Tag Archives: reading and travel

The 200th Birthday of Mary Shelley’s Monster, Frankenstein

477px-Frankenstein's_monster_(Boris_Karloff)2018 is a big year for Mary Shelley as we celebrate the 200th anniversary of her masterpiece, Frankenstein; or the Modern Prometheus.  Frankenstein’s birthday has spawned a new movie about her life, a reissue of the original book,  a host of special events, new analysis of her work and new respect as well.  

It’s hard to grasp the impact the story that Mary Shelley wrote at 18 has had and
continues to have.  Frankenstein is part of our culture and consciousness.  Whether or not you’ve read the book you know Frankenstein (the name of his creator, Victor Frankenstein, not the monster who is nameless) from the old Boris Karloff movie, TV’s Herman Munster or my favorite, Mel Brooks’s “Young Frankenstein.”  He’s in our cereal (Frankenberry), our vocabulary (Frankenfoods) and in our metaphors—”He’s created a monster!”

“I busied myself to think of a story…one which would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature.. and quicken the beatings of the heart.”

New Editions, New Analysis

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It’s time to put Frankenstein on your reading list whether its Shelley’s novel or the many new books about Mary Shelley and the cultural impact of her creation. One mark of an enduring classic is that so many people find meaning in it and from so many angles.   Scholars consider it the first work of horror writing, the first work of science fiction and first modern myth.   Fiona Sampson’s new biography In Search of Mary Shelley looks at Shelly’s younger years and how such a young person could create one of the most enduring horror stories in history.

Shelley wrote the book in a time of fascination with electricity and the notion of re-animating the dead.  The 41-oD5gb+iL._SX359_BO1,204,203,200_issues surrounding ethics and the dangers of science and technology–gene editing, designer offspring, even social media–are more relevant than ever.  Frankenstein: Annotated for Scientists, Engineers and Creators of All Kinds examines the moral issues, pitfalls and hubris that may arise in science.  For more reading on the big guy, be sure to take a look at Frankenreads, an international celebration of the Frankenstein’s anniversary for Halloween, organized by the Keats-Shelly Association of America.

Finding Mary Shelley

This year, literary travelers will find events celebrating Mary Shelly and her homely offspring all over the world from the Keats Shelley Museum in Rome to universities, libraries and museums across the U.S.

If you’re in Minneapolis, be sure to visit one of my favorite hidden gems, the Bakken Museum on lovely Lake Harriet.  The museum focuses on the history and nature of electricity and magnetism.  It’s founder, Earl Bakken, created one of the world’s first battery-powered cardiac pacemakers and was also one of the founders of Medtronic which is now the world’s largest medical technology company.  He was fascinated with electricity and its many medical uses. And, with this museum, he sought to inspire others to enjoy and pursue the science surrounding electricity.

The Bakken Museum has a terrific section devoted to Mary Shelley and her story. It includes examples of phantasmagoria (scary slide shows of the time), and many explanations of how the science of the era inspired Shelly’s fiction.  A theater in the exhibit offers a spooky 12-minute show that brings to life the tale the over-reaching scientist, Victor Frankenstein.

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Frankenstein’s laboratory at the Bakken Museum in Minneapolis.

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Half Moon Bay, The Ganges and Reading in Minnesota

Hi fellow readers and travelers:

I’ve done a lot of traveling this summer, but I’ve been on a bit of a blogging hiatus, so I have plenty stored up to tell you about.

The winner of the 2014 pumpkin weigh off in Half Moon Bay, California. Photo courtesy of Miramar events.
The winner of the 2014 pumpkin weigh off in Half Moon Bay, California. Photo courtesy of Miramar events.

I’ll start by sharing my new article on the USA Today travel web site. It’s about the pulchritudinous pumpkins of Half Moon Bay, California, and all the food-related activities there are to do there even after all the orange orbs have been made into pie.

Ann Bancroft (right) and Liv Arneson are know for their adventure in cold climates, but on their next trip, they navigate the Ganges.
Ann Bancroft (right) and Liv Arnesen are know for their adventure in cold climates, but on their next trip, they navigate the Ganges.

Speaking of travel, I also had a great time interviewing Ann Bancroft, the famous polar explorer, for the Minnesota Women’s Press. She’s off on a new adventure in October, this time to India where she and Liv Arnesen and their team will navigate the length of the Ganges River. This hot, dirty, overpopulated trip seems an unlikely choice for someone who is used to the isolation and the pure, crisp air of the frozen poles. Yet, the more we discussed the perils of such a trip, the more her eyes lit up with anticipation of the challenge. The trip is part of a series she plans to undertake that will bring attention to the crisis of fresh water around the world. Find out more about the expedition at yourexpedition.com

Last week was a big one for literary events here in Minneapolis. I attended Pen Pals, an author series presented by the Friends of the cover225x225Hennepin County Library, in which famed librarian Nancy Pearl interviewed Judy Blume about her new novel, In the Unlikely Event. Blume is chiefly known for her middle grade girls’ novels such as Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret. The new book for adults is fiction based on the true story of the series of three commercial plane crashes that occurred in her home town in 1952. I haven’t read the book yet, but it sounds like it could put me off air travel for a while.

Finally, Faith Sullivan launched her new book, Goodnight Mr. Wodehouse at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. I aspire to be like Faith, not just for her literary expertise, but for her vivacious goodnight-dpipersonality, humor and grace. She alternated reading from her book with short pieces of music from the time played by her friend Michael Anthony.

Set in Minnesota around the turn of the last century, the book is the story of a woman who has more than her share of tragedy in life, but keeps on going, buoyed by the diversion and humor of British author P.G. Wodehouse. Readers will love her comments about the joys and life-saving aspects of reading:

“Life could toss your sanity about like a glass ball; books were a cushion. How on earth did nonreaders cope when they had nowhere to turn? How lonely such a nonreading world must be.”

And, on retiring from teaching, the heroine hopes she “left her charges with a love of reading, one of the few things they could count on in life. The years could rob them of friends and farms, of youth and health, but books would endure. She eased deeper into the chair and turned the page.”

When I’m done reading Faith Sullivan’s book, I’m stocking up on a few volumes by P.G. Wodehouse.