To Glut the Maw of Death: On Reading Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

First published in 1818

I have often wondered to what degree my childhood experiences with literature shaped my current relationship with reading and writing. Unlike many adults who enjoy reading, I did not engage in reading as a pleasure activity in my youth. In fact, I only came to literature as an extension of my rebellious teen years, through my unquenchable thirst for hallucinogenic drugs and my obsession with Jim Morrison (the lead singer of The Doors), who – despite what you may think about him – was a voracious reader and closet intellectual.  I read Dante’s Inferno because Jim Morrison read it.  Likewise with Aldous Huxley, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Nietzsche, Kerouac, etc. Were it not for drugs and Jim Morrison, I would never have gotten interested in literature. When I was a boy, I only read books I had to read for school — and even then, I did a pretty good job of not reading and pretending that I had.  So while other kids were reading books like Frankenstein (for either an assignment or for fun), I was busy playing Atari or running around outside make-believing I was Indiana Jones, or, later, dropping tabs or snarfing shrooms till the trees began to speak.

I share this bit of bio for the purpose of illustrating how I come to literature in general – not as someone with a lifelong love of it – and specifically how it informs my reading of a text that I assume many people read in their youth. Only two short months away from turning 32, I have just now read Frankenstein for the first time.


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January 20th, 2010 / 7:53 pm