Monday, April 20, 2015


Frankenstein is the be-all and end-all of names in the horror pantheon. Actually what has become the appellation for the monster was actually the doctor’s name (Victor) who created the monster, but in the common mind his name has been attached to the monster so ably portrayed by Boris Karloff.

Reading Mary Shelley’s book of the same name, one hoped to find some correlation between the exciting and somewhat terrifying films of the late nineteen thirties. Unfortunately, the novel and the films appear to come from different parts of the solar system.

In a tortured beginning replete with all the Victorianisms that are so stultifying to read, Victor finds the secret of life and bestows it upon a creature he puts together from the deceased elements of other men. Unlike the film he does not graft a diseased brain upon the frame of the “fiend.”

Once he gives life to the creature he is done with him and the book travels merrily along until one of Victor’s siblings (William) is brutally murdered. Victor thinks that the creature he created must be the guilty party. However, Justine, one of the members of the Frankenstein household, is found to have part of the locket that William was wearing when he was killed.

Justine is tried, convicted and put to death. Victor laments the fact that he didn’t say anything that might have contributed to her exoneration. There is a great deal of soul searching that goes on interminably in the novel along with non-juicy gossip.

Finally, Victor meets with his creation and wants to destroy it, but the creature tells him to hold off, that he has a story to tell.

The creature goes on interminably about how he came to meet a family that he has great affection for. Victor listens with more patience that this reader has.

The creature finally ends his tale by telling Victor exactly how he murdered William and planted the evidence on Justine who was tried, convicted and executed.

Waiting for Victor to respond the creature demands a female like himself. Victor says that he will never do such a thing. The creature says that if Victor does what the monster wants he will take the female and go to South America to live in the jungle to be free of the disgust and horror of the people who have seen him.

Victor goes to England, providing a guide tour to all the sights along the way.

After England Victor goes to the Orkney Islands off the northern coast where he begins his experiment to create a female monster. The real monster somehow has found him out and curses him since he has not created the female so desired by the fiend.

Victor destroys the female parts and dumps them in the sea. After a harrowing voyage he ends up in Ireland and is treated harshly because the Irish think he is responsible for the death of a man recently discovered on the same shore that Victor has landed on.

By coincidence the dead man is Henry Clerval, Victor’s long-time friend. He is duly shocked and then thrown in jail. Victor’s father comes to visit him and after being exonerated of the crime, father and son take ship for Europe and their home in Switzerland.

After much ado, Victor decides to marry his “cousin” Elizabeth even though the monster has vowed to make their wedding night a shambles.

The wedding takes place. Victor and Elizabeth take boat to one of the lake resorts. Victor is well armed with knife and pistols if they are needed for a confrontation with the fiend. He hears a scream and Elizabeth has been murdered. He is distraught.

Victor returns home to bring the bad news to his father, who subsequently dies.

Then Victor goes on another trip to find the monster. This trip takes him across Europe, Russia and finally ends up in the frozen north. The creature eludes him, but a storm does not. He is rescued by ship whose captain listens to Victor’s tale and can hardly believe it.

As the crew is about to mutiny, Victor falls in and dies.

The captain enters Victor’s cabin to see the monster gloating over Victor’s death. The captain listens to the ranting of the monster before the monster leaps out the cabin window not to be seen again.

Coincidence, artifice and plain old stilted writing make this book a very difficult read. One wonders how many readers will slog through to the end. I only did so to round out this blog.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015


1963. Gunter Grass’ book “The Tin Drum” was on my reading list. It was his approach to trying to make sense of what the Nazi’s had done to his country. Whether he was part of the regime may or may not be true, but his disaffection with it certainly was. So it was a memory jog when I read of his death yesterday. All those years ago and at least one of the images from the book still remains: the dwarf finding refuge under the ballooning skirt of a frau. I suspect that Grass was using the image as a metaphor for trying to escape the despicable behavior of most of his fellow Germans. 

Now the memory of the horrors of Hitler’s attempt to subjugate the rest of us has dimmed with the evaporation of time. Still, it’s important to remember what an ideologue can do with enough support and I suspect that is the lesson for today and the threat that ISIS poses. Hitler had his triumph when the Brits allowed him to get away with terrorizing Austria and the other countries that formed what was known as “Lebensraum—“ the need for Germany to expand no matter what the cost to other entities or states. Today, many in the US don’t see any threat from the Islamic radicals and I suspect that they are analogous to the Brits and Americans who didn’t see any threat from Hitler or Hirohito. I surely hope that we are not doomed to repeat history because we have forgotten it.

Saturday, April 11, 2015


You can read Wind, Sand and Stars to understand what a beginning pilot has to deal with flying from a small airfield in France in the 1930’s. You can also read the book to find out what flying in North Africa was like. Mostly you’ll find that the translated French is poetic and thought provoking.

You’ll see what a tribal king thinks of himself as a slave. A slave that the pilot who is telling this story is bound to free and return to his home.

An almost off the cuff flight from France to Vietnam tells the story of a crash and survival of the pilot and his mechanic as they strive to find a way out of the barren stretch of desert they are trapped in.

The last part of the story gives you an insight into the Civil War in Spain during the last years of the thirties. The pilot compares the war to a plague (and that brings thoughts of Camus’ “The Plague” to mind). The men who are fighting either for or against the regime are only differentiated by how they view the same principles.

The language in the book is poetic and there is more than a bit of philosophy in the passages that describe the pilot’s reaction to his friends, the environment and the people therein.

The book is not a page turner, but it is quite interesting and worth the time to peruse.