Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Are we ready?

Hold your breath 'cause here he comes.

Well . . . it's not quite that suspenseful. There were the previews in Seattle, and then the previews in New York, but everyone is still primed to celebrate opening night tomorrow for Young Frankenstein, spectacular for its numbers (as in, ticket prices) if not for its numbers (as in, Putting on the Ritz).

Here's a batch of photos from the set. Those of us who know the movie can almost hear the words that go with each pic.

And, meanwhile, thank you to the current New York Magazine for using my book to create a monstrous timeline and respect the legacy.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Shan't be shy

To keep up to date with the comments coming in about my own book, I should share the ample review from the Wall Street Journal. In hard copy, it sat well placed on the very back page, right alongside Neil Young.

Good company.

It's viewable for free for only a few more days, so let me quote Alexandra Mullen, who calls my monster "an entertainingly informative book that mixes academic talk and popular culture." She peppers her review with some of my favorite monster sightings ever, concluding with an endearing moment: “In the Beatles’ animated movie "Yellow Submarine" (1968), the monster morphs into John Lennon. ‘All he needs,’ notes Ms. Hitchcock wryly, ‘is love.’”

Deadly performance

The word from the New York Post regarding the newly opened off-Broadway Frankenstein helps explain the popularity of its comic cousin on Broadway.

“This "Frankenstein" is bad in an all-too-earnest way -- it‘s deadly dull, rather than a campy hoot,” writes Frank Schenk. The performance is “solemn and semi-operatic” and the monster is “hunky,” with a bare chests and well-developed abs, “indicating that being one of the living dead has in no way made him cut down on his exercise routine.”

The contrast makes it all too evident: In a time when we've got real corpses on our conscience, we‘d rather pay money to watch a monster don a top hat and put on the Ritz.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Costume census

Here's a piece from a Long Beach costumer who says no one came in asking for neck bolts this year. He tells it as if it's a sign of times, but I have a counter-story: I happened upon a picture-perfect young family, 3 kids under the age of 6 in Northern Virginia, and what were the two older boys, aged about 4 and 6, dressed as? Frankenstein and Dracula. The older one with rivulets of red dripping from his lips, the younger one with face painted green.

Congratulations to their parents, starting them so nice and young.

Goofy grin

Well, either I or the editor has some learning to do. Feast your eyes, if you have a few minutes, on my online video presence thanks to Author Author, the WETA weblog created by Bethanne Patrick, who also works at National Geographic and maintains a print blog called The Book Maven, part of the Publishers Weekly site.

So what's with this goofball who grins and says how much fun she had talking about the evil and violence in everyone's heart?

Let me assure you, it didn't happen quite that way in real life.

I love my little friend, though, and I hope you do too. They didn't let him sing all of “The Monster Mash,” but you can imagine it, I'm sure.

Thank you, Bethanne, for giving him his 15 seconds of stardom. It was fun being on your blogarama.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Eye candy

What a Halloween treat! Feast your eyes on one monster portrait after another posted on the Gum or Mints blog -- who needs Snickers?

Monday, October 29, 2007

Aussies still asking

Our man man John Lauritsen, joined by Charles Robinson -- editor of the fascinating Frankenstein Notebooks, and advocate for Mary as author in her own write (as John Lennon would have put it) -- and Neil Fraistat, Percy Bysshe Shelley scholar -- appeared on Australian radio today, talking about the question that seems destined to upstage that about Shakespeare: ”Who Wrote Frankenstein?” You can listen to the entire half hour conversation here.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Send it across the pond, mates

A week before Halloween, last Wednesday night, the Brits thrilled to the chill of a new Frankenstein, this one brought to today and beyond with stem cell science and a female Frankenstein. The details sound vaguely familiar: Victoria Frankenstein stands, prepared to grieve, over the dying body of her son named -- what else? -- William. Only stem-cell biology will save him. The reviews of this ITV1 special are a bit blasé, to say the least. Liverpool's Peter Grant called the show “the latest re-make from the ‘why on earth did you bother’ school of desperate drama” in his Liverpool Echo review; Aidan Smith of the Scotsman found himself asking, “My God, what's happened to the nose?”
And not a one of the reviewers can resist linking the new monster movie with the show playing in the next hour: Michael Jackson: What Really Happened.
In the comparison, our monster shines. And what did happen to the nose?

Saturday, October 27, 2007


Proud to share Louis Bayard's comments on my new book, published in the Washington Post's Book World on Sunday, October 28.

Monday, October 22, 2007

It’s that time of year

It happens every year at this time . . . new and unusual interpretations of the monster's tale find their way to stages across the country. Here‘s my candidate for most interesting this year: Frankenstein Incarnate, a production gracing the late October evenings in St. Paul, part of the feminist theatrical offering that calls itself “Theatre Unbound.” Online publicity promises that the play will show how “the life of novelist Mary Shelley overlaps and intertwines with the story that made her famous, illuminating the creator and creature within us all.” Sounds like the kind of song we like to sing.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Shelley clatter

Inflammatory prose gets people thinking. That’s what has happened in the cultural studies world as ripples still spread from the plunk into the pond of John Lauritsen's polemical book claiming that Percy Bysshe Shelley wrote Frankenstein. (No woman, no teenager, could possibly create such a work, he argues, etc.)

A clear-headed and broad-viewed discussion of the background, the book, and the consequences of it in the intellectual landscape has been posted on the web in the Fall 2007 issue of The Common Review.

Author Jonathon Gross wisely directs our attention away from the Lauritsen book and over to the momentous two-volume Frankenstein Notebooks, the work of Charles Robinson, which photoreproduce the monster manuscript and chronicle the novel's writing practically day by day.

Gross ends his piece with a lyrical passage from Robinson, recalling the days that he spent at work in the Oxford University library, where the Shelleys and the fictional Victor Frankenstein all spent time as well. Here, he quotes Robinson as saying, “the historical and the fictional pasts were intertwined.”

From such a place, such a moment, such an attitude, emanates heartfelt and longlasting writing.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Fire play

Glad to see that someone is reviving one of my favorite stage adaptations of the myth of the monster, Barbara Field's Playing with Fire. Those of you in Syracuse can see a church performance [gods and monsters, what a combination] of this interesting interpretation.

Barbara Field herself told me that she didn't really like the novel when she read it. Encouraged by her friend, the director of Minneapolis's Guthrie Theater, she let her mind wander -- and saw an old man sitting in a Regency era chair on an iceberg. From that vision sprang her play, which pits two pairs, man and monster, old and young, together.

See more of her thoughts on the monster myth in my book, FRANKENSTEIN: A CULTURAL HISTORY.

Friday, October 12, 2007

The modern Prometheus rebounds

Drill down far enough into the Playbill feature on Young Frankenstein, and you'll learn some fascinating facts about recent stage appearances of our favorite monster.

Such as:

• In 1980-81, a special-effects-packed non-musical, Frankenstein, by Victor Gialanella, was, at the time, the most expensive production ever on Broadway. The flop won a Drama Desk Award for its potent lighting design.
[What this mention doesn't say is that the show closed after opening night!

• In 2001, Prometheus Dreams, a musical exploration of the material, with music by Sean Michael Flowers and book and lyrics by Patrick Vaughn, was presented by The Human Race Theatre Company in Dayton, Ohio.

Frankenstein, the Musical, with book, music and lyrics by Robert Mitchell, played Off-Off-Broadway's Wings Theatre in 2006.

• A show called Frankenstein…do you dream? appeared as part of the New York Musical Theatre Festival in 2004, after beginning life in Canada.

Have I Got a Girl for You! The Frankenstein Musical had an Off-Broadway run in 1986.

And of course this is just New York. Communities everywhere seem to foster their own local versions of the Monster Story around this time of year.

What is it about this myth that makes so many creative souls want to tell it again and again?

With every retelling we learn something new . . . about our monster and ourselves.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

A day like any other

Odd how an official publication day really doesn't feel like much of anything at all.

Unless you're Stephen Colbert -- with whom I happen to share a pub date this year.

Just makes you realize what fame is -- and isn't....

The monster and I, we'll survive, though.

Takes guts

It could be a brilliant strategy, or a massive debacle. Exactly in parallel with Mel Brooks's Broadway Young Frankenstein, a newly composed off-Broadway musical of our favorite monster's tale is opening off-Broadway. Not too many hints come through the Playbill listing of the show, which opens tomorrow. Even cast photos look bland, but stay tuned.

Every season, it seems, has its monsters. Few have true staying power but we clamor, still, for more.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Blushing with pride

Michael Sims has honored me and the monster with a great review in the Sunday LA Times.

Trying to keep from grinning... for instance, he writes: “Her text grows out of such a fertile ground of scholarly research that any chapter might blossom into another volume. Thus it's all the more remarkable that this book is so much fun.”

And: “Moving gracefully from novel to film to metaphor, she spends little time theorizing. Her ‘cultural history’ is so lively that at first you may decide it lacks scholarly ballast and slant. Soon, however, one sees that the author's admirable restraint serves to advance and streamline the text. In the last chapters, while addressing how academic criticism opened the door to Frankenstein, Hitchcock’s own work confirms the value of cultural history as a discipline.”


Friday, October 5, 2007

Let no lips touch this cup

Who knew? Well, perhaps the Chinese manufacturers. Leave it to the monster to pop up amid the too-much-lead-in-the-toys debacle.

If you’re finding fewer green-skinned, scar-faced drinking cups about this Halloween season, it's because 63,000 plastic Frankenstein cups on sale from Dollar General were just recalled, according to reports from northern Ohio, where the items were found. The paint on them tested at—you guessed it—dangerously high lead levels, 65 times the amount allowed by federal standards.

What do you bet it's an unflattering image as well? Somehow those cheap imitations just don’t let the inner gentleman show through in the beast.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Canine possibilities

Ryan Bell in an online animation trade mag whispers that we might be in store for a monstrous Tim Burton treat, ready to line up with Edward Scissorshand and Nightmare Before Christmas as yet another ode to the monster.

According to Bell, Burton may be making an animated version of his great 1984 Disney short, Frankenweenie. Remember the one, with Shelley Duval as the google-eyed mother and the stitched-up dog whose life was made complete in the end when he met the poodle, her hair zinged up like the Bride’s?

I didn't get enough space (or enough photo budget money) to give Frankenweenie its due in my book. It’s worth a watch by any true monster afficionado.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The Fingers Quiver

We're in the countdown mode for my book, Frankenstein: A Cultural History, official pub date October 9.

I’ve received the advance copy, held the baby in my hand.

I’ve got a week’s worth of book signings lined up in Virginia and North Carolina—will be posting details on my website.

And the first press on the book has just come out. Read Jennifer Hillner's fun interview of me and my monster in the October Wired.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Birthday Cake

Everybody's talking about how long Young Frankenstein's ... er ... show play is. But some people just know how to write.

I love the way Gavin Borchert of the Seattle Weekly dot-com rounds up his easygoing comments on the show:

“Even the verbatim borrowings from the film seem less like calculated easy laughs than like, say, your mom cooking your favorite meal for your birthday,” writes Borchert.

You gotta love it.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Sing Along

Variety gives us a quick rundown of all the musical numbers in the Seattle preBroadway run of Mel Brooks's Musical Young Frankenstein. As writer David Rooney puts it, while we all know that the musical is destined to “place a stranglehold on Broadway,” it isn’t quite ready for prime time yet. Rooney reports that the show runs 2¾ hours long, and “it needs to step out from its maker's shadow, receive a couple more volts of electricity and go on a diet before hitting New York.”

Saturday, August 18, 2007

In Living Color

Wondering how the Broadway show is going to stack up? Playbill runs color shots from the Seattle preview today.

Makes me a little nostalgic for the vintage black and white on silver screen.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Stealing His Thunder

NPR listeners got a charge from the monster on Monday evening when Nell Greenfieldboyce’s climate change series included comments from two scholars who ascribed Mary Shelley's vision to the weird weather of the summer of 1816. Skies grey, wind cold, lightning flashing, all thanks to the eruption of Mount Tamboro in Indonesia—that was the weather landscape within which the monstrous story took shape.

“I think the plan had been to be tourists and go climbing the mountains,” Greenfieldboyce quotes Bill Phillips as saying. “And they couldn't, because of weather.”

Well, sort of . . . the evenings when the ghost stories were read and the contest to write another began, Mary Godwin and her friends may have been weatherbound. But then Byron and Shelley took off for a sail around the lake, and it was probably during that solitude that Mary Godwin (later to be Shelley) really looked her monster in the eyes for the first time.

And then, the monster's story conjuring itself in her imagination, she and her stepsister Claire and her lover Percy Bysshe did go mountain climbing. She gazed upon Mont Blanc and its glaciers firsthand, then used her travel notes to evoke the same scene when describing the first lucid encounter between creature and creator in her novel.

Read more details of their summer entrancements in my book, due out in early October from W. W. Norton. I am proud to report that Charles Robinson, Frankenstein scholar and editor of a reproduction of the novel's manuscript, considers that “Susan Tyler Hitchcock's scholarship on both the novel Frankenstein and its later incarnations is very impressive.”

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Front Row Seats

The NYPost reports that Mel Brooks is front and center at every Seattle performance of his new musical Young Frankenstein, price tag reported at $20 million. He considers that the show, just opening in Seattle is “75% there,” and he's touching it up for its New York debut in October.

The crowds on the West Coast love it as it is, so the Post suggests. They are—pardon their pun—in stitches all the way, but word has it that none of the new music tops “Puttin’ on the Ritz.”

Monday, August 6, 2007

In Good Company

Every now and then I come upon a reference to the monster that happened in years past. Here is a good one that came to my attention over the weekend.

In 1978 the Nobel Prize in Medicine was given to three scientists who discovered an enzyme that could slice through DNA, hence become an essential tool in genetic engineering. Swedish television newscasters described their research as opening up “the possibility to copy human beings in the laboratory, to construct geniuses, to massproduce workers, or to create criminals.”

When they were introduced at the Nobel Prize awards ceremony, that particular prediction was quoted, and the official at the microphone then said, “Let me for now, however, leave this Frankenstein-fixation of the news media. Reality is remarkable enough, without such excursions into science fiction.”

Ah, yes, but those excursions are oh so fascinating...

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Move Over, Mel

The world's first online musical takes place this weekend as a Cambridge, England, troupe performs “Joined at the Heart: The Story of Victor Frankenstein,” an adaptation of our favorite novel written by Francis Ann Bartram and scored by Graham Brown and Geoff Meads. The musical goes live through cyberspace as it is performed.

Streamed via Second Life from Cambridge’s Junction Theatre at 1940 GMT today, Saturday, August 4, it's yet another way that the monster moves forward at the vanguard, showing us the way to new forms of art and live.

I Feel the Earth Sing Under My Feet

Search carefully among all the noise about Mel Brooks and Young Frankenstein, and here and there you find another form of the monster peeking through.

Today a new Mac-based software package is announced online worldwide: Maestro Frankenstein 0.4b, called by its makers a “multitrack data sequencer to map scientific timeseries data to notes or musical control values.” In other words, this is “a tool for the creation of geophonic music—music from geologic data.”

The Music of Our Sphere—er, Globe—I love it.

And so would the monster.

Thursday, July 26, 2007


Something of a hiatus as I scramble to finish the photo picks for my book. In the long run, Hollywood had to go. Too much money for a poor author to pay for. I am pleased to say that the less well known images of the monster -- those from 1930s books and 1960s comics -- stay.

Meanwhile, the media clogs with references to the upcoming Mel Brooks Broadway monster. As if to echo the cheers, Britain's Guardian lists their readers' fave comedies, and Young Frankenstein's No. 10 on the chart.

I'm keeping my promise, picking through the refs online to find our monster peeking through. Let me know when you see him, too.

Saturday, June 30, 2007

Another Mary Shelley Monster

Here's an interesting bit of news, tangential to our monster topics.

James Arnett, an independent filmmaker in California, is finishing up a feature based on Mary Shelley's novel The Last Man. It's an apocalyptic story of pandemics and terror—couldn't be more timely, and apparently Arnett got that point. He brags that he's made one of the "biggest no-budget guerilla films ever made" in his blog for A.I.A. Productions.

He's got a website about the film as well. Images suggest that he's transposed Shelley's end-of-the-world times into our own, with visual references that can't be seen without comparing them to visions coming from our godforsaken military forces in Iraq.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Birthing My Monster

It has been a while since I posted anything. Time to bring you up to date on my own personal monster: the book coming out from W. W. Norton in October. I spent a couple of hours in the Norton labyrinth (read: New York offices) this week, getting the last images over to production, talking through some publicity ideas, and looking over the shoulder of the art director who is finalizing the cover design. The image you see to the right is an early version. The template remains, but cost and legalities and availability may mean that some of the nine patchwork quilt squares will be different from those shown here.

The book is on track for October publication. Anyone have a favorite bookstore that might host a signing? Be in touch via my website.

Meanwhile, the Young Frankenstein site keeps building. Now it's saying that Broadway tickets go on sale July 15.

See you there.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Line forming

Now there's a date, a theater, and a dedicated Young Frankenstein-goes-to-Broadway website. So far nothing there except an invitation to subscribe and a groovy lightning graphic, matching the Times Square preview poster.

November 8 is the stated opening night, with previews starting a month earlier. Hilton Theater, 213 W. 42.

All this follows the warm-up month in Seattle in August.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Go East, Young Monster

A new DVD release of the 1965 Japanese monster flick Frankenstein vs. Baragon (or whatever we want to call it—it goes by several names) gives blog critic Matt Paprocki the occasion to tell more about the film than many know.

I agree, Matt: the most interesting part of this low-budget extravaganza (if that's not an oxymoron) is the reference to Hiroshima and the bomb. Start with the excised heart of the monster, let it live through a nuclear conflagration, and it becomes an oversized, undercultured Caucasian monster.

The boy-monster, wearing a faux-fur tunic, grapples with a prehistoric reptilian. Both go down, only to rise again.

There are political innuendos here, vintage 1965.

Friday, June 1, 2007


Interesting connection made today in a USA Today article about how Americans have some skittishness about believing in robots as helpers in their daily lives. This writer calls fear of robots a "Frankenstein complex," as if to suggest that our worries over the monster made by man limit our enthusiasm for push-button vacuum cleaners and the like.

The Japanese, he suggests, have no such self-imposed phobias. But we Americans put faces on our robots in our imaginations. They become droids poised to take over our world. Writer Tom A. Peter cites a list of films—and, implicitly, our favorite monster—as the cultural forces that shape our fears and prejudices.

If we could come to love our monster, can't we learn to love our robots too?

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Mel Tells More

Great interview with Mel Brooks in yesterday’s Newsweek online shares lots more about the coming Broadway monster. 17 or 18 new songs, he predicts, and plenty corny at that. He quotes a couple of them, including “There Is Nothing Like the Brain,” Dr. Frankenstein’s lecture hall schtick.

Didn't the Scarecrow sing that one already?

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Monster to Croon

We pass on the latest scoop from Liz Smith in Variety re Broadway Young Frankenstein. Today she reported chat over lunch with Laura Sillerman, whose husband, Robert F. X. Sillerman, partners with Mel Brooks on the monster’s coming stage extravaganza. New news: Brooks is writing music reminiscent of Cole Porter’s for the show.

Move over, Ritz. Let’s put on the monster.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Escapes Artist

Gene Wilder's got a new book, My French Whore, and its publication gave London's Daily Mail a chance to ask him some questions. He thumbs-upped the stage-musical version of The Producers but voiced skepticism about turning his own beloved monster screenplay into a musical.

“As for the musical of Young Frankenstein, which is a work in progress, I had a lot of doubts about that,” he told a Metro reporter in a piece posted today. “But I like Mel to be happy – he needs to work. So we’ll see. That opens in October, I think.”

Brooks gets the credit, but Wilder didn’t just wax wacko acting the part of Dr. Frahnkanshteen. The original play was his. Guess this monster escaped his creator’s clutches, just like Mary Shelley’s. I’ll bet—again, just like Mary Shelley—he’ll be in an early audience, cheering his offspring on.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Just following the rules

I'm joining the ranks of the technorati (is that anything like the intelligentsia? I hope so) by posting this passage. Technorati Profile

New Monster on the Way in UK

Britain's ITV1 has commissioned Impossible Pictures to create a 21st-century Frankenstein, which seems to mean in part that Dr. Frankenstein's a girl -- this according to a recent post on Digital Spy.

In a forthcoming two-hour special, "Frankenstein takes on a terrifying new dimension," says deputy controller of drama (how'd you like that job title?) Sally Haines. Presumably she speaks of the monster, not the lab-coated Victoria Frankenstein.

"Impossible's experience with creating CGI[computer-generated imagery] monsters has enabled us to bring to life Shelley's creation as never seen before," she promises.

A computer-generated monster -- that's almost Disney. Can't wait to see his yellow speculative eyes.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Best of...

At last, a monstrous reference that applauds the beast. Today's Motley Fool has a piece on picking and choosing among Internet search engines, suggesting that while we all like Google, it's not the best for every purpose.

We would all love to play Dr. Frankenstein, writes the Fool, "picking the best that each search engine has to offer."

In this case, the monster's the sum of all the best parts. I like this concept: a monster after my own heart.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Metrosexual Monster

Today's reference is a giggle. Barbara Ellen, opinion writer in The Nation, considers the metrosexual man a monster made by women.

"Women just wanted a new breed of guy, so we made him up in our heads," she writes, putting him together, a bit like a psychosexual Mr. Potato Head."

(Mr. Potato Head analogous to our favorite monster -- now there's an interesting spin-off...)

"Could it be that post-feminism has created its own Frankenstein's monster?" Ellen comes right out and says. She uses the metaphor not just for its monstrosity but for its ability to stand up and walk right on out the door without its maker, becoming what it wants to be.

"Be careful what you wish for," she concludes. It might just become your boyfriend.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Monster Cited in China

Politicians have been finding the monster useful in speeches since Lord Canning who, in 1824, predicted that slaves freed without an education would prove to have "a more than mortal power of doing mischief" and would become a monster like the one in "the splendid fiction of a recent romance" -- a terror that would turn back and attack its maker.

This month, the term's being used for China.

House Republican Dana Rohrabacher warns that China is building up its armory, in large part thanks to support from the U.S. Rohrabacher believes the guns will soon turn in our direction. "We have built up a Frankenstein that now threatens us."

Monster, maker, the two get confused, but the reference serves the purpose. Funny how politics is full of missteps that take us into horrors we never imagined.

Sunday, April 29, 2007


We constantly discover references to the monster used as analogies for oddball biological creations. Hybrids and worse.

Here's this week's, from a syndicated Washington Post article about -- of all things -- an evergreen tree:

"The Leyland cypress (named after its 19th-century discoverer and champion, C. J. Leyland) might be likened to Frankenstein's monster. It is an unnatural creature, a weird cross between two entirely different evergreens, the Monterey cypress and the Alaskan cedar."

Fact is, cross-pollination and cross-grafting date back centuries. Our monster has botanical roots.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Goodbye and Hello

Today's news brings word of two distinguished biographers of Mary Shelley, mother of our favorite monster.

Emily Sunstein, an independent scholar recognized for her eloquent biographies on both Mary Wollstonecraft (mother of the mother of the monster) and Mary Shelley, died today in Philadelphia, according to an article in the New York Times.

And, in publishing news, Miranda Seymour (author of the most recent significant Mary Shelley biography) comes out with her own memoir, In My Father's House, characterized as a "subtle yet compelling" narrative by reviewer Mandy Sayer in the Sydney Morning Herald.

Friday, April 27, 2007

R.I.P. Mister Monster Mash

I've collected monster dolls and figurines for years. My favorite is a battery-operated dancing fellow with eyes that light up. He shakes his hips, churns his fists, and dances to the music. "He does the mash -- he does the Monster Mash." Now I read that Bobby Pickett, creator of the Monster Mash, has died at the untimely age of 65. Too much hanging out among the grey-skinned, I guess. He had his own website, still up and running even after its master has died.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Maltese Frankenstein

The monster looms around the world. Today at actor Noel Tanti posted reminiscences and pictures of his portrayal of the monster on stage on the island of Malta. A Maltese monster. The monster lives in all of us, regardless of nationality or language. (Read the post to learn that this stage version of Shelley's story was written and performed in Maltese.)

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Lighting Up Times Square

Tuesday, April 24, the lights turned on and the coming of the monster to Broadway took one more step toward reality. A larger-than-life billboard promising that "It's Alive!" lit up today, with no other writing on it other than "October 2007." Meanwhile, a Playbill writer suggested that the venue of Mel Brooks' promised Broadway version of "Young Frankenstein" may be the Hilton rather than the St. James (where "The Producers" just closed), giving the play a bigger stage and bigger audience. Here's a picture.

We await with bated breath.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Let's Get Graphic

Catch a glimpse of the comic cover for the new Penguin FRANKENSTEIN, part of a series with standard texts of the classics inside but graphic artists' renditions of the classics for jacket art.

You can see our monster's version at

One commenter says the creature looks like Crispin Glover, but I think he favors Christopher Lee. That eyeball, that eyeball...

Monday, April 16, 2007

Broadway Here He Comes

News trickles out as the monster approaches Broadway.

When word of Mel Brooks's Broadway rendition of YOUNG FRANKENSTEIN first hit the Net, the claims were specific: opening for Halloween. Now the mentions are vaguer, although we do get an occasional hint at the cast -- like today's hunch that Sutton Foster is leaving The Drowsy Chaperone to be Inga. Megan Mullally, from Will & Grace, as Elizabeth; Brian D'Arcy James as Frahnkenshteen; and Shuler Hensley as the monster, according to recent Playbills online.

I noticed the last time I watched it that by the end of the film, the Gene Wilder character could care less how his name is pronounced. He has embraced his past and his monster -- and, besides, his endowments have grown tremendously.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Midwife to Frankenstein

Talk about the proverbial flash in the pan. For a week or so, everyone -- even Germaine Greer -- was writing about John Lauritsen's new book, THE MAN WHO WROTE FRANKENSTEIN.

Come up with an outrageous idea and you get publicity. Lauritsen's idea: that Mary Shelley -- woman, teenager, unpublished author, a nobody in every way, he seems to suggest -- could not have written the masterpiece called FRANKENSTEIN.

His alternate suggestion: Percy Bysshe Shelley.

Come now. Read these two passages and tell me which sounds like the novel FRANKENSTEIN:

Passage 1. "No, no, I will not live among the wild scenes of nature, the enemy of all that lives. I will seek the towns -- Rome, the capital of the world, the crown of man's achievements. Among its storied streets, hallowed ruins, and stupendous remains of human exertion, I shall not, as here, find every thing forgetful of man..."

Passage 2. "So, as we rode, we talked; and the swift thought, winging itself with laughter, lingered not, but flew from brain to brain,--such glee was ours, charged with light memories of remembered hours, none slow enough for sadness; till we came homeward, which always makes the spirit tame."

Passage 1 is from another novel by Mary Shelley, THE LAST MAN, written after PBS died, so in no way attributable to her poet husband.

Passage 2 is a bit of Percy Bysshe's "Julian and Maddalo," a conversation poem, about the most prosaic he got in his published writing. I removed the line endings to make it read like narrative.

This is not an argument of quality -- whose is better -- but an argument of style. Percy Bysshe Shelley? As Mary herself wrote in the 1831 introduction to her novel, he was "more apt to embody ideas and sentiments in the radiance of brilliant imagery, and in the music of the most melodious verse that adorns our language, than to invent the machinery of a story."

The handwriting of both Percy Bysshe Shelley and Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin, who became Mary Shelley during the composition phase of her novel, is visible on the manuscripts and has been carefully studied by scholars.

He may have been midwife (midhusband??) to the novel, but it was Mary who gave the monster story birth.

-- Susan Tyler Hitchcock
Author of the forthcoming FRANKENSTEIN: A CULTURAL HISTORY to be published by W. W. Norton in October 2007

The Idea Behind Monster Sightings

For the last few years, as I have been working on my book FRANKENSTEIN: A CULTURAL HISTORY (coming from W. W. Norton in October 2007), I have been scanning the cultural horizon for sightings of the monster made by man.

Every day his visage looms. Every day someone refers to Frankenstein or his monster in the daily press. It's a twisted path of references, sometimes fascinating, sometimes silly, always interesting and worthy of note.

That's what I'll do here. Take note. And invite anyone else who comes upon the monster to share their visions and thoughts as well.