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No Bad Frankensteins

Like some of the less fickle denizens of the internet, I stand by the majority of what I post once it has been posted (and then proceed to perma-trash everything that isn’t relevant or flattering to my person–like my old myspace). One such truth eternally bonded to digital space is this tweet:

Since the casting announcement of I, Frankenstein, I’ve consistently received inquiries on “my thoughts” on the project. “My thoughts” more often than not, though, are gauged to be provoked-and-anticipated corroborations with the inquirer’s presumption that I should disdain the I, Frankenstein project.

“Don’t you think he’s too sexy?”

“Doesn’t it bother you that they’re calling the monster ‘Frankenstein’?”

“Are you looking forward to this at all?”

Frankenstein as an action movie?”

Of course, my overwhelming response is:

One, because I refuse to pass any kind of judgment on the quality of I, Frankenstein as a project until I’ve actually seen the movie, and two, because my singular, unique opinion really doesn’t encompass any kind of authority over the quality of I, Frankenstein as a piece in the Frankenstein canon!

Because while I do possess a vast encompassing knowledge of most things within the all-consuming Shelley Circle and have essentially sworn my life to all things Frankencentric (which leads to people reaching out to me to recommend me to Frankenkitsch more than anything–which is much appreciated), I most certainly don’t carry a thermometer to actively measure the “goodness” or “badness” of Frankensteinia (or any kind of affirmative authority over anything Frankenrelevant, though I am flattered that my observations are so personable!).

This is, of course, not to say that there haven’t been some particularly schlocky/goofy/terribad manifestations within the heritage of Mary Shelley’s hideous progeny, but those qualities of “goodness” versus “badness” have–or shouldn’t have—next to nothing to do with what those terms more often euphemistically refer to as “canon” versus “uncanon

(Although, let’s be real, Victor the necrophiliac is defo canon to the 1818 text and only became moreso in the 1831 revision—and then even moreso in NIN’s infamous “Closer” video.)

Very early on in its printed lifetime, Frankenstein became one of the most sought after, cited and adapted works of fiction—not genre/horror/Gothic fiction, but overall consumable literature contemporaneous to its time period and beyond. Within five years of hitting mixed-but-strongly-passionate critical reviews, play performances hit the stages and there-after “novelizations” of the staged versions. At home and abroad, pressings and stagings reached audiences across the social strata, as high as Parliamentary politicians and American abolitionist leaders and as common as the voyeurs of the “burlesques” of the era. Everyone knew Frankenstein, both the Creature and the Scientist, whether intimately through the novel or through the casual word-of-mouth of common talk, of political cartoons. And if they didn’t know Frankenstein, they would be urged by fans and ultimately scholars who sought to canonize the text, establishing its permanence in popular culture as intensely as its titular characters, well even before its centennial, deigning it a place of honour in everyman classics and classrooms alike.

Frankenstein‘s immediate and long-term appeal lies in factors as minimalist as the conscious choice to never confirm a singular identity to the Creature: branded a “daemon,” a “wretch,” a “monster” as well as an “insect,” but also self-identified as “Adam” and as “Satan” while also emulating the First Woman of Eden and the Other Woman of the DeLacey idyll. The Creature is every single one of those things and also disputably none of those things, depending on what page you’ve landed upon within the novel, or what film adaptation turns on your screen or what staging presents itself to you.

In her Cultural History, Susan Tyler Hitchcock succinctly surmises that the story as a whole is “on the one hand so true as to be universal and, on the other, malleable enough to conform to different times, places, peoples and moments in history.” Any individual can pick literally any variable within the book and make a valid defense in the case of X, Y, or Z in what Susan Wolfson and Ron Levao have dubbed in their still fresh but already outdated Annotated Frankenstein as a “range of implication.” Literally thousands of iterations of Jungian, Freudian, feminist, queer, racial, post-colonial, socialist, anarchist, imperialist, …. readings exist, and infinitely more, all at one co-existing, contradictory and complementary, will emerge—if one is to trust the mere existence of these emerging genealogies since Steven Earl Forry’s Hideous Progenies, let alone the very fact that there is to be an upcoming new movie adaptation of the Frankenstein story.

*All* persons who interact with Frankenstein are amateur manipulators, not unlike Victor himself.

This is it, this is the post.

This is it, this is the post.

We the readers, the viewers, the writers, the artists, the scholars are all given fractured parts in a composite story with only partial recognition of what those parts are and could be. The rest is up to us to piece together. And contrary to the self-righteous stream of tweets and tumblr postings of newly initiated AP Lit/Lang students, Frankenstein is not exclusively the name of the sole pale student bent over his creation on that dreary November night, just as it is no longer exclusively the novel penned by the heiress (and prowess) of authorship, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley.

Nor is there a fucking buzzer noise telling you how wrong you are in your surgery, else I would have never signed up for this.

Nor is there a fucking buzzer noise telling you how wrong you are in your surgery, else I would never never signed up for this shit.

Tl;dr, I’m not going to tell you what I think of I, Frankenstein until it hits theaters. And even if it doesn’t hit my sensibilities as a movie-goer, it can’t fail my expectations as a piece of Frankensteinia.

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The Inaugural Post

The best way for me to frame my mental state is to relay how I accepted an invitation to a job interview, today, as an excuse to get out of the house and an exercise in feeling feelings.

Today was a beautiful, crisp day. It was as close to proper Fall as I could ever beg Florida for. Today was a beautiful day to ride my bike to my job interview!

We know how these blissful bike rides end: with Catholic guilt and unrequited homosexual tension. A.k.a., my life.

And then I jerked my bike handles directly into oncoming traffic. And the nose of some breed of Chrysler.

Fortunately, neither I nor my two-wheeled companion, Charles Ryder, were more than bruised and bounced a bit–the bike moreso than me.

I continued biking toward the interview as normal. That or I died back there on the corner of Americana and John Young and was damned to a purgatory of mundane (after)life-blogging. Fast-forwarding past the revelation that I’m the third prospective hire to walk into this particular location by mistake, the third in a series of miscommunications in exactly which location I and my never-known kin were intended to interview at, and fast-forwarding past the ten awkward minutes of half-crying outside that compelled a security guard to slowly roll down his window and meekly ask, “Are you okay?”:

I went on a reparative manic spree at my not-exactly-local-but-close-enough corporate giant book store. Admittedly, my initial goal was just one single book.

Not even thirty seconds into the store, I had an armful of bargain-priced books, including a collection of the tales of H.P. Lovecraft. I abhor Lovecraft’s person–but at $7.98 I was totally down to throw my money at his miserable grave, right??

Eventually, as I was leaking books from every crevice of my poorly woven arm/hand basket attempt to cradle all of my prospective spoils in front of a clearly-labeled, clearly bemused employee, I decided that I would try to reel it in. Lovecraft didn’t make the cut. Neither did most of my initial grabs. I realized that I was using the staging of the store’s signature classics as my sorting table.

Rather than look for myself, I asked the employee, who I was certain upon catching the tell-tale tag again was definitely an employee and obviously endowed with this knowledge, if they had a signature edition of Frankenstein. I own 7 unique physical copies of Frankenstein (differentiated by edition and annotation content), 9 physical copies in all when factoring in duplicates/variant covers. A.k.a., I don’t own enough unique copies of Frankenstein–and I’m particularly lacking in ownership of the 1831 edition, which reflects in my admitted lack of scholastic insight in said edition (and now I know for sure that I didn’t die back at that crossroads, because only now has my darkest academic secret been revealed and only now is my soul purged and pristine for heavenly assumption).

The bookseller responded no, but encouraged me to pay attention to the Nice Copy of Dracula where Frankenstein could have been–would have been. Dracula is nice. I like Dracula. But having gone steady with Frankenstein for the past four years, I would feel particularly cheated (and like a cheater) if after all the commitment circumstances brought me to prom night with Dracula in my arms.

There was, however, a Very Nice Edition of the King James Bible that could possibly occupy the void in my cross-referencing web and by proxy my heart. I apparently narrated this out loud, or the bookseller employee was an undercover clairvoyant (which would seem more legitimate of a theory if we didn’t rule out the whole Me Being Dead thing a couple paragraphs ago), as said bookseller quipped that I should consider the Lego Bible as an alternative. (Lo and behold, to my right, there was, in fact, a display proudly presenting The Book as illustrated by customized Legos.)

When I commented that brandishing the Lego Bible in my hypothetical Restoration course would probably be the last straw (not the worst stunt I’ve pulled in my academic history, but *definitely* the last straw) that would definitely get me kicked out of my Reputable Academic Programme at Oxford that next summer, the bookseller half-smirkingly commented on how that was a “fancy school,” to which I quipped back:

“Yes, but my fancy pants degree doesn’t make me qualified to work in your store, apparently. So for the time being, you lord that over me.”

The bookseller legitimately smiled. The ice was broken. The contract was sealed. The bond was fused. In that single moment, scholar and bookseller became egalitarian symbiotes. His business was necessary for my business needs to me met to require his business to fulfill my business, etc. etc.

We became inseparable, turning corners and finding the other there by Complete Accident, exchanging quips of, “Fancy meeting you, here,” wink wonk. When he found me the last time, it was in Poetry agonizing over which edition of Paradise Lost was worth the difference of a dollar in annotated aptitude. When he approached asking me if I needed help, though, I didn’t even consider how my new partner in business might possibly weigh in on this Great Debate and instead admitted that,

“I actually came here for one book in particular. Do you know if you have The Disaster Artist by Greg Sestero?”

To be fair, my knowledge of All Things Frankenstein might be legitimately rivaled by shameful cesspit of All Things Wiseau (and on a broader spectrum, All Things Romantic versus All Things Badfilm). The family resemblance between Tommy Wiseau and Karloff In Makeup is the only superficial qualifier I need to justify my intent.

Sestero…” he muttered,  “How do I know that name?” Before I could stop it, it was out of my mouth, “Leave your stupid comments in your pocket.“It was equal parts eerie fate and good fortune that the bookseller had an unconscious connection to the source (and that my surprise verbal abuse wasn’t a surprise).

Unsurprisingly, my new compatriot later met me at the register—and specifically stole me from another bookseller by opening up a second register, gleefully decreeing, “I can take care of this one.” Another contract was forged. In a manic minute, my membership with this chain corporate bookstore that I had let lapse in a phase of disaffected brokeness and anarchic dissonance for the Capital On Enlightenment was renewed—-but I was also 10% richer than had I not engaged the contract. The guilt of that didn’t hit me until I got this far down in my posting. But now that it has, it seems a fair enough place to stop, having come full circle with adequately framing my mental state.

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Filed under Frankenthoughts, Important post, Intro post, Mundane academic