Frankenstein — Santiago Caruso 


Frankenstein, 2018 by Santiago Caruso (b. 1982)

Illustration for Frankenstein — Bernie Wrightson


Screenshot 2018-10-26 at 5.45.25 PMScreenshot 2018-10-26 at 5.45.12 PM

Illustration for Frankenstein — Bernie Wrightson


“We are still surrounded by mountains of ice” | Frankenstein illustration by Bernie Wrightson


Illustration for Frankenstein — Bernie Wrightson


The gothic is an avant-garde genre

…the gothic is an avant-garde genre, perhaps the first avant-garde art in the modern sense of the term. A pursuit, half serious enterprise, half fashionable vice, of the intellectuals of the end of the 18th century, it remained highbrow enough to tempt the Shelleys and Byron, for instance, to try their hands at it. The popular success of Frankenstein, perpetuated still in movies, and known in its essence to children in the street, obscured the fact that it was launched as an advanced book; and that it belongs to a kind, one of whose functions was to shock the bourgeoisie into an awareness of what a chamber of horrors its own smugly regarded world really was. If some examples of the early gothic strike us now is comical, this is only in part the result of changing taste; such books were from the beginning intended to be, in part at least, a joke on the middle class reader who would inevitably find them too funny or not funny enough!

From Leslie Fiedler’s Love and Death in the American Novel (1960).

Selections from One-Star Amazon Reviews of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

[Ed. note: The following citations come from one-star Amazon reviews of Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein. (See also: Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s RainbowGeorge Orwell’s 1984, Melville’s Moby-Dick, Joyce’s Ulysses and Markson’s Wittgenstein’s Mistress). I’ve preserved the reviewers’ own styles of punctuation and spelling].

Take it from me, a seasoned man of literature.

This book had a really good idea for a story.

Well, Mary Shelley was a teen when she wrote this.

And why do they call it a “horror story”?

I would rather read the berstein bears.

How does a gathering of dead limbs and organs produce super human strength?

Mary Shelley uses a lot of fancy words and complicated sentence stucture but the book really doesn’t say anything.

I don’t really care what the mountains looked like.

I would not recommend this book to anyone under the age of 40.

horribly and not understandably written

if you want to read this book, you will need knowledge of five words; reverence, countenence; ardour; odious; benevolence.

I probably skipped over 50% of the pages.

Unfortuantely, literature is an art

Its amazing that in less than a year, a monster, made from dead criminals can learn to speak better than i have been able to in my entire life.


There is no underlying message

I didn’t think anything could be worse then Kafka’s “The Metamorphosis”.

I decided to channel my inner John McCain and just survive the torture.

Hollywood does a better job with the story than the original author.

a “sissy” plot

One word. “Endeavor” This word was used ATLEAST 4 times a page on every page of the book when Victor is talking.


By the way? Where did he get the pieces of dead people?

I didn’t think anyone could make a 160 page book seem so long!

I threw it out my window.

I’d put this alongside other amateur horror authors like Stephen King

The whole novel is full of such ridiculous co-incidences and logical inconsistencies.

And talk about repetative.

The creature went from hideous dumb clod to hideous Collin Firth in a matter of months via eavesdropping on some peasants.

Movie was a million times better than that stupid story but I will say that it was very poorly written

ok this book does not deserve the title of a horror story its not scary in the leat bit.

Shelley is not only a terrible author, she is also an ignorant and prejudiced one.

It just had too much detail

I had seen the movie, and usually, if I like the movie, I like the book even better, but this time they really improved on the book.

Mary Shelley was the Stephanie Meyer of her generation, and her novel should be shelved with the chic-lit vampire romances and other such fare read avidly by teenage girls.


What can i say? This is not a great product, and not worth any stars.

Well I think I made my point.

A Riff on Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Tale “The Birth-Mark”

  1. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s tale “The Birth-Mark” — or is it “The Birthmark”? — has been a favorite story of mine for years despite (or maybe because of) its being so damn symbolically overdetermined.
  2. You can read the story online.

  3. Or perhaps you want a quick summary—a refresher—okay:

Aylmer, “a man of science,” has this totally hot wife Georgiana—only she’s got a birthmark on her cheek, a small red mark that resembles a tiny hand—and it drives our scientist mad—so mad that he determines to make her perfect by removing the mark. Tragic ending ensues.

  1. One of the reasons I like “The Birth-Mark” so much is that it so clearly limns the futility of idealism.
  • Aylmer’s driving desire for mastery over Nature (echoing Shelley’s Frankenstein): the desire to “lay his hand on the secret creative force and perhaps make new worlds.”

  • The word “God” does not appear in “The Birth-Mark.”

  • But of course gods and creators are repeatedly invoked.

  • One such creator is Hawthorne’s friend Hiram Powers, whose sculpture Eve Tempted is invoked (invoking that other creator, the one who made a garden . . . )

  • powers eve
    Eve Tempted, Hiram Powers
    1. And Pygmalion—
    Pygmalion and Galate, Jean-Leon Gerome

    Aylmer, having convinced his wife that he’ll erase her mark: “Even Pygmalion, when his sculptured woman assumed life, felt not greater ecstasy than mine will be!”

    1. Aylmer’s plan is shameful. It’s based on an obsessive misreading of the symbolism of his wife’s birthmark. We’re told that Aylmer “select[s] it as the symbol of his wife’s liability to sin, sorrow, decay, and death, Aylmer’s sombre imagination was not long in rendering the birthmark a frightful object, causing him more trouble and horror than ever Georgiana’s beauty, whether of soul or sense, had given him delight.”

    He’s a very poor reader. His judgments are overawed by idealism.

    1. Georgiana asks him: “Cannot you remove this little, little mark, which I cover with the tips of two small fingers?”

    On one level, Georgiana is offering her husband the opportunity to play doctor with her, to get rid of the mark that’s driving him mad—but I think there’s an ironic second meaning at work here as well. I think she’s suggesting that he remove his perception of the mark, his reading of the mark. That he change his attitude.

    1. Hawthorne’s homeboy Herman Melville, in his big book Moby-Dick, has Ishmael point out—in a simple, charming, homey way—that there is no simply no ideal purity available to us:

    We felt very nice and snug, the more so since it was so chilly out of doors; indeed out of bed-clothes too, seeing that there was no fire in the room. The more so, I say, because truly to enjoy bodily warmth, some small part of you must be cold, for there is no quality in this world that is not what it is merely by contrast. Nothing exists in itself. If you flatter yourself that you are all over comfortable, and have been so a long time, then you cannot be said to be comfortable any more.

    13. Actually, even though we’re told he’s brilliant, it turns out that Aylmer is not the transcendent scientist he’d like to be. In a scene that almost edges into comedy (just a dab to give this tragedy dimension), Georgiana reads

    a large folio from her husband’s own hand, in which he had recorded every experiment of his scientific career, its original aim, the methods adopted for its development, and its final success or failure, with the circumstances to which either event was attributable. The book, in truth, was both the history and emblem of his ardent, ambitious, imaginative, yet practical and laborious life. He handled physical details as if there were nothing beyond them; yet spiritualized them all, and redeemed himself from materialism by his strong and eager aspiration towards the infinite. In his grasp the veriest clod of earth assumed a soul. Georgiana, as she read, reverenced Aylmer and loved him more profoundly than ever, but with a less entire dependence on his judgment than heretofore. Much as he had accomplished, she could not but observe that his most splendid successes were almost invariably failures, if compared with the ideal at which he aimed. His brightest diamonds were the merest pebbles, and felt to be so by himself, in comparison with the inestimable gems which lay hidden beyond his reach. The volume, rich with achievements that had won renown for its author, was yet as melancholy a record as ever mortal hand had penned. It was the sad confession and continual exemplification of the shortcomings of the composite man, the spirit burdened with clay and working in matter, and of the despair that assails the higher nature at finding itself so miserably thwarted by the earthly part. Perhaps every man of genius in whatever sphere might recognize the image of his own experience in Aylmer’s journal.

    1. I should clarify, perhaps, that Georgiana reads the journal as she waits out Aylmer’s experiments in his laboratory.
    The Laboratory, John Collier
    The Laboratory, John Collier
    1. Oh, gosh, I almost forgot—there’s a third player in this piece, Aminadab, Aylmer’s manservant/lab assistant, who’s described throughout the text (usually by Aylmer) as “clod,” “man of clay,” “human machine,” “earthly mass,” “thing of the senses” — he’s the pure-material to contrast Aylmer’s (would-be) pure-spirit. Although he’s not described as hunchbacked I can’t help but see him that way, this Igor to a Hollywood Frankenstein. And he laughs.

    2. Aminadab laughs at Aylmer’s folly. Here is the conclusion of this story:

    Alas! it was too true! The fatal hand had grappled with the mystery of life, and was the bond by which an angelic spirit kept itself in union with a mortal frame. As the last crimson tint of the birthmark—that sole token of human imperfection—faded from her cheek, the parting breath of the now perfect woman passed into the atmosphere, and her soul, lingering a moment near her husband, took its heavenward flight. Then a hoarse, chuckling laugh was heard again! Thus ever does the gross fatality of earth exult in its invariable triumph over the immortal essence which, in this dim sphere of half development, demands the completeness of a higher state. Yet, had Alymer reached a profounder wisdom, he need not thus have flung away the happiness which would have woven his mortal life of the selfsame texture with the celestial. The momentary circumstance was too strong for him; he failed to look beyond the shadowy scope of time, and, living once for all in eternity, to find the perfect future in the present.

    17. I won’t comment any further on the story, other than to suggest that the final two lines—in bold above—seem perfectly sensible and wonderfully wise to me. I think Wittgenstein may have been approaching a similar idea some eighty years later in his Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus:

    Death is not an event in life: we do not live to experience death. If we take eternity to mean not infinite temporal duration but timelessness, then eternal life belongs to those who live in the present. Our life has no end in the way in which our visual field has no limits.