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Tony Grist

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Frankenstein [Feb. 27th, 2005|10:57 am]
Tony Grist
Frankenstein is a great book. But it's not a good book.

It's a living force in our culture, but when you go back to the original it's bad in all sorts of ways- badly written, badly constructed, badly plotted. It's a great idea indifferently executed.

Mary Shelley was still in her teens when she wrote it.

I think it's disguised autobiography. Shelley was married to a monster- the supremely egotistical, self-pitying, self-exiled, womanising, junkie poet, Percy Bysshe. Read "Epipsychidion"- in which he openly disses Mary- to discover the full extent of his mawkish, adolescent shittiness. Frankenstein is a depressed and depressing book and no wonder.

Maybe it would be forgotten, or at least pushed to one side, if it hadn't been for James Whale's classic movie (or brace of movies.) The Frankenstein franchise continues to run and run because the movie monster- as created by make-up artist Jack Pierce and actor Boris Karloff- is so compelling- at once terrifying and pathetic. Shelley's conception of the monster (a seven foot, murdering version of her husband) was very different and much less interesting.

We're studying Frankenstein for an Open University course. If I had had to choose a "Gothick" text for study I'd have settled on Beckford's Vathek- stylistically sure-footed and delightfully camp and decadent- or a set of stories by Poe.
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: arielstarshadow
2005-02-27 03:59 am (UTC)
Oh, I am so glad you were brave enough to say this! I, too, really didn't enjoy reading Frankenstein. But to say that to anyone elicits gasps, as if I've just identified myself as an illiterate bum - much the same kind of reaction as when I admit to absolutely detesting Citizen Kane.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-27 04:08 am (UTC)
I don't hate Kane, but it's close to being my least favourite Welles film. I can see how clever and ground-breaking it was, but still it leaves me cold.
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[User Picture]From: arielstarshadow
2005-02-27 04:18 am (UTC)
Tenneesee Williams is another. I cannot stand his work. His characters make my teeth itch, and the main emotion I feel when having to endure his work is exasperation and a desire to slap the character's silly for being so melodramatically pathetic. I think he takes it too far, and goes beyond reality with the ineptness of his characters. But again, it's taboo to say you dislike Williams.
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[User Picture]From: arielstarshadow
2005-02-27 04:19 am (UTC)
Tsk....and it's obviously much too early for proper grammar. I have no idea what that apostrophe thinks it's doing up there, making "characters" possessive.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-27 05:41 am (UTC)
Hah. I do that all the time.

Stupid apostrophes!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-27 05:40 am (UTC)
I'm neutral about Tennessee Williams. I don't like him or hate him. I guess I've not been exposed to all that much of his work.
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From: ad_lumen
2005-02-27 04:59 am (UTC)
Have you seen the Branagh version of Frankenstein? I love it, but it's not to everyone's taste.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-27 05:45 am (UTC)
No, I haven't. I believe it veers much closer to the book than any earlier film version.

There was an interesting TV version (not particularly good, but still interesting) in which the monster became a very beautiful young man (shadews of Dorian Gray.) It was written, or partly written, by Christopher Isherwood.
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From: saskia139
2005-02-27 12:00 pm (UTC)
There was an interesting TV version (not particularly good, but still interesting) in which the monster became a very beautiful young man (shadews of Dorian Gray.) It was written, or partly written, by Christopher Isherwood.

I think I've seen that! It was back when I was a teenager, or at least in puberty. *g* In my case that means around 1978-80, or thereabouts.

I liked Branagh's version also, but I must tell you about Rowing against the Wind, a hilariously stupid pic in which Hugh Grant plays Lord Byron and some other forgettable actors play the Shelleys. It's bad enough to make you hate "Fantasia on a Theme by Tallis", which figures largely in the score.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-27 12:14 pm (UTC)
Hugh Grant as Byron?- No, that wouldn't be my casting choice either.

There's also Ken Russell's Gothic- with Gabriel Byrne as Byron and Timothy Spall as Polidori and I forget who as the Shelleys. I didn't like it- I thought it was very heavy handed- but I believe it has a cult following.
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[User Picture]From: halfmoon_mollie
2005-02-27 05:45 am (UTC)
Awhile ago I heard a very old radioplay of Frankenstein. It was nice to have someone else do all the work and just listen. I HAVE read the book, and I'm glad to know someone else found it depressing as well.

funny you should said what you said about Shelley. I have a 'book a day' Calendar on my desk at work and a collection of his poetry was recommended the other day -

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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-27 05:50 am (UTC)
As you will have gathered, I don't like Shelley much. I think he was a nasty piece of work and I find his poetry (splendid as it sometimes is) monontonous and verbose.

Robert Browning was offered the presidency of the Shelley Society but turned it down because he deplored Shelley's character. Well done, Robert!
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[User Picture]From: halfmoon_mollie
2005-02-27 03:06 pm (UTC)
Robert Browning was offered the presidency of the Shelley Society but turned it down because he deplored Shelley's character. Well done, Robert!

Kudos and huzzahs, Robert!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2005-02-28 01:14 am (UTC)
I love Robert Browning. A great writer and (unusual in a poet) a pretty straight up kind of a guy.)
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