Friday, January 2, 2009

The Monsters

I've by chance come across the mentioning of The Monsters: Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein in a mini-essay on today's newspaper.

Before I begin, here is a real story from the same essay which I find it entertaining.

A female writer was betting with her husband on who will be the winner  of the U.S. presidential election. At that time, Obama and McCain was having a fierce competition, many people were not optimistic about the "black" horse. Man said that Obama will not win the game with the opinion that skin color will eventually play a decisive role, and Americans are not yet ready to have a black president. Woman, on the contrary, partly succumbed to Obama's handsome and charming look, betted all her chips on him. The most interesting part was their bets - and that was fantastic too - who won, will receive the right to a "derailment" (to have an affair or seriously, an adultery). Oops! 

That was then this is now. Woman who won the bet, of course, does not physically "run off the rails", only to venture into an affair "spiritually". But by using such thing as the fruits of victory, one may ask, isn't it precisely the subconscious desire of many?

"We ordinary folks who live orderly (at least, we try hard to) in our life time, can not afford to go insanely wild, do not have the courage to leverage over friends and enemies, naturally yearn for the spirit of carnival. Mainly, I believe, the black carnival."

Do you think so? Anyway, let's talk about the book now.

On a dark and stormy night in 1816, five young people gathered inside the Villa Diodari, a luxurious summerhouse on the southern shore of Lake Geneva in Switzerland. They are: Lord Byron, 28, already the most famous English poet of the time; the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley; Shelley's mistress Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin (later Mary Shelley), who had eloped two years earlier, at 16, with the married Shelley; Mary's stepsister Claire Claremont, who had developed an obsessive crush on the talented, handsome, rich Byron (who was also married) and pursued him recklessly, and was then secretly pregnant with Baron's child; and Byron's physician, John William Polidori, apparently also the homosexual partner of Baron.

It all started with Baron opening a volume of German horror stories translated into French, and began to read from it. As the wind howled and the lightning flashed and crashed, and with his four listeners becoming more frightened and agitated, Byron challenged his friends to a contest to write a ghost story.

The famous result of that night was Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, a work that appeared in print two years later and has retained its hold on the popular imagination for almost two centuries. Less well-known was Polidori's work published in 1819, the first vampire novel, a story that inspired another classic novel, Bram Stoker's Dracula. And the evening begot a curse, too: Within a few years of Frankenstein's publication, nearly all of those involved were dead. Claire's child by Byron and one of Mary's children by Shelley died early. Mary's sister and Shelley's first wife were suicides in their twenties, as may have been Polidori, who was dead at 25. Shelley drowned at 29, leaving Mary a 24-year-old widow. Byron died of a fever at 36. The women lived on, but their lives seemed sadly diminished. Spooky, ha?

In short, THE MONSTERS tells the riveting story of the geniuses who refusing to abide by the society's rules, lived selfishly and loved promiscuously and passionately, bringing "the curse of Frankenstein" upon others, including innocent children whom they sired or to whom they gave birth.

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