I didn’t mean for this blog to be dominated by birthday announcements as of late, but this is one I cannot fail to mention: Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley was born August 30, 1797. While she wrote many things, her best known work is, of course, Frankenstein. Frankenstein is my favorite novel, with the Monster being my favorite fictional being of all time.
While Frankenstein is a novel of ideas, I must admit that my love of it would probably be seen as superficial by many scholarly (and wannabe scholarly) types. I love the novel because it perfectly depicts the emotions of alienation; even its melodramatic aspects enhance that. Frankenstein is my The Catcher in the Rye.
Possibly because I love the story on a visceral rather than intellectual level, I’m not snooty about it. Like many people, my first exposure to the Monster was through the imagery spawned by Boris Karloff’s version. While Mary Shelley’s original, eloquent version of the Monster is my favorite incarnation, I love a lot of the “pop culture Frankenstein” depictions. James Whale’s Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein rank high in my mind, with Bride possibly being my favorite movie of all time — proof that terrible adaptations do not necessarily equal terrible films. I’m one of the few who will cop to liking Kenneth Branagh’s version with Robert De Niro.
But the best adaptation of the character I love is Rory Kinnear’s Caliban on Penny Dreadful. The show modified the Monster’s back story, but emotionally, Kinnear nails it every time he is on screen. I like to think he’s doing Shelley proud.
There’s been debate over whether Frankenstein is horror or science fiction. I think that the novel’s status as science fiction is overstated since Victor Frankenstein was a student of the occult, and the Monster’s actual creation is vague. While depicting the creation makes for some great movie imagery, the specifics are beside the point of the novel.
Oh, and it doesn’t bother me that people mistakenly call the Monster “Frankenstein.” I take the approach that children often take their father’s surnames. Besides, there are much more important things in the world to get agitated about.
At any rate… thank you, Mary Shelley.