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.