"Great Books," The Learning Channel's exciting series, illuminates the time and place in which classic writers created lasting works that have become essential threads in the fabric of our culture.
One of the most enduring horror stories of all time, Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus has held readers spellbound since its publication in 1818. Written at a time when science was in its ascendancy, the novel spoke directly to popular fears about the dangers -- and the consequences -- of man's overstepping nature's boundaries.
Inspired by a "waking dream," Mary Shelley set out to write a story that kindled "the mysterious fears of our nature." The story of Victor Frankenstein, a scientist obsessed with the desire to create life, and the monster he reanimates with electricity, lays bare the frailties -- both good and evil -- of the human heart. Frankenstein deserts his creature in horror, and the monster -- frightful, dangerous, abandoned, and yet longing for acceptance -- seems all too human in his yearning and isolation. Today the story resonates as a brilliant interpretation of the consequences of scientific inquiry and as a timeless illumination of the human soul and the monster that lurks within all of us.
Frankenstein, loved by many decades of readers and praised by such eminent literary critics as Harold Bloom, seems hardly to need a recommendation. If you haven't read it recently, though, you may not remember the sweeping force of the prose, the grotesque, surreal imagery, and the multilayered doppelgänger themes of Mary Shelley's masterpiece. As fantasy writer Jane Yolen writes of this (the reviewer's favorite) edition, "The strong black and whites of the main text [illustrations] are dark and brooding, with unremitting shadows and stark contrasts. But the central conversation with the monster--who owes nothing to the overused movie image … but is rather the novel's charnel-house composite--is where [Barry] Moser's illustrations show their greatest power ... The viewer can all but smell the powerful stench of the monster's breath as its words spill out across the page. Strong book-making for one of the world's strongest and most remarkable books." Includes an illuminating afterword by Joyce Carol Oates.