Thursday, 8 March 2012

The Making of a Monster Blog Tour: Mary Shelley - Monster Maker and Giveaway

Chris Priestley - click to view high-res (300dpi) imageI've just read and loved Mister Creecher by Chris Priestley (see my review: here), so it's a huge pleasure to have Chris here today to give us a guest post!  And, the lovely people at Bloomsbury have offered three copies of the book to giveaway, UK only!  Please, check out Chris' blog and site - and enjoy the guest post as much as I did!

Mary Shelley – Monster Maker
In the wretched, storm-filled un-summer of 1816, a group of English tourists gathered together in a rented villa on the shores of Lake Geneva and scared each other silly, as the young are wont to do.  Eighteen year old Mary Godwin was there, daughter of the political reformer William Godwin and radical and feminist Mary Woolstonecraft as was her half-sister, Claire Clairmont who was pregnant with Byron’s illegitimate daughter.  Mary’s lover, controversial poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley was there having deserted his wife and children to run away with Mary and Claire.  Mad, bad and dangerous to know Lord Byron had rented the villa and he was accompanied by his resentful doctor, John Polidori.
In this fevered, sexually charged atmosphere, they read German ghost stories while thunder crashed around the villa and lightning lit the waters of Lake Geneva.  And with the lightning came talk of electricity and of the life force.  Mary and Shelley retire to their house next door and Mary has a nightmare in which she see what she will later describe as a ‘student of the unhallowed arts’ kneeling beside a huge prone figure that he is bringing to life.  And so, from the dark recesses of her imagination, the teenage Mary brought forth Frankenstein and created a monster that would capture the imagination of generation after generation.
Frankenstein’s creature, often wrongly called Frankenstein, would infect our consciousness and take its place alongside the pointy-hatted witch and Dracula as one of the stock emblems of Halloween.  
But that bolt-necked, square headed (and often, weirdly, green) is not Mary’s monster at all.  It is a monster created by james Whale in his 1932 movie, Frankenstein, and it is an image that all subsequent film-makers have found difficult to dispense with. 
Mary’s monster is, I think more terrifying, than the badly-sutured movie and theatre monsters.  Mary’s monster is big and created with beauty in mind, like some enormous Michelangelo sculpture in flesh.  There is no reference to surgery in the novel - no talk of stolen body parts.
The movie men cover the creature in stitches to make him frightening, but mostly he looks as though he is the victim of a terrible accident.  Mary’s monster is a more disturbing creation.  His skin is lifeless and translucent, his hair is black and contrasts with his pale skin and dead, watery eyes. 
The classic image of the creature became debased as the job of playing him in the movies was passed on to Lon Chaney Jr who milked the part for all it was worth.  Eventually, he would end up as Herman Munster in the TV series.
But strangely, though Mary Shelley’s creature seems to have no similarity to the one portrayed in James Whales’ movies, Karloff’s face is not so far off the mark with its dull lifeless eyes and thin black lips and his performance is so fantastic that he manages to suggest so much behind that white mask of a face - like a sinister Buster Keaton. 
And I think Karloff does have a beautiful face.  But that might just be me.

Previous Stop on The Making of a Monster Blog Tour: The Pewter Wolf
Next Stop on The Making of a Monster Blog Tour: YA Book Reads

Thank you so much for stopping by and giving us this awesome guest post, Chris!  Everyone, check out the rest of the tour 'cause it was amazing, and don't forget to enter the awesome giveaway if you like in the UK!

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Christina said...

Horror isn't a genre I read too much of. I guess my favorite is...Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book or Coraline.

Leanne Tough said...

Turn between Frankenstein, The Monk and Stephen King's From a Buick 8 :)

Anonymous said...

Hello! thanks for letting me know about this giveaway through Goodreads! Would love to read it! Dani xxx

Chris Priestley said...

Coraline is a fantastic book, Christina! But maybe you like your horror to be strange. Try some H P Lovecraft or Poe. Or even Kafka.

Michele Helene said...

Read Frankenstein in this huge old creaky house in the middle of nowhere years ago. The loudest sound was the hooting of owls! I like the blurb of Mister Creecher so looking forward to reading it one way or another.

Paulina said...

I love love love horror! But mostly in movies D:
I have read part of Turn between Frankenstein but gave up on it.

Anonymous said...

I am a hardcore fan of horror fiction.
The best horror is the one that is capable of giving chills just by reading and picturing the whole scenario.
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