Saturday, October 13, 2018

Happy, Happy Birthday Brother Frankenstein-On the 200th Anniversary Of The “Birth” of Mary Shelley’s Avenging Angel “Frankenstein”-A Comment

Happy, Happy Birthday Brother Frankenstein-On the 200th Anniversary Of The “Birth” of Mary Shelley’s Avenging Angel “Frankenstein”-A Comment 

A link to a 200th anniversary discussion of Mary Shelley and her “baby” Frankenstein on NPR’s On Point

By Lenny Lynch

We all know in the year 2018 that it is impossible to create a human being, maybe any being, out of spare stitched up human parts, and a few jolts of electricity. At least I hope everybody short of say Hannibal Lecter, Lucy Lane or some such holy goof who thought he or she could “do God’s handiwork” on the cheap, out of some “how to manual” knows the ropes enough to have figured that out. You have to go big time MIT scientist and MGH doctor routes running through DNA, RNA, genetic matching and such to do what back in the day only a scary primitive amateur guy working in some foreboding isolated mountain retreat would even dare to contemplate. Back in that 1818 day when Mary Shelley (she of the thoroughbred breeding via Earth Mother feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft and French Revolution-saturated  anarcho- philosopher William Godwin and later channeling Romantic era poet husband Percy Shelley who hung around with ill-fated heroic Lord Byron and that crowd ) wrote her iconic classis Frankenstein former idea, the stitch and sew part, seemed pretty far out on the surface and would go on to sell scads of books to titillate and disturb the sleep of fevered.  

I like the Modern Prometheus part of her title better since like I said science was pretty primitive on that count, not much better that the Greeks creation from earth’s laden clay process, about the way our brother was put together in a slapdash manner but provided an impetus to further discovery. Today where through genetic engineering we have a better understanding of science and medicine who knows what the possibilities are for good or evil. Although at times we need to treat science, maybe medicine too, like a thing from which we have to run. (Example, a very current example, running the rack on discovering everything there is to know about the atom and then have such a discovery threatening a hostage world with nuclear weapons once the night-takers latched on to the military possibilities. At that point running away from the results of the creation like cowardly Victor Frankenstein doesn’t mean a thing, not a thing.)      

Still Mary Shelley was onto something, some very worthy thoughts about human beings, about sentient and sapient beings, about where women fit into the whole scheme of things if we can at the flip of a button create life without human intervention which has already accrued to us today in marginal cases and probably would have shocked her 19th sensibilities. A better result if humankind can make itself out of odd spare parts, a little DNA splicing here and there, that also puts a big crimp in the various ideas about God and his or her tasks once he or she becomes a sullen bystander to human endeavor. Not a bad thing not a bad thing at all. But the most beautiful part of her story is the possibility, once again, that we may get back to the Garden to retrofit that Paradise Lost that the blind revolutionary 17th poet John Milton lost his eyesight over trying to in verse form how we lost our human grace. Yeah, tell us that we might be able to get back to the Garden. Nice choice Ms. Shelley. 

We know, or at least I know, that Frankenstein aka Modern Prometheus, has gotten a bad rap. Prometheus remember him from subtle Greek mythology and how he was able to create his brethren out of clay. Nice trick. Better, the brother did not leave humankind hanging by offering the gift of fire to move human progress at a faster clip. To keep the race from cold and hunger. Took a beating from psychopath Zeus for his lese majeste by having to roll that rock for eternity. Mister Frankenstein really has been misunderstood especially since the rise of the cinema starting from that first libelous presentation in 1931 which turned him from that misunderstood and challenged youth who was orphaned by a unfit “father” into a scary monster who made kids afraid on nighttime shadows on bedroom walls. There are a million ways that piece of bad celluloid got it wrong but if you will he remember actually learned English, despite being “born” out in the wilds of 19th century Germany, so movie audiences could understand what he was saying. Does that sound like a monster to you? I thought not.

The bad ass in the whole caper is this dolt Victor Frankenstein, the human so-called scientist who built a thing from which he had to run like some silly schoolgirl. If the guy had the sense that God, yes God, gave geese he would not have abandoned his brethren, his avenging angel. Wouldn’t have started a string of murders for which he not his so-called “monster” was morally responsible for. Instead the dink just let the bodies stack up like a cord of wood as he let his “creation” get out of control.

On this site my fellow writer Danny Moriarty has recently taken it upon himself to smash what he has called the unearned reputation of one Lanny Lamont, aka Basil Rathbone, aka Sherlock Holmes the so-called deductive logic detective who also let innocent bodies pile up before he got a bright thought in his dope-addled head about how to stop the carnage. That Danny’s take, Danny not his real name by the way but an alias he had been forced to use to protect himself and his family who have been threatened by a bunch of hooligans who are cultist devotees and aficionados of this Lanny Lamont known as the Baker Street Irregulars.

I don’t know enough about the merits of Danny’s crusade to decide whether he too is also an avenging angel, a blessed brethren in the fight for human progress against the night-takers, against the “alternate fact” crowd. But I do know that the idea behind what he is trying to do is solid. In his case the bare knuckle blowing up of an undeserved legend. This bicentennial year of the existence our beautiful Mister Frankenstein, the Old Testament avenging angel, I am proud to defend his honor against all the abuse he has taken for far too long. That may be a tough road but so be it.         

Mary Shelley started something for us to think about on letting things get out of hand though and now we have to try to put the genie back in the bottle. 

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