Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus
Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
One of the truly great things about retirement is the ability to finally succumb to endless hours of reading. Reading has been a long held passion of mine, and now with sufficient time (and electronics) I can indulge in it to my heart’s content (virtually anywhere in the world).
I do miss the tactile feel and smell of real hardcover books (and shopping in real brick & mortar bookstores), but travelling like I do makes carting them around impractical. With one small backpack and duffel, full of the necessities of life, plus all of my photo gear, packing books would be difficult. Plus, I blow through a typical book in one to three days.
Kindle, coupled with my MacBook Pro, is the ideal travel solution for sure, and Kindle offers many of the classics (in the public domain) for free. A case in point is Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheus, by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley (the wife of Percy Shelley the poet). She wrote this book at a very young age, and it was published in 1818. The language is a little stilted, but it is beautifully written and very accessible. And it’s absolutely FREE, zilch, nada, no dinero.
Do you read the classics? The vast majority of people don’t. And that’s a real shame. Most books today are formulaic, sparse and not particularly well written. Ernest Hemingway is given credit for the lean, journalistic style of writing he promoted in the 1920s and 1930s, but by today’s standards he appears almost verbose. I lament the decline of the adjective, and the glorification of the noun and the verb.
The only contemporary American writer I can think of with real literary style is Pat Conroy (of Prince of Tides fame). His writing is pure poetry, and his stories lose nothing in the telling, even with his beautiful , lyrical prose. Want a sense of time and place? Read Charles Dickens or Graham Greene. How about a sense of adventure? Try Robert Lewis Stevenson: Treasure Island, Kidnapped and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.
If you are satisfied with the current “Mind-candy” then by all means stick with it, at least you’re reading. But for deep immersion into a real literary experience step into the world of classics. I’m not talking ancient stuff here, I’m talking about 19th-century and early 20th-century writing: Dickens, Twain, Stevenson, Poe, Greene, Steinbeck, Maugham, Kipling, Doyle and London (just to name a very few).
Do you think Frankenstein is about a big guy with neck-bolts? Do you think the monster is Frankenstein? Wrong on both counts. Victor Frankenstein (the creator of the monster) is a very human and sympathetic protagonist. His creation is never referred to by name; only as a monster, a demon. The story is a metaphor for Man’s hubris and arrogance, and is a cautionary tale about Man’s relationship with science and the world around him.
If you should choose to read this classic tale, a precursor to modern science fiction, don’t skip the four letters in the beginning. These four letters (from a brother to a sister) set the stage, and would be considered a prologue today. If you immediately start at chapter one you will miss an important part of the story. One final pronouncement from me: watching a movie is not the same as reading a book. I recently read Moby Dick. Not the same. I read Huckleberry Finn. Not the same. I am reading Frankenstein. Definitely not the same.
Stephen F. Dennstedt
Photographer, Writer (and Reader) and World Traveler
Currently in South America