bitchy Synopsis of Frankenstein

Hi Everyone! And welcome new subscribers and visitors.
Sit back with a cup of coffee (or tea!), and enjoy my classical sci-fi crib notes…

I finished Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein (published in 1818) a few weeks ago, and as you can gather from my previous comments, I have some criticisms, but overall I would still say it’s still a must read for anyone interested in the origins of science fiction, as well as Gothic novel lovers everywhere.

Here is my (as brief as possible) Synopsis…

1) Captain Robert Walton tells the story in the form of letters to his sister Margaret Walton Saville.

a) He is seeking fame and fortune by attempting to explore the North Pole.
b) He and his crew see a giant, freaky, sasquatch-looking humanoid on a dogsled off in the distance, and then the next day fine a dying man floating on an ice floe, whom they bring on board.
c) Said dying man tells his tale.  He is Viktor Frankenstein.

2) Viktor Frankenstein: rich kid from Geneva, gone wild.

a) He had a lovely, happy life with his family, including his mother (who dies of scarlet fever before the monster shenanigans begin), his father, their ward Elizabeth, his brothers Ernest and William and William’s nanny Justine.
b) He goes about 410 miles away to school in Ingolstadt, Germany. He has become obsessed with science and re-animating life since his mother died, and sets out to learn how to do this.  He’s obviously a genius since he figures out re-animation without ever having even completed his university courses.
     c) He discovers said secret to reanimating life, and by this we’re not exactly sure if he used any cadaver parts or shaped them out of primordial goo because he never actually says, and tells Walton that he refuses to divulge his reanimation secret so it will not ruin the lives of others.
Note: this bothers the heck out of me as it seems to be not only a cop out of having to describe the magical process of reanimation, but we are not even told WHAT the creature is made of – we know it’s something foul, but I find this to be way too vague. In this way I will agree with Hollywood for giving the story more credibility in films by at least trying to explain both these issues (usually by saying the monster is made of salvaged cadaver parts and animated by electricity).
d) After creating the monster and seeing it come to life — EW BUGS! — Frankenstein is horrified by it and hides from it in another room, and I believe passes out. Seriously? You spend months lovingly crafting a giant putrid-looking (so the story describes) humanoid on a table and only realize it could possibly be creepy AFTER it wakes up and looks at you? Really?
e) The monster comes into the room where Frankenstein is hiding and upon seeing it again I think Frankenstein screams and passes out again (I could go check my Kindle to be sure, but you get the drift) and upon waking, he is immensely relieved that the monster has fled the premises.
Note: Um. Again, Frankenstein has just made a giant, gruesome-looking freak of a humanoid being, and it is now, running around town, naked for all he knows, doing God knows what, to God knows whom.  FWEW!  Success! Dodged that bullet! o.O
f) Frankenstein, who seems partial to fits, tremors and nervous episodes in general, becomes very (yet vaguely) ill and his friend (cousin?) Henry Clerval comes from Geneva to nurse him back to health.
g) Frankenstein receives word that his youngest brother has been murdered and returns to Geneva with Clerval. About a year has passed at this point since the creation of the monster.
h) Upon arriving in Geneva, Frankenstein finds out that Justine (the nanny) is in custody for the murder.  He also sees the monster when he is out near the scene of the crime and watches it vanish into the mountains. Frankenstein assumes correctly that the monster actually killed his brother and hopes to exonerate Justine but fails without being able to divulge his secret: “No really guys, I made a giant scary man-devil and THAT is what killed my brother, I swear!”
i) Afterwards, Frankenstein takes the mother of all solo hiking trips and we are treated to many chapters of description of glaciers, trees, mountains, and suicidal angst.
j) Here the monster finds him and (and I have mentioned before) in impeccable, sophisticated French (which is the common tongue there), admits to killing William and framing Justine, and implores Frankenstein to come to his ice cave and listen to the story of what happened to him since his creation.
Note: At this point the reader is thinking maybe, just maybe, Frankenstein is hoping the monster just kills him, because honestly, he’s like 8 feet tall, travels 410 miles like he’s out for a jog, and is canny enough to find out where people live, kill kids, and frames ladies like he’s the villain on CSI. It’s looking pretty bleak, so hey, why not stroll off with the devil and hear his tale, right?

3) The Monster’s Story

a) After being created, and rudely rejected by his maker, the Monster, who cannot speak and doesn’t understand even the concept of night and day yet, has the presence of mind to grab some clothes and papers before he flees.  (I’m giving you my “that’s bullshit” look, can you feel it?).
b) He heads straight for the woods and wanders around for months learning about life through observation until he sees a village and is promptly chased out of.  (Hence the inspiration for the nighttime pitchfork scene from the movies, except it happens in the middle here and is very brief).
c) He proceeds on to a little farmhouse with a (completely, never, ever used or looked inside of for months at a time) shed up against one of it’s outer walls and decides to hide in it. I am not sure on the timeline here, but it is the better part of a year that he eavesdrops on the family in the farmhouse during the day through a crack in the wall, and scavenges for wood and food at night.  The wood he sets out for the family as a friendly, but anonymous gesture.
d) By eavesdropping on them he does several things: learns his amazing and perfect French, learns about politics/geography/ways of man through the inhabitants’ studies, and falls in love with entire family of good-hearted souls who have no idea a big freaky dude is constantly watching them and eavesdropping on them.  He hopes to be friends with them.  It escapes his self-taught, but near-genius reason that friends don’t peep and eavesdrop on their friends through a crack in the wall, but whatever.
e) One day when everyone else is out he decides to go chat with the blind, elderly father in the house — trying to figure out a way to express his mysterious love for the whole family, when the rest of the family comes back and tries to kill him/scare him off, and then promptly moves away.
f) The monster burns down the house and leaves.  He then rescues a girl from a river and her dad tries to shoot him. And that’s IT — he’s had it with the world!  It’s time to kill a kid — woohoo!  I mean, he decides to find the Frankenstein family, by means of their ADDRESS, which he has on a letter in the papers he stole the night he was “born” — which in no way got lost or damaged this year he’s been out and about. No sir.  Still with him, and still super legible.  Ahem.
g) So he gets there, somehow locates the little brother, who at first he wants to kind of kidnap/adopt, but instead kills and removes a locket off his neck.  Then, ever so luckily, he stumbles upon the nanny asleep in a nearby barn (I think) and puts the locket in her pocket, thereby framing her.
h) Then he lies in wait for Frankenstein, obviously finds him, and lures him out to his ice cave to plead with him to make him a girlfriend because he doesn’t want to be a lonely freak anymore, he wants a freaky mate, and will move with her to relatively uninhabited South America and learn capoeira with her or whatever.  (Not only can he jog for miles unflaggingly, apparently he may also be an excellent swimmer?)
i) After a lot of internal deliberation, Frankenstein is like, “OK, fine.”  OK, not really, but he does agree. The monster says he will keep an eye on him.

4) The sh!t hits the fan. (Which is a super-gross saying, right? The mess! But I digress…)

a) So Frankenstein wants to go to England to acquire some more scientific information before he creates his new female she-devil monster freak.  Clerval insists on coming along.  Also note they do a LOT of sightseeing on the way to England, although Frankenstein is all angsty about it.
b) Frankenstein ditches Clerval in London for the Orkney islands in Scotland so he can be alone and create his she-monster.  He’s about 99% done with the body when he’s like “What am I doing???” and squishes the body up (ew!).  Monster (who has probably been peeping in wall cracks, as usual) comes in and is like It’s ON, bitch! Your whole family is screwed now, you angsty douchbag! “I will see you on your wedding night!” — and takes off.  Because Frankenstein is hoping to soon marry his sort-of adopted sister, which is not at all creepy and weird in this book.
c) Then while Frankenstein is disposing of the she-devil goo in the sea, the monster magically finds Clerval (who is supposed to be in London!), kills him, and dumps him on the beach that Frankenstein ACCIDENTALLY washed up on in a storm, which is in IRELAND. Uuuuuuh. (Cue bullshit look!).
d) Then Frankenstein gets married and the night of the wedding, tells wife to go to bed while he nervously paces hallways with guns and, oh no! Monster climbs through window and kills her — whoops! Botched it again, Franky. Then his dad dies of broken heart.  Then Frankenstein follows monster to ends of the earth and dies on the boat after telling his tale.  Definitely a feel-good ending.  By the way — there is NO mention of middle brother Ernest.  He’s completely forgotten half way through the book.  I hate that.  He’s like 16 maybe.  Poor orphaned Ernest.
e) There is just a bit more — I have to mention that once Frankenstein dies, good old peeping-monster knows the instant the body is left alone and jumps through a porthole to see the body and then deliver a speech to Walton about how he was going to go light himself on fire on a funeral pyre now.  He is just as angsty as Frankenstein, but clearly more dramatic (and agile!).

Anyway, I hope you have enjoyed my synopsis.  After reliving the story, I change my mind — this is not a must-read.  Go read some Jane Austen, she doesn’t have any major plot flaws or loose ends — you’ll feel better for it — unless you read Mansfield Park, which kind of sucked.

Til next time — Time for a Coffee,

Maddy

Olympics Wrap-Up

2-14-booksHello folks — how is everyone post-Olympics?
I pretty much watched all the prime-time coverage — cursing NBC for dragging out all the most-anticipated team USA performances until 11:15 PM. Listen NBC, don’t you understand that 11PM-Midnight is my sacred nightly reading time??  How dare you infringe!  However now that everything is available for download the next day, if coverage goes too late for the Rio Games in 2016 I will just watch my favorite events the next day on-demand.  Technology is useful sometimes.

Favorite Moment: Hmmm, there are so many, but I really enjoyed Euna Kim’s performance of her short figure skating program.  No one expected her be so awesome after recent pproblems, but she was — she was athletic and lovely all at once.  Beautiful performance.  And lovely dress and everything.  Some of the figure skaters wore these teeny, tiny little outfits that just looked like bathing suits with a flutter on the bum, but Euna Kim (and Gracie Gold) really kept things classy.

I also have to mention it was so cool that the Russian figure skating pairs couple won gold because that guy –Maxim Trankov – lived in and under the ice rink he was training at for three years! That poor bastard!  And last night I watched some of the Nancy Kerrigan/Tony Harding special and Harding is going on and on about how hard she had it training in a mall ice rink, etc.  Um, was she living AT the ice rink? She should go have a little chat with Maxim about making the best of your crappy situation and still kicking ass.

Least Favorite Moment:  The evil reporter that kept pressing Bode Miller in his post-run interview UNTIL HE WEPT.  Christ, woman! Have a heart!  And what’s up with with the reporters in general constantly asking the athlete’s about any and all relatives of theirs that have died recently?  What does that have to do with their sport??  “Were you thinking of your dead father/mother/brother/sister/child while doing that losing/winning run of your sport??” How about some congratulations for being among the best in the world and competing at the Olympics and go ahead leave the loss of loved ones off the table? I mean, way to be tacky. Ew.

BOOKS: On-wards with Frankenstein
2-14-frankensteinSo I am still only 64% through Frankenstein.  It’s not a super-fast read, clearly.  I have already mentioned how Viktor Frankenstein does not actually explain how he reanimates life, which was sort of annoying.  But later on, his “monster” — his super-articulate monster, finds him and explains to him how horrible his life has been since he was created a year ago.  A year ago in which he learned perfect French from eavesdropping on a French family off and on during the day.  I think he also taught himself to read as well.  So he woke up a blank slate, and within a year could speak the fluent French of an intellectual, even though he had only had ONE conversation with with a blind man once for 5 minutes before he was found and beaten on and chased away.

Um, I took a semester of French in college and can speak 3 other languages and I can barely say  “What time is it?” in French.  If the Frankenstein monster spoke the French of a 5 year old, OK, totally possible. But 5, 6, 7 chapters full of highly articulate first person narrative?  Not even close to believable.  Oh well.

Monster-narratives aside, there are also some beautiful, but exceedingly looooong descriptions of the Swiss Alps.  I mean, I’m down for a page or two of description, but there are literally chapters where nothing happens but Viktor Frankenstin hiking through the Alps. It’s amazing, and awesome, and I get it.  But too much.  I’m going to finish this book though. It won’t take me as long as when I suffered through Vanity Fair though.  I’ll give you the wrap-up when I finish!

And with that — time for a coffee,

Maddy

January Wrap-Up

…So Dear Readers, when I say “follow up shortly” — sometimes that means in 3 weeks.  Just FYI.  o.O

I hope you’ve all been well and have been avoiding this horrible flu that is going around the country.  Speaking of the flu, and of following up shortly, I give you…

The Teenage Girls in Starbucks

Excuses, excuses...

Excuses, excuses…

So while waiting for my daughter to get out of an after-school class, I was whiling away an hour reading in Starbucks with my Caramel Flan Latte keeping me company while I attempted to enlighten myself with some Confucious.  At first I was just minding my own business and reading, but the incessant chatter and strangely nasal, lispy, almost valley-girl-like tones of my female, teenage neighbors finally broke down my concentration.  I started eavesdropping — I mean, if I’m going to be disturbed by them, they should at least afford me some sort of amusement, right?

Oddly I never actually looked at them — they were sitting too close for casual scrutiny — like 2 feet away from me, plus I was still pretending to read.  So I am judging them by their words alone, which really, is as it should be no?  In any case,  they discussed many silly things but the first thing that disturbed me was their discussion of the New Years Eve party some of them went to.  The most nasal and lispy of the bunch (I will call her Lispy for short), was upset that some girl at the party seemed to be judging her for underage drinking at the party.  She was really, really upset by this — which I thought was hilarious.  If you are such a rebel that you’re going to drink illegally, why should you care what your classmates think?  Were you drinking to excess?  Were you maybe embarrassing yourself?  Are you really upset that this other person does not approve of your underage drinking, or did they just make you feel guilty?  The Mom in me says “You go judgey classmate!”  I don’t want my daughter underage drinking either.  In fact, my own judgey inner highschool prude is also on the bandwagon with the judgey classmate, because my friends and I did not drink in highschool either.  I knew plenty of girls that did drink.  I also knew plenty of girls that got sickly drunk, and taken advantage of, and some who earned festive titles like “BJ Queen” and “Partytime.”  In fact, my judgey prude’s high-horse grew to Clydesdale proportions by graduation just from all the cautionary tales I observed in highschool.  But I digress.

So Lispy is still ranting about being upset about being judged and her friends are like “Oh totally, what else are you supposed to do on NYE — come on!”  When Lispy’s cell phone rings and she answers, “Oh God, hold on it’s my Mother.” And it went a little something like this:

Yes.  What?
Mom
Whyyyyy?
Mom
No I don’t want to. Why can’t we do that on Friday?  (it was Tuesday, BTW)
Mom
I really don’t have time for this right now.
Mom
No, I don’t see why it’s a big deal.
Mom
Well then I just don’t care.
Mom
Well you’re overreacting.
Mom
OK, whatever I’ve gotta go, byeee. CLICK

That was a simplification of the conversation obviously, but you get the gist.  So her friends asked what her Mom was saying and Lispy, in her huffiest voice relays that her Mom is insistent she gets a flu shot ASAP, and how she’s a total pain in the ass, etc.  The best part of this entire episode was that one of her friends (in a slightly less annoying voice) tells her in all seriousness, “Ohhh, aaaactually, there are like a bunch of people dying from the flu and stuff right now.  So your Mom actually has a point — you should totally get a flu shot.”  Lispy was stymied and they all left shortly thereafter.  I guess the revelation that your Mom’s not a blithering idiot kind of takes the wind out of your sails.

I sat there after they left quietly praying, “Oh please, please, please don’t let my daughter treat me like Lispy in 10 years!”  Ah, God.

Let’s not reflect on a potentially cruel future  —  let’s talk about happy thing — like books!
So I am currently reading Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley.  Again, how did I escape private school and college without reading a classic like Frankenstein?  I don’t know.  So far so good — this is another vocab builder that makes me glad I have that handy dictionary feature on the Kindle!  I love learning new words — it’s actually retaining them that’s the hard part these days!  For example, I knew a chimera was a mythical Greek monster, but I did not know it also meant “a thing that is hoped or wished for but in fact is illusory or impossible to achieve” — which I found out when I looked it up because I was wondering why the character kept talking about chimeras all the time.

Last night I just came upon the part where the main character finally discovers the secret to reanimating living tissue — which is amusing because the character (who is recounting the story) is like “Oh no, I won’t tell you how I did it because I don’t want your life to be ruined like mine.”  Sneaky way to avoid that description, Ms. Mary Shelley! Hah!
Anyway, I will let you know my review once I’ve finished.

And now, time for a coffee,

Maddy