What’s happening at the Library: ‘Frankenstein’

Published 12:30 pm Wednesday, October 25, 2023

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By James Gardner

Clark County Public Library

Frankenstein Friday is always the last Friday in October, and it’s the perfect time to celebrate Mary Shelley’s story of scientists and the monsters they make. This story began as something Mary Shelley told to friends as part of a scary story contest, so I often wonder if Mary Shelley could have imagined that her creation Dr. Victor Frankenstein, or the monster that Dr. Frankenstein created from reanimated body parts, would leave such an indelible mark on pop culture.

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Imagine she became immortal and, around 1931, decided to see what was the fuss with these moving pictures and saw Universal’s “Frankenstein” in the theater. Would she be awed or outraged at seeing Universal’s Frankenstein and Boris Karloff’s portrayal of the monster? (“Why on Earth is his head flat?” she might say).

Regardless of her feelings, that portrayal of Frankenstein’s monster–note I’m making the distinction between man and monster–has decorated everything from t-shirts to rubber masks.

Frankenstein and his monster have become such a part of pop culture that Mary Shelley’s story is continuously revisited and reimagined. Fiction like “Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein” (Fantastic F Koon) and Dave Zeltserman’s “Monster: A Novel of Frankenstein” (Fantastic F Zelt) have switched the POV to the monster’s perspective. Other books have used the basic concept of reanimating something stitched together from multiple dead things and created works like C. E. McGill’s “Our Hideous Progeny” (Fantastic F McGi) and Ahmed Saadawi’s “Frankenstein in Baghdad” (Fantastic F Saad).

Movies and TV shows have continued to add to and deviate from the legacy of Universal’s “Frankenstein,” whether casting the monster as a punch-throwing savior of humanity in “I, Frankenstein” (DVD Horror I) or as a well-meaning family man named Herman Munster in “The Munsters” (DVD Series MUNS, or to see Rob Zombie’s more recent reimagining, check out DVD Comedy MUNS). Imagine Shelley trying to make sense of “Alvin and the Chipmunks Meet Frankenstein” (DVD Children’s ALVI), especially since the title doesn’t distinguish between man and monster.

Mary Shelley should be happy to know that the reason her story has such staying power is the themes it tackles, including the pursuit of immortality by making death obsolete and the inherent risks of such an undertaking. One of the novel’s biggest questions, however, revolves around the monster’s character. Would it have refrained from violence if it had been shown compassion from its creator and/or humanity? The monster proclaims, “I have love in me the likes of which you can scarcely imagine and rage the likes of which you would not believe.” Such a statement makes the monster seem more like us than perhaps we would care to admit.

So, to celebrate this Frankenstein Friday, feel free to check out the library’s collection of Frankenstein-related books and DVDs. If Mary Shelley were alive today, she would be proud of her beloved creation. Maybe even a little shocked–forgive me, Mary Shelley–at what it’s become.

And here’s some electrifying programs–I can’t help it!–happening this week:

• On Oct. 25 at 2 p.m., the Kentucky Picture Show presents the classic chiller from legendary director Alfred Hitchcock! A Phoenix secretary embezzles $40,000 from her employer’s client, goes on the run and checks into a remote motel run by a young man under the domination of his mother. Popcorn and snacks provided.

• On Oct. 26, join us for a harrowing evening wherein we will dip into the sanguine well of the past of the Kentucky to bring us more harrowing tales of murder and mayhem. If you would like to join us for the potluck meal, please bring a dish and arrive at 6:15 p.m. If you would just prefer to hear the program, arrive a few minutes before 7. Either way, since space is limited, please register to attend.

• On Halloween night, from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., the library will be having an Adult Storytime with some classic spooky stories. Sit, enjoy some Halloween candy, have some fun, and listen to some spooky tales that might raise your hackles. Feel free to bring your favorite spooky short story to read and share with others.