Thinking Like a Writer: Finding the Words

September 18th, 2022

For Mark Twain, “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is the difference between lightning and a lightning bug.”

For Mary Shelley, it is the difference between creature and being. We can see her deliberation in the excerpt (at left) of her Frankenstein manuscript, where she makes a choice that best reflects the book she intends to write. For her, the novel’s artificial human was not simply a creature. That word, which means something created, usually refers to animals. Being, however, suggests something more, perhaps not a human being but something equal in stature. It’s an important distinction and one that contributes … [read more at The 21st Century Scop].

One Night in Geneva:
The Birth of a Prosperous Progeny

August 30th, 2022

In 1831, her first novel having achieved pop-culture status thanks to a string of adaptations in England, Europe, and America (see last week’s post), Mary Shelley introduced the second edition of Frankenstein by writing: “Once again, I bid my hideous progeny go forth and prosper.”

Little could she have foreseen just how prosperous it would become, going forth to spawn countless stage, screen, and print adaptations.

All this month, and concluding with this special installment in honor of Mary Shelley’s 225th birthday, I have been posting about some of the Frankenstein adaptations discussed on the … [read more at The 21st-Century Scop].


T. P. Cooke’s Demon:
The First Pop-Culture “Frankenstein”

August 26th, 2022

An explosion. Fire and smoke. Laboratory doors shatter. The Demon appears in a blast of red flame!

That’s how the Frankenstein monster made its entrance in the first dramatic adaptation of Mary Shelley’s novel.

Loosely adapted by Richard Brinsley Peake and starring actor T. P. Cooke as the monster (referred to as “The Demon” in the stage notes), Presumption; or, the Fate of Frankenstein (1823) became an instant sensation that transformed Shelley’s book (which until then had only been available in a printing of … [read more at The 21st-Century Scop].

A Child and a Monster go to the Lake, or …
“What shall we throw in now?”

August 19th, 2022

Set in central Spain shortly after the Spanish revolution, Victor Erice’s film The Spirit of the Beehive opens with the children of a rural village watching James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931). Two of the children, sisters Ana and Isabelle, watch wide-eyed as the monster encounters a young girl by a mountain lake. It’s the same scene you’ll find restaged for laughs in Mel Brook’s Young Frankenstein (1974), but here it’s played straight. The result is at once moving and confounding, leaving the viewer—like the child—to wonder just what the heck is going on.

I admit to having had the same reaction during most of the film’s hour-and-a-half running time. Nevertheless, I admit, it was time well spent.

The monster-by-the-lake scene takes place late in Erice’s film, but revealing it here isn’t a spoiler. Beehive isn’t about plot. It’s a meditation on innocence, wonder, and the ways that children make peace with the troubled world that lies just beyond their grasp.

[Read more at The 21st-Century Scop.]