First read: 1980 (approximately)
Owned since: 1992
It's that time of year, so the whole next week will be horror or horror-related books.
Frankenstein is, in a real sense, the first modern horror novel. Its subtitle, The Modern Prometheus, advertises its topic: the danger of aspiring to the powers of gods.
As everyone should know by now, Frankenstein is not the name of the monster but the name of the scientist who created him -- and, having created him, did not understand his obligations to his creation. Dr. Victor Frankenstein discovers how to reanimate dead tissue, then constructs a whole man in order to demonstrate his powers; but the man didn't ask to be created, and his loneliness and rage are too powerful for Dr. Frankenstein to control.
It's a tragedy and, not incidentally, a powerful allegory of childbirth and parenthood. Mary Shelley, only 19, was pregnant when she wrote the book; her own mother had died in childbirth, and Mary was not yet legally married to Percy Bysshe Shelley, whose first wife was still alive. It's hard to imagine that kind of low-grade terror, but Frankenstein seethes with it.
The power of the story has led to countless plays, movies, and songs, including the forthcoming Broadway musical version of "Young Frankenstein" and the classic Too Much Joy song "Pride of Frankenstein":
Baby it's sad,
But baby it's a fact
People have torches
For people like that...
Freeport Community Players will give a short reading from Frankenstein tonight, along with a reading of Orson Welles's radio play of Dracula. See you there...