Tuesday, April 27, 2010

There Are No New Stories

I recently sat down to add an oldie but a goodie to my library, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein. I don't know how I managed, but I missed this one in high school and college. After finishing it last night, I am in awe.

I always thought Shelley's work was groundbreaking, even if all I'd ever seen of it was the parodied Mel Brooks version, Young Frankenstein. The tragic monster hero shines through, even there.

I'd even read about it some before. That is was and still is touted as the first science fiction piece. New. New. New.


In all fairness to Shelley, not even she labeled her work as new. She actually entitled it, The Modern Prometheus. Yep, that really really really old Greek guy who had his liver eaten out every day (he also happened to create life from clay). 

There are no new stories.

Shelley did have a new take, though. It's not often that man creates life. Woman, yes. Man? And then he turns on it. Deplores it. And that creation goes out in the world to be despised and hated. And yet it only wishes to be loved and show love. It's external hatred that turns the outwardly monsterly creation into a monster on the inside. 

Clever. Very very clever.

By the time I got to Frankenstein the man's death, I wasn't rooting for him. I was rooting for the misunderstood monster. How could I not? The monster pleads with Frankenstein to understand his plight. To give him someone to love and to share his life. Frankenstein, however, cannot get beyond his own external revulsion at the outward appearance of his creation. He cannot see that ugly on the outside does not necessarily mean ugly on the inside.

In today's world of increasing preoccupation with external appearances, it's a classic idea. A classic tale. It's still cutting edge. That's saying a lot for such an old tome. Wouldn't it be amazing to write something that rings true for such a long time?


Christina Farley said...

I have heard that about no new stories and I suppose it is true. But I'm happy to read different versions and new twists on the same on tales.

Christina Farley said...

Oh and I wanted to tell you I loved your trailer of Dragon Wishes! That is really well made!

Keri Mikulski said...

So true! :)

Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

She is brilliant. Her work is brilliant. And underrated. I used to teach it--and I still tell people it's right up there with The Grapes of Wrath in terms of importance. Visionary, she was.

Meg Wiviott said...

There's a whole thread on the MFA Forum about retelling stories. You need to add this.