My wife's book club was discussing "Frankenstein." For those of you unfamiliar with the novel, I will give you a moment to catch up. Everyone prepared? Good. Let's begin: Mary Shelly subtitled her story of a mad genius who constructs his own man from pieces of cadaver "The Modern Prometheus." You all remember, from our reading, who Prometheus was. Not the confounding Alien prequel from Ridley Scott, but the Greek mythology dude who made a man out of clay. Does that sound familiar? There are lots of stories about men made out of clay, including Gumby. What makes this one different?
Maybe it's because I read Mary Shelly's book when I was eleven years old, after I had fallen under the spell of Boris Karloff's monster some years earlier. It was a deep read, and one that confounded me at times. Having read "The Andromeda Strain" the summer before, I was prepared for literature that was, upon further reflection, out of my depth. As it turns out, it was totally worth it. I got to see the Monster as something other than a shambling mass of scars and ill-fitting black suit. As much as I continue to revere Karloff's creation, this was a much more profound experience. Where did they get that flat head and bolts in the side of his neck stuff? Sure, he was frightening, but not nearly as well-spoken as the creature from the novel: "All men hate the wretched; how then, must I be hated, who am miserable
beyond all living things! Yet you, my creator, detest and spurn me,
they creature, to whom thou art bound by ties only dissoluble by the
annihilation of one of us." Perhaps a little more eloquent than "We belong dead."
It was also that summer that I stumbled on the Classics Illustrated version. It kept most of my Universal horror film vision intact, but inserted more of the globe-trotting bookworm interpretation of the creature that I had become familiar with. This was the version that I turned to in my mind when I heard of my wife's book club meeting. That's why I don't get invited to these things very often.