All entries in this blog are freely submitted by members of the Kurt Vonnegut Book Club and are uncensored. Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent the opinions or positions of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, its staff, or its management.

Only six showed up on this beautiful summer day to talk about Yevgeny Zamyatin’s 1924 dystopian novel “We.” And those were: Kathleen Angelone,  John Hawn,  Bill Briscoe, Dave Young,  Mark Hudson, and John Sturman.

We started out by examining Zamyatin, an Old Bolshevik born in 1884. He was at odds with the Czarist regime and was exiled to Siberia twice but returned unnoticed to complete his education and was even hired by the Imperial Russian Navy in 1916 to oversee construction of icebreakers in England. After the October Revolution, he became increasingly disenchanted with the CCCP. In 1921, at the age of thirty-five, he completed his dystopian novel “We” but was unable to get it published until 1924 when an English translation of the original Russian by Gregory Zilboorg came out. Zilboorg was a Ukrainian who was studying Medicine at Columbia University while supporting himself as a translator. There was some talk among us that Yiddish may have influenced the translation but I can find no support for this. Zilboorg eventually became a Freudian Psychoanalyst and wrote a biography of Freud. Freud was thought to have had minimal knowledge of Hebrew and Yiddish. In 1927, the original Russian version was published in Prague and smuggled into Russia. (“We” could have been one of our “banned books” selections.)  He was asked to renounce his works but refused. Zamyatin soon found himself at odds with Stalin and begged Stalin to allow him to leave the USSR. With the intervention of Gorky, Stalin approved and in 1931 Zamyatin and his wife settled in Paris. Still a Bolshevik, he refused to participate in the White Russian emigre community and died of a heart attack in 1937 at the age of 55. He was flat broke when he passed away.

“We” is thought to be the first modern dystopic novel. Orwell’s “1984” and Huxley’s “Brave New World” were probably influenced by it although Huxley claims he was not even aware of “We” when he wrote “Brave New World.” There are also elements of Ayn Rand’s “Anthem” that resonate with “We.” Vonngut’s “Player Piano” also is indebted to “We.” In the famous 1973 Playboy interview, KV pointed out that “he cheerfully ripped off the plot of BNW, whose plot had been cheerfully ripped off from Yevgeni Zamyatin’s ‘We’.”

The world of “We” is a grim world in which the population living within the “Green Wall” has been depersonalized. People do not have names, but are identified by letters and numbers. Women’s names begin with vowells and men’s names by consonats. Although Zamyatin had an active, perhaps even perverse sexual imagination, reproduction in the “One State” was tightly controlled by the regime. Food came from petroleum and was rather boring. As a naval engineer, Zamyatin gave us an engineering-oriented novel with a lot of innovation. He even imagined an electric toothbrush which would have been an interesting and probably dangerous device in 1921. Electronic surveillance was not forseen, but people lived in residences with glass walls so that the One State could monitor all activity.

The somewhat heroic protagonist of this novel, D503, is (surprise, surprise) an engineer who is secretly designing a spaceship to escape to another planet where the mistakes of the One State can be avoided. He is not successful and is lobotomized.  There is little hope in the ending other than the suggestion that no revolution is final and that this society may not therefore endure.

We found this book to be difficult to read in that the story line was hard to follow and there appeared to be no likeable characters. Everyone had been flattened down by the State. The work was as cold, clinical, and spare as the society it depicted. Perhaps the book would have been  more readable if it had been written in the third person narrative. We concluded that it was not enjoyable and not even literary.

After cranking up our world-reknowned KV rating machine, we gave this rather dry work a 6.6 rating on the 10 point scale.

Our next gathering will be on Thursday, June 28, 2018 at 11AM. We will meet at the KV Memorial Library to discuss KV’s “Deadeye Dick,” Kurt’s unique view on gun control. NRA members will be asked to check their gats at the door. John Sturman will tell us everything we need to know about this 1982 novel.

Our lunch crowd continues to dwindle. Three of us straggled to Shapiro’s Deli to continue the discussion.

Dave Young
************************************

Plot Summary from Wikipedia:

We is set in the future. D-503, a spacecraft engineer, lives in the One State,[3] an urban nation constructed almost entirely of glass, which assists mass surveillance. The structure of the state is Panopticon-like, and life is scientifically managed F. W. Taylor-style. People march in step with each other and are uniformed. There is no way of referring to people except by their given numbers. The society is run strictly by logic or reason as the primary justification for the laws or the construct of the society.[4][5] The individual’s behaviour is based on logic by way of formulas and equations outlined by the One State.[6]

Plot
One thousand years after the One State’s conquest of the entire world, the spaceship Integral is being built in order to invade and conquer extraterrestrial planets. Meanwhile, the project’s chief engineer, D-503, begins a journal that he intends to be carried upon the completed spaceship.
Like all other citizens of One State, D-503 lives in a glass apartment building and is carefully watched by the secret police, or Bureau of Guardians. D-503’s lover, O-90, has been assigned by One State to visit him on certain nights. She is considered too short to bear children and is deeply grieved by her state in life.
O-90’s other lover and D-503’s best friend is R-13, a State poet who reads his verse at public executions.
While on an assigned walk with O-90, D-503 meets a woman named I-330. I-330 smokes cigarettes, drinks alcohol, and shamelessly flirts with D-503 instead of applying for an impersonal sex visit; all of these are highly illegal according to the laws of One State.
Both repelled and fascinated, D-503 struggles to overcome his attraction to I-330. I-330 invites him to visit the Ancient House, notable for being the only opaque building in One State, except for windows. Objects of aesthetic and historical importance dug up from around the city are stored there. There, I-330 offers him the services of a corrupt doctor to explain his absence from work. Leaving in horror, D-503 vows to denounce her to the Bureau of Guardians, but finds that he cannot.
He begins to have dreams, which disturbs him, as dreams are thought to be a symptom of mental illness. Slowly, I-330 reveals to D-503 that she is involved with the Mephi, an organization plotting to bring down the One State. She takes him through secret tunnels inside the Ancient House to the world outside the Green Wall, which surrounds the city-state. There, D-503 meets the inhabitants of the outside world: humans whose bodies are covered with animal fur. The aims of the Mephi are to destroy the Green Wall and reunite the citizens of One State with the outside world.
Despite the recent rift between them, O-90 pleads with D-503 to impregnate her illegally. After O-90 insists that she will obey the law by turning over their child to be raised by the One State, D-503 obliges. However, as her pregnancy progresses, O-90 realizes that she cannot bear to be parted from her baby under any circumstances. At D-503’s request, I-330 arranges for O-90 to be smuggled outside the Green Wall.
In his last journal entry, D-503 indifferently relates that he has been forcibly tied to a table and subjected to the “Great Operation”, which has recently been mandated for all citizens of One State in order to prevent possible riots;[7] having been psycho-surgically refashioned into a state of mechanical “reliability”, they would now function as “tractors in human form”.[8] This operation removes the imagination and emotions by targeting parts of the brain with X-rays. After this operation, D-503 willingly informed the Benefactor about the inner workings of the Mephi. However, D-503 expresses surprise that even torture could not induce I-330 to denounce her comrades. Despite her refusal, I-330 and those arrested with her have been sentenced to death, “under the Benefactor’s Machine”.
Meanwhile, the Mephi uprising gathers strength; parts of the Green Wall have been destroyed, birds are repopulating the city, and people start committing acts of social rebellion. Although D-503 expresses hope that the Benefactor shall restore “reason”, the novel ends with One State’s survival in doubt. I-330’s mantra is that, just as there is no highest number, there can be no final revolution.

********************end*************

 

Meeting, April 26, 2018

All entries in this blog are freely submitted by members of the Kurt Vonnegut Book Club and are uncensored. Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent the opinions or positions of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, its staff, or its management.

We chose the first beautiful day of our Hoosier Spring to talk about Death and, predictably, not many showed up for all the fun. The five hardy souls who signed in were: John Hawn, Bill Briscoe, Celia Latz, Janet Pennwell and Dave Young. Phil Watts, who selected “Tuesdays with Morrie” and had planned to lead the discussion was unable to come due to illness. We sallied forth nevertheless.

Mitch Albom, formerly known as a sportswriter for a Detroit Newspaper, conceived of this project which was published in 1997 as “Tuesdays with Morrie: An old man, a young man, and life’s greatest lessons.” When his newspaper went on an extended strike, Albom journeyed on fourteen consecutive Tuesdays to Massachusetts to visit his dying Brandeis professor, Morris Schwarz, whom he had not seen for some fifteen years. The book ends with Morrie’s funeral on Saturday, November 7, 1995 after Albom’s last visit on the Tuesday before. The book was the New York Times non-fiction best seller list for 205 weeks – a major feat even though we all know what a crock that list is. The book has sold over 14 Million copies and along with some other sentimental trash has made Albom very wealthy. Albom donated his advance to cover some of Morrie’s medical expenses and has done some charitable work with his earnings.

Morrie was afflicted with ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis) which is also known as Lous Gehrig’s Disease. Our resident neurologist, John Sturman, was unable to attend this morning but sent us via Bill a lengthy explanation of ALS and the ways it debilitates the human body. John recalled that he had delivered the ALS diagnosis 3-4 times in his career. This untreatable disease is heartbreaking in its cruelty. He also recalled that he and Karen had seen Stephen Hawking, who also died of ALS after a lengthy illness, at a conference in Los Angeles.

Dave attempted to lighten things up with a dramatic reading (he failed to get the Welsh accent right) of Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle into that Good Night.” Dylan dedicated the work to his dying father, urging him to fight death. Dylan, known for his wild excesses, did not put up much of a fight himself, dying in New York City after bragging about drinking “eighteen straight whiskies.” His death certificate showed that at the age of 39 he expired from pneumonia, brain swelling, and fatty liver. The smog was angry that October night in 1953. Two hundred New Yorkers expired in the filthy air. Dave had planned to follow up with “And Death Shall Have No Dominion” but he didn’t have the heart for it.

One might expect this book to be a biography of Morris Schwartz, but one would be mistaken. We learn little about his academic career or the family and friends who care for him when Mitch is away. We seemed to agree that the book was about friendship and not about death. The importance of staying involved as your mind and your body begin to betray you is paramount.

The book turns out to be a series of lessons on the usual topics of life. Where there might have been profundities there were only platitudes. Nevertheless this is all about the life of the mind. Maybe we can only discuss Death in platitudinous terms. Atheists will find little of a religious nature here. Nevermind that Schwartz and Album are both non-observant Jews. Neither was there talk of suicide or euthanasia. Why would anyone want to endure such a slow miserable death knowing one’s lungs are shutting down? Was Morrie selfish in wringing every last second out of what was left of his life? It was noted that he had a somewhat privileged middle-class life with a caring wife and a caretaker. If he lacked such resources would he have held out until the bitter end?

One of the curious things that Mitch did was to continue to bring deli food to Morrie every week even as Morrie’s ability to take solid food went away. He noticed the food piling up in the refrigerator but refused to stop bringing it. Was he unable to face Morrie’s demise?

Morris Schwarz and Kurt Vonnegut were both alumni of the University of Chicago but there is no reason to believe that their paths ever crossed. They did share a belief in community however.  On the eleventh Tuesday Morrie gave the following advice.

“The problem, Mitch, is that we don’t believe we are as much alike as we are. Whites and blacks, Catholics and Protestants, men and women. If we saw each other as more alike, we might be very eager to join in one big human family in this world, and to care about that family the way we care about our own. But believe me, when you are dying, you see it is true. We all have the same beginning – birth – and we all have the same end – death. So how different can we be? Invest in the human family Invest in people. Build a little community of those you love and who love you.”

More questions than answers. Did Mitch exploit Morrie? The book certainly made him a wealthy man and despite all of the lessons there was little evidence that Mitch’s life had changed other than that he made an effort to reunite with an estranged younger brother who, ill with cancer, had relocated to Europe to get away from his family. Was the exploiter Ted Koppel whose lengthy TV interview with the dying Morrie led Mitch back to Brandeis? Or maybe Morrie exploited everyone by making them focus on him in his last days. Take your pick.

We don’t know what Morrie’s last words were because he had lost his ability to speak days before he lost consciousness. His last public words were given to Ted Koppel when Koppel interviewed him for a third and last time. Koppel asked him if there was anything he wanted to say and this was it:

“Be compassionate,” Morrie whispered. “And take responsibility for each other. If we only learned those lessons, this world would be so much better a place.” He took a breath, then added his mantra: “Love each other or die.”

So what did we learn? We should condition ourselves to accept the inevitable. Most relationships turn out to be superficial and so we should strive for deeper relationships so that someone will be there when we need them most. It might be a good idea to cultivate younger friends. After a prolonged silence it became apparent that our topic was dead and we adjourned early.

We gave this book a rather tepid 6.4 rating on the vaunted 10 point KV scale. Phil had reserved a table at the Atheneum Rathskeller for us but the ladies had other plans and so the three guys settled for coffee at the 49th and Penn branch of Hubbard and Cravens. Our next meeting will be on Thursday, May 26, 2018 at 11AM in the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library proper. Bill Briscoe will help us get through Yevgeny Zamyatin’s 1924 novel “We.” He threatened to conduct the meeting in Russian but backed off when he sensed a boycott forming.

There is a lot of Vonnegut stuff going on at Indiana University as the Arts and Humanities Council has recently discovered our patron saint. They have set up a website to tell you what they are doing and you can visit it at: salo.iu.edu. If you have a good memory, you might recall this passage from “The Sirens of Titan.” KV foresaw “The Cloud” fifty years ago!

“The message itself was unknown to Salo. It had been prepared by what Salo described to Rumfoord as, “A kind of university – only nobody goes to it. There aren’t any buildings, isn’t any faculty. Everybody’s in it and nobody’s in it. It’s like a cloud that everybody has given a little puff of mist to, and then the cloud does all the heavy thinking for everybody.”

Anyway, there will be a two day event at Bloomington on May 10 – 12, 2018 called Granfalloon: a Kurt Vonnegut Convergence featuring a symposium, exhibits, along with musical and performance arts. Perhaps we can send a delegation!

Dave Young

Do not go gentle into that good night

Dylan Thomas, 1914 – 1953

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

The Vonnegut Book Club of Indianapolis had not discussed Player Piano for some time. A few were reading the book for the first time, and others for a second, or multiple, times. The writing was considered a commendable first book by Kurt Vonnegut and received 8.8 out of 10 from the club.

The meeting began with discussion leader Bill Briscoe displaying a roll of music for a player piano. The music on the roll was “Melody” by Charles Gates Dawes, who was a Delta Upsilon fraternity brother of Bill, Phil Watts, and Kurt Vonnegut. Dawes also received the Noble Peace Prize as vice-president under Calvin Coolidge. In the 1940’s words were written to the music under the title “All in the Game”.
Next, Bill handed out “The Shah of Bratpuhr-Translations Quiz”. (Some of the members questioned if we had read the same book as Bill?) However, the quiz poked fun appropriately at the character of the Shah since he was used as the comic relief in the book. The prize for taking the quiz was a colorful poster of the original title of the book Utopia 14 by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

As discussion began, the members found a problem in sticking to the book. Vonnegut’s creation of rampant technological innovation or “mechanization” could describe life in America now, and the difficulty lay in focusing on the message in the book and not just discussing the problems of today’s society . In the story, robots replaced humans in jobs in every arena. Second, the Mainland and the Meadows were designated places Vonnegut used to describe how people’s lives were changed as the result of the loss of jobs to technology in Player Piano society. Finally, Kurt, in the telling of the tale, emphasized the social/economic/educational/individual problems that resulted from the changes, and the group found the discussion turning to today as society faces immense issues brought on by “progress”. However, the issues always present in the book about the cost of progress to human dignity, Vonnegut’s constant reminders to “be kind”, and the price of the loss of creativity and art were also a definite focus.

Thus, there was an attempt to answer a few questions that came during the reading. Why did Paul give up everything? If people do the same today the motivation may be over-whelming stress, betrayal, unfairness, or no hope of betterment for the future. Was that Paul? Was that Kurt when he worked at GE?
Another question was what role did the black cat play? The cat was created to keep mice away. The irony, of course, was the cat perished due to automation. Poor kitty.
As a final thought, what or who was Anita’s character portraying? Most likely Anita was society’s view of women of the time. Anita was reliant on her husband for everything. Society dictated women were of little use without a husband. If Paul disappeared, Anita would find another man.

Definitely, the group concluded the book is an example of the timelessness of the writing of Kurt Vonnegut, and that Player Piano may be even more appropriate to society today than in 1952 when it was written.

Those attending today were Bill Briscoe, Mark Hudson, John Sturman , Diane Richards, Celia Latz, Phil Watts, Jon Hahn, Janet Penwell, and Janet Hodgkin
The April 24th discussion focus will be the book, Tuesdays With Morrie, by Mitch Albom.

Janet Hodgkin

[Attached below is a contemporaneous New York Times Review of  “Player Piano.” Kurt must have been encouraged to see his first novel receive a favorable review in the august newspaper of record.  DEY]

***********************

NYT Book Reviews

Player Piano
Reviewed GRANVILLE HICKS
AUG. 17, 1952

Two books that were popular several decades ago–Ignatius Donnelly’s “Caesar’s Column” and Jack London’s “The Iron Heel”–are brought to mind by Kurt Vonnegut’s novel. In it, as in them, we are taken into the future and shown an America ruled by a tiny oligarchy, and here too there is a revolt that fails.
The important difference lies in the fact that Mr. Vonnegut’s oligarchs are not capitalists but engineers. In the future as he envisages it, the machines have completed their triumph, dispossessing not only the manual laborers but the white collar workers as well. Consequently the carefully selected, highly trained individuals who design and control the machines are the only people who have anything to do. Other people, the great majority, can either go into the Reconstruction and Reclamation Corps, which is devoted to boondoggling, or join the army, which has no real function in a machine-dominated world-society.
It is a little like “Brave New World,” except that Mr. Vonnegut keeps his future closer to the present than Aldous Huxley succeeded in doing, and his satire therefore focuses more sharply on the contemporary situation. The machines he is talking about are not gadgets he has dreamed up; they are in existence, as he is careful to point out. Moreover, his engineers are less of supermen than Huxley’s Alphas, and their group morale is maintained by methods one can find described in William H. Whyte’s recent book, “Is Anybody Listening?”
The story, which is told in a skillful, lively fashion, concerns Paul Proteus, one of the privileged engineers. Unhappy in his own role and increasingly aware that the masses are being frustrated and degraded, he joins and becomes nominal leader of a revolutionary organization, the Ghost Shirts. At first the rebellion seems to be succeeding, but then the mob gets out of hand, just as in “Caesar’s Column” and “The Iron Heel,” and there is an orgy of destruction. Proteus and his companions, however, do not give up hope until they find that their revolutionary followers are busily making gadgets out of the scraps of the machines they have been destroying. That is too much, and they surrender to the oligarchy.
“Player Piano” is a less earnest book than either “Caesar’s Column” or “The Iron Heel,” and a less serious one than “Brave New World,” but what Mr. Vonnegut lacks in fervor he more than makes up in fun. To take only one example, nothing could be more amusing than his account of the antics of the aspiring engineers when they gather on an island in the St. Lawrence for pep talks, competitive sports, formalized informality and the careful cultivation of the big shots. Whether he is a trustworthy prophet or not, Mr. Vonnegut is a sharp-eyed satirist.
Literary editor of The New Leader, Mr. Hicks is the author of “There Was a Man in Our Town.”

 

Six of us dodged the seriously threatening Indianapolis potholes on this dreary February day to discuss Alan Lightman’s 2012 opus: “Mr. g; a Novel about the Creation” a delight for the theologically challenged. Those joining in the fun were John Hawn (our leader for the day), Mark Hudson, Bill Briscoe, Dave Young, Janet Penwell, and Diane Richards.

Bill brought us up to date on the “Night of Vonnegut” annual party which has been moved from Friday, 4/13/18 to Thursday 4/12/18 John Berendt, author of “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil” will be the speaker. This will happen at the Indiana Roof Ballroom and will only cost you a cool $125. Put together a table and take a discount. Not sure what Berendt has to do with Kurt but they were both New Yorkers.

Since I didn’t bother to read the book, let me go to that wonderful source, Wikipedia, to summarize the plot: “Mr g features a fictional depiction of God as he forms Creation and tries to deal with his Aunt Penelope and Uncle Deva, who live in the Void. The book depicts God (“Mr g”) as a being that is omnipotent but not omniscient, as the universe is created through “trial and error”. Mr g is further bothered by his rival Belhor, who constantly challenges him to explain everything and to exempt humanity from rational laws”.

John drew some comparisons to KV noting that both were atheists and wrote in a simple narrative with dramatic departures. What is the responsibility of the Creator, we wondered? In last month’s book “Frankenstein” we had a scientific creator who was willing to experiment. Mr. g is not so willing. Out of boredom, he is creating a universe and if doesn’t suit him, he is quite willing to blow it up. Later, we concluded that Vonnegut is a writer with a scientific background while Lightman is a scientist who dabbles in literature.

This led us into the area of mind-body dualism and we lectured ourselves on Process Theology in which the Primordial God is constantly at odds with the Consequential God. Process Theology attempts to build a wall between the two. The Primordial God establishes laws to live by and then steps back. The Consequential God directs you to obey these laws and labels any failure to do so as sin. Today’s author would have us believe that God is allowed to change and is in a state of constantly becoming. Man has free will and at any specific instant can make an optimal choice. Any choice less than optimal is sin, but God forgives. My notes say the Jesus always took the optimal choice and was never sinful, but whatever. Mr. g is a bored creator and a disinterested God.

The role of Mr. g’s Aunt Penelope and Uncle Deva may be merely comedic relief. It was noted that (in contrast to other dialogue) there were no quotation marks around their conversation and that may indicate that they were only figments of Mr. g’s imagination. Is Mr. g omnipotent? The protracted argument of the Aunt and Uncle over a chair might indicate that he is not or conversely that he could have solved the problem but wanted to maintain the conflict for his won amusement.

Lightman introduces Belhor and his two animal sidekicks to illustrate the unintended consequence of the universe created. There can’t be any good if there isn’t some evil. The disinterested God just let things like evil and free will happen. Belhor is a literary device to raise a host of questions. Do paysical laws determine behavior?

As a group we pondered whether the book reconciled religion and science and we thought not. The published reviews of this book tended to see it as rather superficial. Some of us thought the book far too wordy while the more scientifically inclined thought it not wordy enough. Those who want to dig a little deeper into the Lightman canon should consider “Einstein’s Dreams” which is a short story collection dealing with different aspects of time.

We gave this funny little book a rousing 8 point rating on the never-challenged 10 point KV scale and then four of us adjourned for a long lunch at Burgerhaus, 335 W. 9th St (on the West Bank of the Central Canal). Our next outing will be at 11AM on Thursday, March 22, 2018 when our in-house manufacturing engineer, Bill Briscoe, will lead us through KV’s first novel “Player Piano” (1952). Inspired, no doubt, by his experience as a flack for General Electric. See you at the Library!

Dave Young

 

 

All entries in this blog are freely submitted by members of the Kurt Vonnegut Book Club and are uncensored. Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent the opinions or positions of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, its staff, or its management.

The January 25, 2018, meeting of the Vonnegut Book Club convened without our loyal scribe, Dave Young, who is basking in the sun in Florida as usual at this time of year. Janet Hodgkin is standing in to record the discussion of Mary Wollencraft Shelley’s “Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus”. This book was chosen, not for a particular relationship to Vonnegut, but for the early science-fiction and horror aspects that are also often attributed to Vonnegut’s writing. The lively discussion was led by John Hawn.

January is often a month for Hoosiers to travel, but ten devotees turned out as the weather gave Indy a break for a few days. Those attending were, besides our capable leader, John; Bill Briscoe, Diane Richards, Jay Carr, Janet Penwell , Celia Latz, Kathleen Angelone, Phil Watts, Janet Hodgkin, and a visiting, prospective member, Mark Hudson.

Before the meeting officially opened, Bill Briscoe announced up-coming Vonnegut Library and Museum events such as a presentation by Pamela Bliss in February and the Night of Vonnegut, March 13th at the Indiana Roof. Also, the list of books to be read in 2018 is listed on the December, 2017, blog.
John opened by asking if this were the first reading for any members. Three raised hands appeared. The three agreed their knowledge of the book was from the movies, and that they assumed the creature was Frankenstein, not the creator. 1910 was the first movie, but 1938 appears to be the more famous one. It was mentioned that books cannot evolve a creation of the creature as movies do, and the question arises were the actions of the creature/monster/ being, a result of him being innately evil, or as a result of the environment he was thrown into. Also, the movies sensationalize more easily. As the discussion continued, assuming God created man in His image, did God shun man to create the fall as Frankenstein shunned the creature to create the evil he unleashed?

Much of the discussion continued in the unanswered questions vein. For example, is this an anti-God book? In 1818 was science vs. God a theme? Is this an early idea of technology run amuck as in Vonnegut’s much later, Player Piano? Mary Shelley would have been well aware of the legend of Golem, also, and could this have been a genesis for the book? It was known that Erasmus Darwin (father of Thomas)was making waves at the time with his experiments with substance having life force, and this may have also been in Shelley’s mind. The manner in which the corpse body parts were given life is left unknown, but some wondered, since the publishing of a connection between electricity and magnetism was published a few years before the book, and it is known many were experimenting with electricity at the time, did she consider electricity as the means as the later movies did?

Interesting, too, is that the writers who were together around 1818 (Byron, Percy Shelley, Dr. Polidori, and Mary) were quite bored due to the unusual winter in Geneva. The time was called a year without a summer due to a volcano eruption. Therefore, they gathered around the fire and told ghost stories. A competition arose as to who could create the best horror story. Apparently, Mary was the only one to have one published but was the printing influenced by her husband?

Most members saw the creature as pitiful as he continued to move between revenge and the need to be “normal”. Discussion continued on for some time regarding the passage, “You are my creator, but I am the master. Obey me.” Is this metaphorical or only of the moment? Obviously, the creature is saying, “I don’t need you anymore.” Is this like man saying to God, “ I created religion. I created you.” ???

Also, time was spent talking about the framework of the book. Robert is writing letters to his sister. He is on a ship and the trip is boring. Is this something he is making up to scandalize his sister, to relieve his boredom? Or is the story, as he tells it, real?

And so the meeting was brought to a close as time became an issue. However, Kathleen had to ask us one question to be answered at the next meeting. What three contemporary books would have been read by the creature (and been in his satchel) if he were reading today?

The book was given a rating of 9 by the group.

Janet Hodgkin

[Here is a note from Celia Latz regarding a book (“Frankenstein in Badhdad”) mentioned in the discussion:

“Here’s the correct title of the book I mentioned and the synopsis. Interesting! The “creature” seems to embody the terrorist group arisen from the war.
From the rubble-strewn streets of U.S.-occupied Baghdad, Hadi—a scavenger and an oddball fixture at a local café—collects human body parts and stitches them together to create a corpse. His goal, he claims, is for the government to recognize the parts as people and to give them proper burial. But when the corpse goes missing, a wave of eerie murders sweeps the city, and reports stream in of a horrendous-looking criminal who, though shot, cannot be killed. Hadi soon realizes he’s created a monster, one that needs human flesh to survive—first from the guilty, and then from anyone in its path. A prizewinning novel by “Baghdad’s new literary star” (The New York Times), Frankenstein in Baghdad captures with white-knuckle horror and black humor the surreal reality of contemporary Iraq”.

Join us at 11AM on Thursday, February 22, 2018 at the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library for a discussion of “Mr. G: A Novel about the Creation” a 2012 novel by Alan Lightman which gives a different view of the Creator. John Hawn will perform the heroic feat of leading two discussions in a row, a possible first in the long history of our club!]

[Dave Young]

A very long extract from Wikipedia which will tell you far more than you probably want to know about the novel follows:

Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

.Author
Mary Shelley
Country
United Kingdom
Language
English
Genre
Gothic novel, horror fiction, soft science fiction
Published
1 January 1818 (Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor & Jones)
Pages
280

Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus is a novel written by English author Mary Shelley (1797–1851) that tells the story of Victor Frankenstein, a young scientist who creates a grotesque but sapient creature in an unorthodox scientific experiment. Shelley started writing the story when she was 18, and the first edition of the novel was published anonymously in London on 1 January 1818, when she was 20.[1] Her name first appeared on the second edition, published in France in 1823.
Shelley travelled through Europe in 1814, journeying along the river Rhine in Germany with a stop in Gernsheim which is 17 km (10 mi) away from Frankenstein Castle, where, two centuries before, an alchemist was engaged in experiments.[2][3][4] Later, she travelled in the region of Geneva (Switzerland)—where much of the story takes place—and the topic of galvanism and other similar occult ideas were themes of conversation among her companions, particularly her lover and future husband, Percy Shelley. Mary, Percy, Lord Byron and John Polidori decided to have a competition to see who could write the best horror story. After thinking for days, Shelley dreamt about a scientist who created life and was horrified by what he had made; her dream later evolved into the novel’s story.
Frankenstein is infused with elements of the Gothic novel and the Romantic movement. At the same time, it is an early example of science fiction. Brian Aldiss has argued that it should be considered the first true science fiction story because, in contrast to previous stories with fantastical elements resembling those of later science fiction, the central character “makes a deliberate decision” and “turns to modern experiments in the laboratory” to achieve fantastic results.[5] It has had a considerable influence in literature and popular culture and spawned a complete genre of horror stories, films and plays.
Since the novel’s publication, the name “Frankenstein” has often been used to refer to the monster itself. This usage is sometimes considered erroneous, but usage commentators regard it as well-established and acceptable.[6][7][8] In the novel, the monster is identified by words such as “creature”, “monster”, “demon”, “wretch”, “abortion”, and “it”. Speaking to Victor Frankenstein, the wretch refers to himself as “the Adam of your labours”, and elsewhere as someone who “would have [been] your Adam”, but is instead “your fallen angel” (which ties to Lucifer in Paradise Lost, which the monster reads, and which relates to the disobedience of Prometheus in the book’s subtitle).

Summary[edit]

Frankenstein is written in the form of a frame story that starts with Captain Robert Walton writing letters to his sister. It takes place at an unspecified time in the 18th century, as the letters’ dates are given as “17—”.
Captain Walton’s introductory frame narrative[edit]
The novel Frankenstein is written in epistolary form, documenting a fictional correspondence between Captain Robert Walton and his sister, Margaret Walton Saville. Walton is a failed writer and captain who sets out to explore the North Pole and expand his scientific knowledge in hopes of achieving fame. During the voyage, the crew spots a dog sled driven by a gigantic figure. A few hours later, the crew rescues a nearly frozen and emaciated man named Victor Frankenstein. Frankenstein has been in pursuit of the gigantic man observed by Walton’s crew. Frankenstein starts to recover from his exertion; he sees in Walton the same obsession that has destroyed him, and recounts a story of his life’s miseries to Walton as a warning. The recounted story serves as the frame for Frankenstein’s narrative.

Victor Frankenstein’s narrative[edit]
Victor begins by telling of his childhood. Born in Naples, into a wealthy Genevan family, Victor and his brothers, Ernest and William, all three being sons of Alphonse Frankenstein by the former Caroline Beaufort, are encouraged to seek a greater understanding of the world through chemistry. As a young boy, Victor is obsessed with studying outdated theories that focus on simulating natural wonders. When Victor is five years old, his parents adopt Elizabeth Lavenza, the orphaned daughter of an expropriated Italian nobleman, with whom Victor later falls in love. (During this period, Victor’s parents, Alphonse and Caroline, take in yet another orphan, Justine Moritz, who becomes William’s nanny.)
Weeks before he leaves for the University of Ingolstadt in Germany, his mother dies of scarlet fever; Victor buries himself in his experiments to deal with the grief. At the university, he excels at chemistry and other sciences, soon developing a secret technique to impart life to non-living matter. Eventually, he undertakes the creation of a humanoid, but due to the difficulty in replicating the minute parts of the human body, Victor makes the Creature tall, about 8 feet (2.4 m) in height and proportionally large. Despite his intentions, the beautiful creation of his dreams is instead hideous, with yellow eyes and skin that barely conceals the muscle tissue and blood vessels underneath. Repulsed by his work, Victor flees and dismisses him when it awakens. While wandering the streets, he meets his childhood friend, Henry Clerval, and takes Henry back to his apartment, fearful of Henry’s reaction if he sees the monster. Victor does not have to deal with that issue, however, because the monster has escaped.
Victor falls ill from the experience and is nursed back to health by Henry. After a four-month recovery, he returns home when he learns of the murder of his brother William. Upon arriving in Geneva, Victor sees the Creature near the crime scene and climbing a mountain, leading him to believe his creation is responsible. Justine Moritz, William’s nanny, is convicted of the crime after William’s locket, which had contained a miniature portrait of Caroline, is found in her pocket. Victor is helpless to stop her from being hanged, as he knows no one would believe his story.
Ravaged by grief and guilt, Victor retreats into the mountains. The Creature finds him and pleads for Victor to hear his tale. Intelligent and articulate, the Creature relates his first days of life, living alone in the wilderness and finding that people were afraid of and hated him due to his appearance, which led him to fear and hide from them. While living in an abandoned structure connected to a cottage, he grew fond of the poor family living there, and discreetly collected firewood for them. Secretly living among the family for months, the Creature learned to speak by listening to them and he taught himself to read after discovering a lost satchel of books in the woods. When he saw his reflection in a pool, he realized his physical appearance was hideous, and it terrified him as it terrifies normal humans. Nevertheless, he approached the family in hopes of becoming their friend. Initially he was able to befriend the blind father figure of the family, but the rest of them were frightened and they all fled their home, resulting in the Creature burning the cottage in a fit of rage. He then swore revenge on his creator for bringing him into a world that hated him. He traveled to Victor’s family estate using details from Victor’s journal, murdered William, and framed Justine.
The Creature demands that Victor create a female companion like himself. He argues that as a living being, he has a right to happiness. The Creature promises that he and his mate will vanish into the South American wilderness, never to reappear, if Victor grants his request. Should Victor refuse his request, The Creature also threatens to kill Victor’s remaining friends and loved ones and not stop until he completely ruins him.
Fearing for his family, Victor reluctantly agrees, with the Creature saying he will secretly watch over Victor’s progress. Clerval accompanies him to England, but they separate at Victor’s insistence at Perth, Scotland. Victor suspects that the Creature is following him. Working on the female creature on the Orkney Islands, he is plagued by premonitions of disaster, such as the female hating the Creature or becoming more evil than him, but more particularly the two creatures might lead to the breeding of a race that could plague mankind. He tears apart the unfinished female creature after he sees the Creature, who had indeed followed Victor, watching through a window. The Creature later confronts and tries to threaten Victor into working again, but Victor is convinced that the Creature is evil and that its mate would be evil as well, and the pair would threaten all humanity. Victor destroys his work and the Creature vows that he will “be with [him] on [his] wedding night.” Victor interprets this as a threat upon his life, believing that the Creature will kill him after finally becoming happy. When Victor lands in Ireland, he is soon imprisoned for Clerval’s murder, as the Creature had strangled Clerval to death and left the corpse to be found where his creator had arrived, causing the latter to suffer another mental breakdown in prison. After being acquitted, Victor returns home with his father, who has restored to Elizabeth some of her father’s fortune.
In Geneva, Victor is about to marry Elizabeth and prepares to fight the Creature to the death, arming himself with pistols and a dagger. The night following their wedding, Victor asks Elizabeth to stay in her room while he looks for “the fiend.” While Victor searches the house and grounds, the Creature strangles Elizabeth to death. From the window, Victor sees the Creature, who tauntingly points at Elizabeth’s corpse; Victor tries to shoot him, but the Creature escapes. After getting back to Geneva, Victor’s father, weakened by age and by the death of his precious Elizabeth, dies a few days later. Seeking revenge, Victor pursues the Creature to the North Pole, but collapses from exhaustion and hypothermia before he can find his quarry.
Captain Walton’s concluding frame narrative[edit]
At the end of Victor’s narrative, Captain Walton resumes the telling of the story, closing the frame around Victor’s recounting. A few days after the Creature vanished, the ship becomes trapped in pack ice and multiple crewmen die in the cold, before the rest of Walton’s crew insists on returning south once it is freed. Walton sees Victor’s story as a warning, and decides to turn the ship around.
Victor dies shortly thereafter, but not before telling Walton to “avoid ambition”. Walton discovers the Creature on his ship, mourning over Victor’s body. The Creature tells Walton that Victor’s death has not brought him peace; rather, his crimes have left him completely alone. The Creature vows to kill himself so that no others will ever know of his existence. Walton watches as the Creature drifts away on an ice raft that is soon lost in darkness and distance, never to be seen again.
Characters[edit]
• Victor Frankenstein – Protagonist and narrator of most of the story. Creates the monster.
• The creature (Frankenstein’s monster) – The hideous creature created by Victor Frankenstein.
• Mrs. Margaret Saville – Resident of England. Sister of Robert Walton. Addressee of letters written by him.
• Captain Robert Walton – Captain of the boat which picked up Victor. Brother of Mrs. Margaret Saville, and writer of letters addressed to her.
• Beaufort – A Merchant. Caroline Beaufort’s father. One of the most intimate friends of Victor’s father.
• Caroline Beaufort – Beaufort’s daughter, Victor’s mother.
• Ernest – Victor’s brother. Seven years younger than Victor.
• Henry Clerval – Victor’s best friend from childhood. The son of a merchant of Geneva.
• Justine Moritz – Daughter of Madame Moritz. Moved in with the Frankenstein family at age of 12.
• Elizabeth Lavenza – Daughter of a Milanese nobleman. Her mother was a German and had died on giving birth to her. Raised as Victor’s “cousin” in the Frankenstein home.
• William – Victor’s youngest brother.
• M. Krempe – professor of natural philosophy at university of Ingolstadt. He was an uncouth man, but deeply imbued in the secrets of his science. Influenced Victor.
• M. Waldman – A professor, at Ingolstadt. Influenced Victor.
• Agatha – Daughter of De Lacey. Felix’s sister.
• Felix – Son of De Lacey.
• De Lacey – Blind old man descended from a good family in France. Father of Agatha and Felix. His family was observed by the monster, and unbeknownst to them, taught him to speak and read.
• Safie – Daughter of a Turkish Merchant and a Christian Arab.
• Mr. Kirwin – A magistrate.
• Daniel Nugent – A witness against Victor in his murder trial.
Composition[edit]

“How I, then a young girl, came to think of, and to dilate upon, so very hideous an idea?” — Mary Shelley[9]
During the rainy summer of 1816, the “Year Without a Summer”, the world was locked in a long cold volcanic winter caused by the eruption of Mount Tambora in 1815.[10] Mary Shelley, aged 18, and her lover (and later husband) Percy Bysshe Shelley, visited Lord Byron at the Villa Diodati by Lake Geneva in Switzerland. The weather was consistently too cold and dreary that summer to enjoy the outdoor holiday activities they had planned, so the group retired indoors until dawn.
Sitting around a log fire at Byron’s villa, the company amused themselves by reading German ghost stories translated into French from the book Fantasmagoriana,[11] then Byron proposed that they “each write a ghost story”.[12] Unable to think of a story, young Mary became anxious: “Have you thought of a story? I was asked each morning, and each morning I was forced to reply with a mortifying negative.”[13] During one evening in the middle of summer, the discussions turned to the nature of the principle of life. “Perhaps a corpse would be re-animated”, Mary noted, “galvanism had given token of such things”.[14] It was after midnight before they retired, and unable to sleep, she became possessed by her imagination as she beheld the grim terrors of her “waking dream”.[15]
I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some powerful engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half vital motion. Frightful must it be; for supremely frightful would be the effect of any human endeavour to mock the stupendous mechanism of the Creator of the world.[16]
In September 2011, astronomer Donald Olson, after a visit to the Lake Geneva villa the previous year, and inspecting data about the motion of the moon and stars, concluded that her “waking dream” took place “between 2 a.m. and 3 a.m.” on 16 June 1816, several days after the initial idea by Lord Byron that they each write a ghost story.[17]
She began writing what she assumed would be a short story. With Percy Shelley’s encouragement, she expanded the tale into a full-fledged novel.[18] She later described that summer in Switzerland as the moment “when I first stepped out from childhood into life”.[19] Shelley wrote the first four chapters in the weeks following the suicide of her half-sister Fanny.[20] Byron managed to write just a fragment based on the vampire legends he heard while travelling the Balkans, and from this John Polidori created The Vampyre (1819), the progenitor of the romantic vampire literary genre. Thus two legendary horror tales originated from the conclave.
The group talked about Enlightenment and Counter-Enlightenment ideas as well. Shelley believed the Enlightenment idea that society could progress and grow if political leaders used their powers responsibly; however, she also believed the Romantic ideal that misused power could destroy society (Bennett 36–42).[21]
Mary’s and Percy Bysshe Shelley’s manuscripts for the first three-volume edition in 1818 (written 1816–1817), as well as Mary Shelley’s fair copy for her publisher, are now housed in the Bodleian Library in Oxford. The Bodleian acquired the papers in 2004, and they belong now to the Abinger Collection.[22] In 2008, the Bodleian published a new edition of Frankenstein, edited by Charles E. Robinson, that contains comparisons of Mary Shelley’s original text with Percy Shelley’s additions and interventions alongside.[23]

Shelley completed her writing in April/May 1817, and Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus was published on 1 January 1818[24] by the small London publishing house Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor, & Jones.[25][26] It was issued anonymously, with a preface written for Mary by Percy Bysshe Shelley and with a dedication to philosopher William Godwin, her father. It was published in an edition of just 500 copies in three volumes, the standard “triple-decker” format for 19th-century first editions.
The second edition of Frankenstein was published on 11 August 1822 in two volumes (by G. and W. B. Whittaker) following the success of the stage play Presumption; or, the Fate of Frankenstein by Richard Brinsley Peake.[27] This edition credited Mary Shelley as the book’s author on its title page.
On 31 October 1831, the first “popular” edition in one-volume appeared, published by Henry Colburn & Richard Bentley.[28] This edition was heavily revised by Mary Shelley, partially to make the story less radical. It included a lengthy new preface by the author, presenting a somewhat embellished version of the genesis of the story. This edition is the one most widely published and read now, although a few editions follow the 1818 text.[29] Some scholars prefer the original version, arguing that it preserves the spirit of Mary Shelley’s vision (see Anne K. Mellor’s “Choosing a Text of Frankenstein to Teach” in the W. W. Norton Critical edition).
In 2008, a new edition of the novel, titled The Original Frankenstein, edited by Charles E. Robinson, was published. Robinson examined the original manuscript by Mary Shelley and noted the edits that Percy Bysshe Shelley made to it.[30]

Frankenstein and the Monster[edit]
The creature[edit]
Main article: Frankenstein’s monster

Part of Frankenstein’s rejection of his creation is the fact that he does not give it a name, which causes a lack of identity. Instead it is referred to by words such as “wretch”, “monster”, “creature”, “demon”, “devil”, “fiend”, and “it”. When Frankenstein converses with the creature in Chapter 10, he addresses it as “vile insect”, “abhorred monster”, “fiend”, “wretched devil”, and “abhorred devil”.
During a telling of Frankenstein, Shelley referred to the creature as “Adam”.[32][not in citation given] Shelley was referring to the first man in the Garden of Eden, as in her epigraph:
Did I request thee, Maker, from my clay
To mould Me man? Did I solicit thee
From darkness to promote me?
John Milton, Paradise Lost (X. 743–5)
Although the creature would be described in later works as a composite of whole body parts grafted together from cadavers and reanimated by the use of electricity, this description is not entirely consistent with Shelley’s work; both the use of electricity and the cobbled-together image of Frankenstein’s monster were more the result of James Whale’s popular 1931 film adaptation of the story, and other early motion-picture works based upon the creature. In Shelley’s original work, Dr. Frankenstein discovers a previously unknown but elemental principle of life, and that insight allows him to develop a method to imbue vitality into inanimate matter, though the exact nature of the process is left largely ambiguous. After a great deal of hesitation in exercising this power, the doctor spends two years painstakingly constructing the creature’s body (one anatomical feature at a time, from raw materials supplied by “the dissecting room and the slaughter-house”), which he then brings to life using his unspecified process.
The creature has often been mistakenly called “Frankenstein”. In 1908 one author said “It is strange to note how well-nigh universally the term “Frankenstein” is misused, even by intelligent people, as describing some hideous monster”.[33] Edith Wharton’s The Reef (1916) describes an unruly child as an “infant Frankenstein.”[34] David Lindsay’s “The Bridal Ornament”, published in The Rover, 12 June 1844, mentioned “the maker of poor Frankenstein.” After the release of Whale’s cinematic Frankenstein, the public at large began speaking of the creature itself as “Frankenstein”. This also occurs in Frankenstein films, including Bride of Frankenstein (1935) and several subsequent films, as well as in film titles such as Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Furthermore, future renditions and adaptations of the story include an evil laboratory assistant Igor or Ygor, who does not actually exist within the original narrative.
Victor Frankenstein’s surname[edit]
Mary Shelley maintained that she derived the name Frankenstein from a dream-vision. Despite her public claims of originality, however, a number of other sources have been suggested as Shelley’s actual inspiration. The German name Frankenstein means “stone of the Franks”, and it is associated with various places in Germany, including Frankenstein Castle (Burg Frankenstein) in Darmstadt, Hesse, and Frankenstein Castle in Frankenstein, a town in the Palatinate. There is also a castle called Frankenstein in Bad Salzungen, Thuringia, and a municipality called Frankenstein in Saxony. Until 1945, Ząbkowice Śląskie, now a city in Lower Silesian Voivodeship, Poland, was mainly populated by Germans and named Frankenstein in German, and was the site of a scandal involving gravediggers in 1606, which has been suggested as an inspiration to the author.[35] Finally, the name is borne by the aristocratic House of Franckenstein from Franconia.
Radu Florescu argues that Mary and Percy Shelley visited Frankenstein Castle near Darmstadt in 1814 during their return to England from their elopement to Switzerland. It was at this castle that a notorious alchemist, Conrad Dippel, had experimented with human bodies, and Florescu reasons that Mary suppressed mention of her visit in order to maintain her public claim of originality.[36] A literary essay by A. J. Day supports Florescu’s position that Mary Shelley knew of and visited Frankenstein Castle before writing her debut novel.[37] Day includes details of an alleged description of the Frankenstein castle that exists in Mary Shelley’s ‘lost’ journals. According to Jörg Heléne, the ‘lost journals’, as well as Florescu’s claims, cannot be verified.[38]
Victor Frankenstein’s given name[edit]
Main article: Victor Frankenstein
A possible interpretation of the name Victor is derived from Paradise Lost by John Milton, a great influence on Shelley (a quotation from Paradise Lost is on the opening page of Frankenstein and Shelley even has the monster himself read it).[39][40] Milton frequently refers to God as “the Victor” in Paradise Lost, and Shelley sees Victor as playing God by creating life. In addition, Shelley’s portrayal of the monster owes much to the character of Satan in Paradise Lost; indeed, the monster says, after reading the epic poem, that he empathizes with Satan’s role in the story.
There are many similarities between Victor and Percy Shelley, Mary’s husband. Victor was a pen name of Percy Shelley’s, as in the collection of poetry he wrote with his sister Elizabeth, Original Poetry by Victor and Cazire.[41] There is speculation that one of Mary Shelley’s models for Victor Frankenstein was Percy, who at Eton had “experimented with electricity and magnetism as well as with gunpowder and numerous chemical reactions”, and whose rooms at Oxford were filled with scientific equipment.[42]
Percy Shelley was the first-born son of a wealthy country squire with strong political connections and a descendant of Sir Bysshe Shelley, 1st Baronet of Castle Goring, and Richard Fitzalan, 10th Earl of Arundel.[43] Victor’s family is one of the most distinguished of that republic and his ancestors were counselors and syndics. Percy had a sister named Elizabeth; Victor had an adopted sister named Elizabeth.
On 22 February 1815, Mary Shelley gave birth to a baby two months prematurely, and the baby died two weeks later. Percy did not care about the condition of this premature infant and left with Claire, Mary’s stepsister, for a lurid affair.[44] When Victor saw the creature come to life he fled the apartment, though the newborn creature approached him, as a child would a parent. The question of Victor’s responsibility to the creature is one of the main themes of the book.
Modern Prometheus[edit]
The Modern Prometheus is the novel’s subtitle (though some modern editions now drop the subtitle, mentioning it only in an introduction).[45] Prometheus, in later versions of Greek mythology, was the Titan who created mankind at the behest of Zeus. He made a being in the image of the gods that could have a spirit breathed into it.[46] Prometheus taught man to hunt, read, and heal their sick, but after he tricked Zeus into accepting poor-quality offerings from humans, Zeus kept fire from mankind. Prometheus, being the creator, took back the fire from Zeus to give to man. When Zeus discovered this, he sentenced Prometheus to be eternally punished by fixing him to a rock of Caucasus, where each day an eagle would peck out his liver, only for the liver to regrow the next day because of his immortality as a god. He was intended to suffer alone for eternity, but eventually Heracles (Hercules) released him.
Prometheus was also a myth told in Latin, but was a very different story. In this version Prometheus makes man from clay and water, again a very relevant theme to Frankenstein, as Victor rebels against the laws of nature (how life is naturally made) and as a result is punished by his creation.

In 1910, Edison Studios released the first motion-picture adaptation of Shelley’s story.
The Titan in the Greek mythology of Prometheus parallels Victor Frankenstein. Victor’s work by creating man by new means reflects the same innovative work of the Titan in creating humans.
Some have argued that Mary Shelley saw Prometheus not as a hero but rather as something of a devil, and blamed him for bringing fire to man and thereby seducing the human race to the vice of eating meat (fire brought cooking which brought hunting and killing).[47]
Byron was particularly attached to the play Prometheus Bound by Aeschylus, and Percy Shelley would soon write his own Prometheus Unbound (1820). The term “Modern Prometheus” was actually coined by Immanuel Kant in reference to Benjamin Franklin and his experiments with electricity.[48]
Shelley’s sources[edit]
Shelley incorporated a number of different sources into her work, one of which was the Promethean myth from Ovid. The influence of John Milton’s Paradise Lost, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, are also clearly evident within the novel. Mary is likely to have acquired some ideas for Frankenstein’s character from Humphry Davy’s book Elements of Chemical Philosophy, in which he had written that “science has … bestowed upon man powers which may be called creative; which have enabled him to change and modify the beings around him …”. References to the French Revolution run through the novel; a possible source may lie in François-Félix Nogaret (fr)’s Le Miroir des événemens actuels, ou la Belle au plus offrant (1790): a political parable about scientific progress featuring an inventor named Frankésteïn who creates a life-sized automaton.[49]
Within the past thirty years or so, many writers and historians have attempted to associate several then popular natural philosophers (now called physical scientists) with Shelley’s work on account of several notable similarities. Two of the most notable natural philosophers among Shelley’s contemporaries were Giovanni Aldini, who made many public attempts at human reanimation through bio-electric Galvanism in London[50] and Johann Konrad Dippel, who was supposed to have developed chemical means to extend the life span of humans. While Shelley was obviously aware of both these men and their activities, she makes no mention of or reference to them or their experiments in any of her published or released notes.
Reception[edit]

Frankenstein has been both well received and disregarded since its anonymous publication in 1818. Critical reviews of that time demonstrate these two views, along with confused speculation as to the identity of the author. The Belle Assemblee described the novel as “very bold fiction” (139). The Quarterly Review stated that “the author has the power of both conception and language” (185). Sir Walter Scott, writing in Blackwood’s Edinburgh Magazine congratulated “the author’s original genius and happy power of expression” (620), although he is less convinced about the way in which the monster gains knowledge about the world and language.[52] The Edinburgh Magazine and Literary Miscellany hoped to see “more productions from this author” (253). On the other hand, the Quarterly Review described it “a tissue of horrible and disgusting absurdity”.[53]
In two other reviews where the author is known as the daughter of William Godwin, the criticism of the novel makes reference to the feminine nature of Mary Shelley. The British Critic attacks the novel’s flaws as the fault of the author: “The writer of it is, we understand, a female; this is an aggravation of that which is the prevailing fault of the novel; but if our authoress can forget the gentleness of her sex, it is no reason why we should; and we shall therefore dismiss the novel without further comment” (438). The Literary Panorama and National Register attacks the novel as a “feeble imitation of Mr. Godwin’s novels” produced by the “daughter of a celebrated living novelist” (414). Despite the reviews, Frankenstein achieved an almost immediate popular success. It became widely known especially through melodramatic theatrical adaptations—Mary Shelley saw a production of Presumption; or The Fate of Frankenstein, a play by Richard Brinsley Peake, in 1823. A French translation appeared as early as 1821 (Frankenstein: ou le Prométhée Moderne, translated by Jules Saladin).
Critical reception of Frankenstein has been largely positive since the mid-20th century.[54] Major critics such as M. A. Goldberg and Harold Bloom have praised the “aesthetic and moral” relevance of the novel,[55] although there are also critics such as Germaine Greer, who criticized the novel as terrible due to technical and narrative defects (such as it featuring three narrators that speak in the same way).[56] In more recent years the novel has become a popular subject for psychoanalytic and feminist criticism:Lawrence Lipking states ‘even the Lacanian subgroup of psychoanalytic criticism, for instance, has produced at least half a dozen discrete readings of the novel'[57] The novel today is generally considered to be a landmark work of romantic and gothic literature, as well as science fiction.[58]
Film director Guillermo del Toro describes Frankenstein as “the quintessential teenage book”, adding “You don’t belong. You were brought to this world by people that don’t care for you and you are thrown into a world of pain and suffering, and tears and hunger. It’s an amazing book written by a teenage girl. It’s mind blowing.”[59] Professor of philosophy Patricia MacCormack says the creature, brought to life by Victor Frankenstein, addresses the most fundamental human questions: “It’s the idea of asking your maker what your purpose is. Why are we here, what can we do?”[59]
Derivative works[edit]
There are numerous novels retelling or continuing the story of Frankenstein and his monster.
For more details on derivative works, see Frankenstein in popular culture.
Films, plays and television[edit]
See also: List of films featuring Frankenstein’s monster

A photo of Charles Ogle as the monster in Frankenstein (1910)

A promotional photo of Boris Karloff, as Frankenstein’s monster, using Jack Pierce’s makeup design
• 1823: Richard Brinsley Peake’s adaptation, Presumption; or, the Fate of Frankenstein, was seen by Mary Shelley and her father William Godwin at the English Opera House.
• 1826: Henry M. Milner’s adaptation, The Man and The Monster; or The Fate of Frankenstein opened on 3 July at the Royal Coburg Theatre, London.[60]
• 1910: Edison Studios produced the first Frankenstein film, directed by J. Searle Dawley.[59]
• 1915: Life Without Soul, the second film adaptation of Mary Shelley’s novel, was released. No known print of the film has survived.
• 1920: The Monster of Frankenstein, Directed by Eugenio Testa, starring Luciano Albertini and Umberto Guarracino.
• 1931: Universal Studios’ Frankenstein, directed by James Whale, starring Colin Clive, Mae Clarke, John Boles, Edward Van Sloan, Dwight Frye, and Boris Karloff as the monster.[59]
• 1935: James Whale directed the sequel Bride of Frankenstein, starring Colin Clive as the Doctor, and Boris Karloff as the monster once more. This incorporated the novel’s plot motif of Doctor Frankenstein creating a bride for the monster omitted from Whale’s earlier film. There were two more sequels, prior to the Universal “monster rally” films combining multiple monsters from various movie series or film franchises.[59]
• 1939: Son of Frankenstein was another Universal monster movie with Boris Karloff as the Creature. Also in the film were Basil Rathbone as the title character and Bela Lugosi as the sinister assistant Ygor. Karloff ended playing the Frankenstein monster with this film.
• 1942: The Ghost of Frankenstein featured brain transplanting and a new monster, played by Lon Chaney Jr. The film also starred Evelyn Ankers and Bela Lugosi.
• 1942–1948: Universal did “monster rally” films featuring Frankenstein’s Monster, Dracula and the Wolf Man. Included would be Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. The last three films introduced Glenn Strange as Frankenstein’s monster.
• 1957–1974: Hammer Films in England did a string of Frankenstein films starring Peter Cushing, including The Curse of Frankenstein, The Revenge of Frankenstein and Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed. Co-starring in these films were Christopher Lee, Hazel Court, Veronica Carlson and Simon Ward. Another Hammer film, The Horror of Frankenstein, starred Ralph Bates as the main character, Victor Frankenstein.[59]
• 1965: Toho Studios created the film Frankenstein Conquers the World or Frankenstein vs. Baragon, followed by The War of the Gargantuas.
• 1972: A comedic stage adaptation, Frankenstein’s Monster, was written by Sally Netzel and produced by the Dallas Theater Center.[61]
• 1973: The TV film Frankenstein: The True Story appeared on NBC. The movie starred Leonard Whiting, Michael Sarrazin, James Mason, and Jane Seymour.
• 1981: A Broadway adaptation by Victor Gialanella played for one performance (after 29 previews) and was considered the most expensive flop ever produced to that date.[62]
• 1984: The flop Broadway production yielded a TV film starring Robert Powell, Carrie Fisher, David Warner, and John Gielgud.
• 1992: Frankenstein became a Turner Network Television film directed by David Wickes, starring Patrick Bergin and Randy Quaid. John Mills played the blind man.
• 1994: Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein appeared in theatres, directed by and starring Kenneth Branagh, with Robert De Niro and Helena Bonham Carter. Its all-star cast also included John Cleese, Ian Holm, and Tom Hulce.[59]
• 2004: Frankenstein A two-episode mini-series starring Alec Newman, with Luke Goss and Donald Sutherland. This is the only T.V. or movie adaption that is faithful to the novel.[citation needed]
• 2011: In March, BBC3 broadcast Colin Teague’s live production from Kirkstall Abbey, Leeds, billed as Frankenstein’s Wedding, Live in Leeds.[63] About the same time, the National Theatre, London presented a stage version of Frankenstein, which ran until 2 May 2011. The play was written by Nick Dear and directed by Danny Boyle. Jonny Lee Miller and Benedict Cumberbatch alternated the roles of Frankenstein and the Creature.[64] The National Theatre broadcast live performances of the play worldwide on 17 March.
• 2012: An interactive ebook app created by Inkle and Profile Books that retells the story with added interactive elements.[65]
• 2014: Penny Dreadful is a horror TV series that airs on Showtime, that features Doctor Victor Frankenstein as well as his creature.
• 2015: Frankenstein, a modern-day adaptation written and directed by Bernard Rose.
• 2015: Victor Frankenstein is an American film directed by Paul McGuigan.[66]
• 2016: Frankenstein, a full length ballet production by Liam Scarlett.[67] Some performances were also live simulcasts worldwide.[68]
• 2019: Bride of Frankenstein, the currently postponed second film in the Dark Universe, a reboot of the Universal series in which Javier Bardem is currently slated to portray Frankenstein’s monster.[69][70]
Loose adaptations
• 1967: I’m Sorry the Bridge Is Out, You’ll Have to Spend the Night and its sequel, Frankenstein Unbound (Another Monster Musical), are a pair of musical comedies written by Bobby Pickett and Sheldon Allman. The casts of both feature several classic horror characters including Dr. Frankenstein and his monster.
• 1973: The Rocky Horror Show, is a British horror comedy stage musical written by Richard O’Brian in which Dr. Frank N. Furter has created a creature (Rocky), to satisfy his (pro)creative drives. Elements are similar to I’m Sorry the Bridge Is Out, You’ll Have to Spend the Night.
• 1973: Andy Warhol’s Frankenstein. Usually, the doctor is a man whose dedication to science takes him too far, but here his interest is to rule the world by creating a new species that will obey him and do his bidding.
• 1974: Young Frankenstein. Directed by Mel Brooks, this sequel-spoof has been listed[71] as one of the best movie comedies of any comedy genre ever made, even prompting an American film preservation program to include it on its listings. It reuses many props from James Whale’s 1931 Frankenstein and is shot in black-and-white with 1930s-style credits. Gene Wilder portrayed the descendant of Dr. Frankenstein, with Peter Boyle as the Monster.
• 1975: The Rocky Horror Picture Show is the 1975 film adaptation of the British rock musical stageplay, The Rocky Horror Show (1973), written by Richard O’Brien.
• 1984: Frankenweenie is a parody short film directed by Tim Burton, starring Barrett Oliver, Shelley Duvall and Daniel Stern.
• 1985: The Bride starring Sting as Baron Charles Frankenstein and Jennifer Beals as Eva, a woman he creates in the same fashion as his infamous monster.
• 1986: Gothic, directed by Ken Russell, is the story of the night that Mary Shelley gave birth to Frankenstein. Starring Gabriel Byrne, Julian Sands, Natasha Richardson.
• 1988: Frankenstein (フランケンシュタイン) is a manga adaptation of Shelley’s novel by Junji Ito.
• 1989: Frankenstein the Panto. A pantomime script by David Swan, combining elements of Frankenstein, Dracula, and traditional British panto.
• 1990: Frankenstein Unbound. Combines a time-travel story with the story of Shelley’s novel. Scientist Joe Buchanan accidentally creates a time-rift which takes him back to the events of the novel. Filmed as a low-budget independent film in 1990, based on a novel published in 1973 by Brian Aldiss. This novel bears no relation to the 1967 stage musical with the same name listed above.
• 1995: Monster Mash is a film adaptation of I’m Sorry the Bridge Is Out, You’ll Have to Spend the Night starring Bobby Pickett as Dr. Frankenstein. The film also features Candace Cameron Bure, Anthony Crivello and Mink Stole.
• 1998: Billy Frankenstein is a very loose adaptation about a boy who moves into a mansion with his family and brings the Frankenstein monster to life. The film was directed by Fred Olen Ray.
• 2003: Reading Frankenstein,[72] a new media performance work in which Mary Shelley is a genetic engineer and artificial life scientist and her Creature a hybrid form of computational a-life. It was co-created by director Annie Loui and artist-writer Antoinette LaFarge for UC Irvine.
• 2004: Frankenstein made-for-TV film based on Dean Koontz’s Frankenstein.
• 2005: Frankenstein vs. the Creature from Blood Cove, a 90-minute feature film homage of classic monsters and Atomic Age creature features, shot in black and white, and directed by William Winckler. The Frankenstein Monster design and make-up was based on the character descriptions in Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s novel.
• 2009: The Diary of Anne Frankenstein, a short film from Chillerrama.
• 2009: Anuman Interactive (French publisher) launches Frankestein, a hidden objects game freely inspired by Mary Shelley’s book, on iPhone and iPad.[73]
• 2011: Frankenstein: Day of the Beast is an independent horror film based loosely on the original book.
• 2011: Victor Frankenstein appears in the ABC show Once Upon a Time, a fantasy series on ABC that features multiple characters from fairy tales and classic literature trapped in the real world.
• 2012: Frankenweenie, Tim Burton’s feature film remake of his 1984 short film of the same name.
• 2012: In the Adventure Time episode “Princess Monster Wife”, the Ice King removes body parts from all the princesses that rejected him and creates a jigsaw wife to love him.
• 2012: A Nightmare on Lime Street, Fred Lawless’s comedy play starring David Gest staged at the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool.[74]
• 2014: I, Frankenstein is a 2014 fantasy action film. The film stars Aaron Eckhart as Adam Frankenstein and Bill Nighy. The film is based on the graphic novel.
• 2014: Frankenstein, MD, A web show by Pemberly Digital starring Victoria, a female adaptation of Victor.
• 2015: The Supernatural season 10 episodes Book of the Damned, Dark Dynasty and The Prisoner feature the Styne Family which member Eldon Styne identifies as the descendants of the house of Frankenstein. According to Eldon, Mary Shelley had learned their secrets while on a visit to Castle Frankenstein and wrote a book based on her experiences, forcing the Frankensteins underground as the Stynes. The Stynes, through bioengineering and surgical enhancements, feature many of the superhuman features of Frankenstein’s monster.
• 2015: The Frankenstein Chronicles, is a British television drama series – starring Sean Bean as John Marlott and Anna Maxwell Martin as Mary Shelley
• 2016: Second Chance, a TV series known at one point as Frankenstein, was inspired by the classic.[75]
See also[edit]

United Kingdom portal

Books portal
• Frankenstein argument
• Frankenstein complex
• Frankenstein in Baghdad
• Frankenstein in popular culture
• Frankenstein’s monster
• Golem
• Homunculus
• Johann Conrad Dippel
• List of dreams
Notes[edit]
1 Jump up 
^ Staff writer (1 January 1818). “Books Published This Day” 
. The Times (10342). London, England. p. 4 – via Newspapers.com. “This day is published, in 3 vols., price 16s. 6d., a Work of Imagination, to be entitled Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus.”
2 Jump up 
^ Hobbler, Dorthy and Thomas. The Monsters: Mary Shelley and the Curse of Frankenstein. Back Bay Books; 20 August 2007.
3 Jump up 
^ Garrett, Martin. Mary Shelley. Oxford University Press, 2002
4 Jump up 
^ Seymour, Miranda. Mary Shelley. Atlanta, GA: Grove Press, 2002. pg 110-111
5 Jump up 
^ The Detached Retina: Aspects of SF and Fantasy by Brian Aldiss (1995), page 78 
.
6 Jump up 
^ Bergen Evans, Comfortable Words, New York: Random House, 1957
7 Jump up 
^ Bryan Garner, A Dictionary of Modern American Usage, New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998
8 Jump up 
^ Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of American English, Merriam-Webster: 2002
9 Jump up 
^ “Preface”, 1831 edition of Frankenstein
10 Jump up 
^ Sunstein, 118.
11 Jump up 
^ Dr. John Polidori, “The Vampyre” 1819, The New Monthly Magazine and Universal Register; London: H. Colburn, 1814–1820. Vol. 1, No. 63.
12 Jump up 
^ paragraph 7, Introduction, Frankenstein 1831 edition
13 Jump up 
^ paragraph 8, Introduction, Frankenstein 1831 edition
14 Jump up 
^ paragraph 10, Introduction, Frankenstein 1831 edition
15 Jump up 
^ Shelley, Mary. Paragraphs 11–13, “Introduction” Frankenstein (1831 edition) 
Gutenberg
16 Jump up 
^ Quoted in Spark, 157, from Mary Shelley’s introduction to the 1831 edition of Frankenstein.
17 Jump up 
^ Radford, Tim, Frankenstein’s hour of creation identified by astronomers 
, The Guardian, Sunday 25 September 2011 (retrieved 5 January 2014)
18 Jump up 
^ Bennett, An Introduction, 30–31; Sunstein, 124.
19 Jump up 
^ Sunstein, 117.
20 Jump up 
^ Hay, 103.
21 Jump up 
^ Bennett, Betty T. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley: An Introduction. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998.
22 Jump up 
^ “OX.ac.uk” 
. Bodley.ox.ac.uk. 15 December 2009. Retrieved 28 August 2010.
23 Jump up 
^ Mary Shelley, with Percy Shelley (2008). Charles E. Robinson, ed. The Original Frankenstein 
. Oxford: Bodleian Library. ISBN 978-1-851-24396-9. Archived from the original 
on 25 September 2015.
24 Jump up 
^ Robinson, Charles (1996). The Frankenstein Notebooks: A Facsimile Edition 
. 1. Garland Publishing, Inc. p. xxv. “She began that novel as Mary Godwin in June 1816 when she was eighteen years old, she finished it as Mary Shelley in April/May 1817 when she was nineteen . . . and she published it anonymously on 1 January 1818 when she was twenty.”
25 Jump up 
^ Bennett, Betty T. Mary Wollstonecraft. Shelley: An Introduction. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998
26 Jump up 
^ D. L. Macdonald and Kathleen Scherf, “A Note on the Text”, Frankenstein, 2nd ed., Peterborough: Broadview Press, 1999.
27 Jump up 
^ Wollstonecraft Shelley, Mary (2000). Frankenstein 
. Bedford Publishing. p. 3.
28 Jump up 
^ See forward to Barnes and Noble classic edition.
29 Jump up 
^ The edition published by Forgotten Books is the original text, as is the “Ignatius Critical Edition”. Vintage Books has an edition presenting both versions.
30 Jump up 
^ James Grande (2008-11-25). “The Original Frankenstein, By Mary Shelley with Percy Shelley ed Charles E Robinson” 
. The Independent. Retrieved 2016-10-04.
31 Jump up 
^ Frankenstein:Celluloid Monster 
at the National Library of Medicine website of the (U.S.) National Institutes of Health
32 Jump up 
^ “Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature / Exhibit Text” 
(PDF). National Library of Medicine and ALA Public Programs Office. Archived from the original 
(PDF) on 4 December 2006. Retrieved 31 December 2007. from the traveling exhibition Frankenstein: Penetrating the Secrets of Nature 
Archived 
9 November 2007 at the Wayback Machine.
33 Jump up 
^ Author’s Digest: The World’s Great Stories in Brief 
, by Rossiter Johnson, 1908
34 Jump up 
^ The Reef, page 96.
35 Jump up 
^ zapomniana, Historia (24 January 2016). “Afera grabarzy z Frankenstein” 
.
36 Jump up 
^ Florescu 1996, pp. 48–92.
37 Jump up 
^ Day, A.J. (2005). Fantasmagoriana (Tales of the Dead) 
. Fantasmagoriana Press. pp. 149–151. ISBN 978-1-4116-5291-0.
38 Jump up 
^ Helene, Jorge (12 September 2016). “Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Castle Frankenstein and the alchemist Johann Conrad Dippel” 
. Darmstadt. Retrieved 2017-06-23.
39 Jump up 
^ Wade, Phillip. “Shelley and the Miltonic Element in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein.” Milton and the Romantics, 2 (December, 1976), 23–25.
40 Jump up 
^ Jones 1952, pp. 496–7.
41 Jump up 
^ Sandy, Mark (20 September 2002). “Original Poetry by Victor and Cazire” 
. The Literary Encyclopedia. The Literary Dictionary Company. Retrieved 2 January 2007.
42 Jump up 
^ “Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792–1822)” 
. Romantic Natural History. Department of English, Dickinson College. Retrieved 2 January 2007.
43 Jump up 
^ Percy Shelley#Ancestry
44 Jump up 
^ “Journal 6 December—Very Unwell. Shelley & Clary walk out, as usual, to heaps of places … A letter from Hookham to say that Harriet has been brought to bed of a son and heir. Shelley writes a number of circular letters on this event, which ought to be ushered in with ringing of bells, etc., for it is the son of his wife.” Quoted in Spark, 39.
45 Jump up 
^ For example, the Longman study edition published in India in 2007 by Pearson Education
46 Jump up 
^ In the best-known versions of the Prometheus story, by Hesiod and Aeschylus, Prometheus merely brings fire to mankind. But in other versions, such as several of Aesop’s fables (See in particular Fable 516), Sappho (Fragment 207), and Ovid’s Metamorphoses, Prometheus is the actual creator of humanity.
47 Jump up 
^ (Leonard Wolf, p. 20).
48 Jump up 
^ RoyalSoc.ac.uk 
”Benjamin Franklin in London.” The Royal Society. Retrieved 8 August 2007.
49 Jump up 
^ Douthwaite, “The Frankenstein of the French Revolution” chapter 2 of The Frankenstein of 1790 and other Lost Chapters from Revolutionary France (Frankenstein of 1790 and other Lost Chapters from Revolutionary France 
, 2012).
50 Jump up 
^ Ruston, Sharon (25 November 2015). “The Science of Life and Death in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein” 
. The Public Domain Review.
51 Jump up 
^ This illustration is reprinted in the frontispiece to the 2008 edition of Frankenstein
52 Jump up 
^ “Crossref-it.info” 
. Crossref-it.info. Retrieved 28 August 2010.
53 Jump up 
^ “Review of Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus” 
. The Quarterly Review. 18: 379–385. January 1818.
54 Jump up 
^ “Enotes.com” 
. Enotes.com. Retrieved 28 August 2010.
55 Jump up 
^ “KCTCS.edu” 
. Octc.kctcs.edu. Retrieved 28 August 2010.
56 Jump up 
^ Germaine Greer (2007-04-09). “Yes, Frankenstein really was written by Mary Shelley. It’s obvious – because the book is so bad” 
. The Guardian. Retrieved 2016-10-04.
57 Jump up 
^ L Lipking Frankenstein the True Story; or Rousseau Judges Jean-Jacques. (Published in the Norton critical edition.1996)
58 Jump up 
^ UTM.edu 
Lynn Alexander, Department of English, University of Tennessee at Martin. Retrieved 27 August 2009.
59 ^ Jump up to: 
a b c d e f g “Frankenstein: Behind the monster smash” 
. BBC. 1 January 2018.
60 Jump up 
^ Lawson, Shanon (11 February 1998). “A Chronology of the Life of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley: 1825–1835” 
. umd.edu. Retrieved 8 July 2008.
61 Jump up 
^ Blood on the Stage, 1950–1975: Milestone Plays of Crime, Mystery and Detection, by Amnon Kabatchnik. Scarecrow Press, 2011, p. 300
62 Jump up 
^ Lawson, Carol (7 January 1981). “”FRANKENSTEIN” NEARLY CAME BACK TO LIFE” 
. New York Times. Retrieved 8 January 2014.
63 Jump up 
^ Hickling, Alfred (20 March 2011). “Frankenstein’s Wedding – review” 
. The Guardian. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
64 Jump up 
^ Cite error: The named reference BBc 2018 was invoked but never defined (see the help page).
65 Jump up 
^ “Announcing FRANKENSTEIN, a new interactive literary app for iPad and iPhone” 
. Profile Books. Retrieved 6 December 2015.
66 Jump up 
^ Hello Igor… Daniel Radcliffe gets into character on the set of the brand new Frankenstein movie 
, The Daily Mail
67 Jump up 
^ “Frankenstein 4–27 May 2016. Main Stage. The world premiere of Liam Scarlett’s new full-length ballet, inspired by Mary Shelley’s Gothic masterpiece” 
. roh.org.uk. Royal Opera House. Retrieved 24 May 2016.
68 Jump up 
^ Slavin, Rose (11 May 2016). “Frankenstein to be relayed live to BP Big Screens in the UK and cinemas around the world on 18 May 2016” 
. Royal Opera House. Retrieved 19 September 2016.
69 Jump up 
^ Universal Pictures (22 May 2017). “Universal Pictures Unveils “Dark Universe” With Name, Mark and Musical Theme for its Classic Monsters Series of Films” 
. PR Newswire.
70 Jump up 
^ Fleming Jr., Mike (5 October 2017). “‘Bride Of Frankenstein’ Back To Lab As London Pre-Production Postponed; Javier Bardem & Angelina Jolie Expected To Wait” 
. Deadline Hollywood.
71 Jump up 
^ “AFI’s 100 Years…100 Laughs” 
. American Film Institute. Retrieved 21 November 2010.
72 Jump up 
^ LaFarge, Antoinette, and Annie Loui. “Excerpts from Reading Frankenstein: Mary Shelley as 21st Century Artificial Life Scientist” 
. Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media & Technology, Fall 2013.
73 Jump up 
^ “Communiqués officiels des jeux vidéo” 
. AFJV.
74 Jump up 
^ “A Nightmare On Lime Street – Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool” 
.
75 Jump up 
^ Pedersen, Erik (2 March 2015). “Rob Kazinsky Is Fox’s ‘Frankenstein’ Monster” 
. Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved 30 March 2017.
References[edit]
• Aldiss, Brian W. “On the Origin of Species: Mary Shelley”. Speculations on Speculation: Theories of Science Fiction. Eds. James Gunn and Matthew Candelaria. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow, 2005.
• Baldick, Chris. In Frankenstein’s Shadow: Myth, Monstrosity, and Nineteenth-Century Writing. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987.
• Bann, Stephen, ed. “Frankenstein”: Creation and Monstrosity. London: Reaktion, 1994.
• Behrendt, Stephen C., ed. Approaches to Teaching Shelley’s “Frankenstein”. New York: MLA, 1990.
• Bennett, Betty T. and Stuart Curran, eds. Mary Shelley in Her Times. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000.
• Bennett, Betty T. Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley: An Introduction. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998. ISBN 0-8018-5976-X.
• Bohls, Elizabeth A. “Standards of Taste, Discourses of ‘Race’, and the Aesthetic Education of a Monster: Critique of Empire in Frankenstein”. Eighteenth-Century Life 18.3 (1994): 23–36.
• Botting, Fred. Making Monstrous: “Frankenstein”, Criticism, Theory. New York: St. Martin’s, 1991.
• Chapman, D. That Not Impossible She: A study of gender construction and Individualism in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, UK: Concept, 2011. ISBN 978-1480047617
• Clery, E. J. Women’s Gothic: From Clara Reeve to Mary Shelley. Plymouth: Northcote House, 2000.
• Conger, Syndy M., Frederick S. Frank, and Gregory O’Dea, eds. Iconoclastic Departures: Mary Shelley after “Frankenstein”: Essays in Honor of the Bicentenary of Mary Shelley’s Birth. Madison, New Jersey: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 1997.
• Donawerth, Jane. Frankenstein’s Daughters: Women Writing Science Fiction. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1997.
• Douthwaite, Julia V. “The Frankenstein of the French Revolution,” chapter two of The Frankenstein of 1790 and other Lost Chapters from Revolutionary France 
. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012.
• Dunn, Richard J. “Narrative Distance in Frankenstein”. Studies in the Novel 6 (1974): 408–17.
• Eberle-Sinatra, Michael, ed. Mary Shelley’s Fictions: From “Frankenstein” to “Falkner”. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2000.
• Ellis, Kate Ferguson. The Contested Castle: Gothic Novels and the Subversion of Domestic Ideology. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1989.
• Florescu, Radu (1996). In Search of Frankenstein: Exploring the Myths Behind Mary Shelley’s Monster (2nd ed.). London: Robson Books. ISBN 978-1-861-05033-5.
• Forry, Steven Earl. Hideous Progenies: Dramatizations of “Frankenstein” from Mary Shelley to the Present. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1990.
• Freedman, Carl. “Hail Mary: On the Author of Frankenstein and the Origins of Science Fiction”. Science Fiction Studies 29.2 (2002): 253–64.
• Gigante, Denise. “Facing the Ugly: The Case of Frankenstein”. ELH 67.2 (2000): 565–87.
• Gilbert, Sandra and Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979.
• Hay, Daisy “Young Romantics” (2010): 103.
• Heffernan, James A. W. “Looking at the Monster: Frankenstein and Film”. Critical Inquiry 24.1 (1997): 133–58.
• Hodges, Devon. “Frankenstein and the Feminine Subversion of the Novel”. Tulsa Studies in Women’s Literature 2.2 (1983): 155–64.
• Hoeveler, Diane Long. Gothic Feminism: The Professionalization of Gender from Charlotte Smith to the Brontës. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1998.
• Holmes, Richard. Shelley: The Pursuit. 1974. London: Harper Perennial, 2003. ISBN 0-00-720458-2.
• Jones, Frederick L. (1952). “Shelley and Milton”. Studies in Philology. 49 (3): 488–519. JSTOR 4173024 
.
• Knoepflmacher, U. C. and George Levine, eds. The Endurance of “Frankenstein”: Essays on Mary Shelley’s Novel. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1979.
• Lew, Joseph W. “The Deceptive Other: Mary Shelley’s Critique of Orientalism in Frankenstein”. Studies in Romanticism 30.2 (1991): 255–83.
• Lauritsen, John. “The Man Who Wrote Frankenstein”. Pagan Press, 2007.
• London, Bette. “Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, and the Spectacle of Masculinity”. PMLA 108.2 (1993): 256–67.
• Mellor, Anne K. Mary Shelley: Her Life, Her Fiction, Her Monsters. New York: Methuen, 1988.
• Michaud, Nicolas, Frankenstein and Philosophy: The Shocking Truth, Chicago: Open Court, 2013.
• Miles, Robert. Gothic Writing 1750–1820: A Genealogy. London: Routledge, 1993.
• Milner, Andrew. Literature, Culture and Society. London: Routledge, 2005, ch.5.
• O’Flinn, Paul. “Production and Reproduction: The Case of Frankenstein”. Literature and History 9.2 (1983): 194–213.
• Poovey, Mary. The Proper Lady and the Woman Writer: Ideology as Style in the Works of Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Shelley, and Jane Austen. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984.
• Rauch, Alan. “The Monstrous Body of Knowledge in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein”. Studies in Romanticism 34.2 (1995): 227–53.
• Selbanev, Xtopher. “Natural Philosophy of the Soul”, Western Press, 1999.
• Schor, Esther, ed. The Cambridge Companion to Mary Shelley. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003.
• Scott, Grant F. (1934). “Victor’s Secret: Queer Gothic in Lynd Ward’s Illustrations to Frankenstein” 
. Word & Image – 28 (April–June 2012). pp. 206–232.
• Smith, Johanna M., ed. Frankenstein. Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 1992.
• Spark, Muriel. Mary Shelley. London: Cardinal, 1987. ISBN 0-7474-0318-X.
• Stableford, Brian. “Frankenstein and the Origins of Science Fiction”. Anticipations: Essays on Early Science Fiction and Its Precursors. Ed. David Seed. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1995.
• Sunstein, Emily W. Mary Shelley: Romance and Reality. 1989. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991. ISBN 0-8018-4218-2.
• Tropp, Martin. Mary Shelley’s Monster. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1976.
• Veeder, William. Mary Shelley & Frankenstein: The Fate of Androgyny. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986.
• Williams, Anne. The Art of Darkness: A Poetics of Gothic. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995.
Further reading[edit]
• Richard Holmes, “Out of Control” (review of Mary Shelley, Frankenstein, Or, The Modern Prometheus: Annotated for Scientists, Engineers, and Creators of All Kinds, edited by David H. Guston, Ed Finn, and Jason Scott Robert, MIT Press, 277 pp.; and Mary Shelley, The New Annotated Frankenstein, edited and with a foreword and notes by Leslie S. Klinger, Liveright, 352 pp.), The New York Review of Books, vol. LXIV, no. 20 (21 December 2017), pp.38, 40–41.
Editions[edit]
1818 text[edit]
• Shelley, Mary Frankenstein: 1818 text (Oxford University Press, 2009). Edited with an introduction and notes by Marilyn Butler.
1832 text[edit]
• Fairclough, Peter (ed.) Three Gothic Novels: Walpole / Castle of Otranto, Beckford / Vathek, Mary Shelley / Frankenstein (Penguin English Library, 1968). With an introductory essay by Mario Praz.
• Shelley, Mary Frankenstein (Oxford University Press, 2008). Edited with an introduction and notes by M. K. Joseph.

 

All entries in this blog are freely submitted by members of the Kurt Vonnegut Book Club and are uncensored. Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent the opinions or positions of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, its staff, or its management.

(Vonnegut) “Complete Stories” edited by Jerome Klinkowitz and Dan Wakefield was published by Seven Stories Press in September 2017. It covers 98 extant short stories with commentary running to 1024 pages. The club was not up to the task of reading all of this in two weeks and so we concentrated on the five “new” previously unpublished KV stories found at the Lily Library in the summer of 2017 by Wakefield. These are: “Atrocity Story,” “City,” “The Drone King,” “Requiem for Zeitgeist,” and “On Your Left.” Attached to the end of this post is a lengthy overview(from the Los Angeles Review of Books) of the entire collection with valuable commentary and information as to how it was assembled.

It was a sunny, brisk, twenty-seven degree day when seven of us gathered to discuss at least part of this book. Those participating were Phil Watts, Karen Lystra, Diane Richards, John Hawn, Janet Penwell, Bill Briscoe, and Dave Young. Bill was our discussion leader.  John Sturman joined us after we got rolling.

We spent some time speculating as to why KV was unable to sell these stories to the many mass-media magazines of the 1950’s. The most salable of the five seemed to be “City.” This was a sweet but contrived boy-meets-girl-on-a-city-bus story that that should have been snapped up by one of the women’s magazines. The story that got the most notice appeared to be “The Drone King” which was finally published in The Atlantic Monthly in September 2018. This was a rather long and tedious put down of the idle rich, the stock market, apiaries, and the communications business. It also had an antifeminist slant not unusual for the 1950’s. The narrator was asked by a trust fund kid to help him establish a colony of male bees who could be trained to carry messages. The female of the species was deadly and not to be trusted. The story ends in bee colony collapse.

“Atrocity Story” was a war story told by a GI about a starving American POW executed by the Germans for stealing food. Something like this appears other places in KV’s works and it may be something he personally observed. Anyway, KV shows the customary cynicism of the American fighting man when he has an Army Colonel opine that the POW may have had it coming to him since he didn’t follow the rules. The GI’s took solace in believing that the advancing Russian Army would hang all of the German soldiers they encountered. A nice twist at the end of the story.

“And On Your Left” was another cynical story that may have had something to do with the brief time that KV spent as a public relations flack for General Electric. The sensitivity of GE, a big advertiser in the mass media mags, may have been a reason the story was never published. This was about a showplace lab that some mega-company had built to enhance its image. Constant tours through the lab so interrupted the scientists that they invented a game to subvert management.

“Requiem for Zeitgeist” is another tale told to the narrator in a bar by the bodyguard of an apparent Nazi scientist, Dr. Zeitgeist, who invented the cosmic bomb. After the war, he escaped to Peru where he was apparently eaten by cannibals and his head turned into a tom-tom which was used in some kind of rain dance ritual. We couldn’t do much with that story. Bill informed us that the current president of Peru, Juan Manuel Santos Calderón, was a member of Delta Upsilon at the University of Kansas in the 1970’s. There is no reason to believe that he is a cannibal.

Bill observed that one of his favorite stories, KV’s all-dialogue “Fortitude” (1968) did not appear in the collection. Although it works as a story, it is usually considered to be a play. Wikipedia has this to say about the work: “Fortitude was written by Kurt Vonnegut in 1968. The brief [19 page] play relates to the issues of robotics and the ethical dilemmas of the “cyborg’s rights.” It was featured in the anthology, Human-Machines: An Anthology of Stories About Cyborgs.[1] The story was also featured in the 1991 made-for-cable-TV anthology Kurt Vonnegut’s Monkey House.” One of the main characters is a Dr. Frankenstein who is accidentally murdered. He lives on when his detached head is attached to a cyborg.

We sent KV a rejection letter by rating these five unpublished stories a rather low 5.7 on the historically validated KV ten point scale. We told him that the stories were humorless, gimmicky, and (how dare he) outdated.

Five of us ventured to lunch at the Columbia Club where we continued the discussion.

Please join us at 11AM on Thursday, January 25, 2018 at the KV Memorial Library when John Hawn will lead us through Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” (1818). Science fiction fans will help Vic Frankenstein celebrate his 200th birthday on March 11, 2018. Monsters rule! Our reading schedule for 2018 appears below. If anyone not at today’s meeting has a strong urge to suggest a book and lead the discussion we can surely accommodate them.

Dave Young

**********************************************
Our book club selections for Year #9 (2018)

JAN 25, 2018 “Frankenstein” (1818) Mary Shelley JOHN HAWN

FEB 22, 2018 “Mr G: A Novel about the Creation” (2012) Alan Lightman JOHN HAWN

MAR 22, 2018 “Player Piano” (1952) Kurt Vonnegut BILL BRISCOE

APR 26, 2018 “Tuesdays with Morrie” (19997) Mitch Albom PHIL WATTS

MAY 24, 2018 “We” (1924) Yevgeny Zamyatin BILL BRISCOE

JUN 28, 2018 “Deadeye Dick” (1982) Kurt Vonnegut JOHN STURMAN

JUL 26, 2018 “While Mortals Sleep” (2011) Kurt Vonnegut JANET PENWELL

AUG 23, 2018 “I Am Charlotte Simmons” (2004) Tom Wolfe DAVE YOUNG

SEP 27, 2017 “The Color Purple” (1985) Alice Walker JOHN STURMAN

OCT 25, 2018 “The Soldier from the War Returning” (2009) Thomas Childers
KAREN LYSTRA

NOV 29, 2018 “Fates Worse than Death” (1991) Kurt Vonnegut DIANE RICHARDS

DEC 27, 2018 “Breakfast of Champions” (1973) Kurt Vonnegut DAVE YOUNG

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From: The Los Angeles Review of Books

Mister Kurt, He Posthumous: Vonnegut’s Complete Stories

By Geoff Nicholson
October 15, 2017

ON OCTOBER 28, 1949, Kurt Vonnegut wrote to his father as follows:
Dear Pop:
I sold my first story to Collier’s. Received my check ($750 minus a 10% agent’s commission) yesterday noon. It now appears that two more of my works have a good chance of being sold in the near future.
I think I’m on my way. I’ve deposited my first check in a savings account and, as and if I sell more, will continue to do so until I have the equivalent of one year’s pay at GE. Four more stories will do it nicely, with cash to spare (something we never had before). I will then quit this goddamn nightmare job, and never take another one so long as I live, so help me God.
I’m happier than I’ve been in a good many years.
Love.
K.
This letter — which first appeared publicly in Vonnegut’s “autobiographical collage” Fates Worse than Death (1991), and is quoted in the editorial material of the newly published volume Complete Stories — may strike the contemporary reader as one of the most improbable narratives Vonnegut ever devised. The idea that by selling five short stories a year an author could earn as much as a publicist at General Electric (Vonnegut’s day job at the time) seems to come not just from another era, but from another planet. Incidentally, the word is (i.e., it says so on Wikipedia) that Collier’s bought his second story for $950. To get a sense of these amounts in today’s money we should multiply by 10.
That first short story was “Report on the Barnhouse Effect,” and it’s a great one, straight off the bat, full of what we’ve come to know and love about Vonnegut’s writing. Arthur Barnhouse is a scientist who has the ability to destroy matter with his mind. The US military expects him to use his powers against weapons belonging to his country’s enemies, but he’s a multilateralist and he destroys all weapons, regardless of which side they belong to. Complications inevitably ensue. The prose is plainspoken, droll, and immediately engaging. The story has an element of wild fantasy, although the characters are all too human, and it contains a powerful antiwar message. To say it’s “typical” Vonnegut sounds reductive, but the story remains surprising and subversive, and of course extremely current, nearly 70 years after it was written.
Although “Barnhouse” was Vonnegut’s first published work of fiction, Complete Stories contains one written before that, from 1947. Titled “Brighten Up,” it’s about wheeling and dealing by US soldiers in a German prison-of-war camp during World War II. It’s another good one, though Vonnegut couldn’t get it published at the time, perhaps because it shows the US military as less than saintly. It first appeared in print in 2008 in a posthumous collection titled Armageddon in Retrospect.
Seen from our present viewpoint, those two early stories might be thought of as a blueprint for Vonnegut’s subsequent obsessions, but the writing life is never so simple. As is often the case, Vonnegut’s ambition to write preceded knowing exactly what he wanted to write about, and so the early stories head off in many directions as he tries a little of this, a little of that. There are quite a number of stories dealing with war, of which more later, and a considerable number involve a fantasy or science-fictional element. In “Confido,” a man invents a device that allows your own thoughts to talk to you. In “The Drone King,” a man invents a communications system operated by bees. We find a bit of O. Henry here, a touch of Damon Runyon there, even some hints of early John Cheever. Vonnegut isn’t writing to a formula, but he is trying to break into a market, writing stories suitable for the “slicks”: the likes of the Saturday Evening Post, Cosmopolitan, Ladies’ Home Journal, and Redbook. “Slick” referred to the glossy paper the magazines were printed on, but it often describes the nature of the fiction too, even Vonnegut’s. The least successful of his stories seem too glib, as in “Tango,” where a rich, pampered young man discovers “the savage in himself,” rejects his privileged background, and runs off with the upstairs maid.
Vonnegut got a lot of stories published in magazines, but a lot were rejected, too. He just about made a living from his short stories, along with his early, only modestly successful novels, and when things got really tight he went to teach at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Gradually however, he moved from the world of the jobbing writer to that of the serious man of letters. In 1967 he received a Guggenheim Fellowship, and in 1969 published Slaughterhouse-Five, the book that changed everything for him. It was a best seller, a critical success, and a countercultural phenomenon, with the money from the movie adaptation the icing on the cake.
After Slaughterhouse-Five, Vonnegut no longer needed need to write short stories, so he didn’t; in any case, the market for them was drying up. The last short he had published in a magazine was “Welcome to the Monkey House,” in Playboy in 1968. By my reckoning, his last story to be published outside one of his own collections, appeared in 1972 in Harlan Ellison’s anthology Again, Dangerous Visions. It was titled “The Big Space Fuck.” He’d come a long way from Collier’s.
¤
Keeping track of Vonnegut’s short stories is not an easy business. Depending on how you count, he published two or three volumes of short stories in his lifetime, with a good deal of overlap: all but one of the stories from Canary in a Cat House (1961), for instance, later appeared in Welcome to the Monkey House (1968). The one left out was “Hal Irwin’s Magic Lamp,” a pretty ropey thing about money not buying happiness, with some casually naïve asides about race relations. Vonnegut must have had his reservations about it, because he rewrote it for Bagombo Snuff Box (1999), a gathering up of stories that had appeared in magazines but not in book form. By this time, he hadn’t published a new story in over 25 years. In that volume, you’ll also find an essay titled “Coda to My Career as a Writer For Periodicals” in which he tells us that two other stories — “The Powder-Blue Dragon” and “The Boy Who Hated Girls” — were similarly rewritten. He described these stories as “literary fossils,” although “[a]s fossils, they are fakes on the order of Piltdown Man, half human being, half the orangutan I used to be.”
The editors of Complete Stories have found five more unpublished fossils among Vonnegut’s papers at the Lilly Library in Indiana, bringing the total of extant stories to 98. Some of these are, unsurprisingly, slight, but one of them, “Atrocity Story” — about the gap between military justice and natural justice, and about how decent men are sometimes happy to let the enemy do some dirty work on their behalf — is terrific.
Organizing this mass of work is obviously a tricky business for an editor. Arranging them historically by date of composition strikes me as the best way, but apparently there is scant archival evidence of when the individual stories were written. Therefore, the editors, Jerome Klinkowitz and Dan Wakefield, say, in their introduction, that “the method in assembling these materials has been to group the stories rationally, according to their subject matter and approach.” Well, one man’s rational arrangement may be another’s cause for bafflement. The book is divided into eight sections, each with a headnote from one of the editors. Readers won’t be surprised to find sections labeled “War” and “Futuristic,” but they might be surprised by what does and doesn’t appear there: you might think that “Barnhouse” story could easily have fit into either of those sections, but in fact it appears in the one titled “Science.” There are sections titled “Women” and “Romance,” but all the romance stories certainly involve women, and many of the women’s stories involve romance. There’s a section called “Work Ethic Versus Fame and Fortune,” a perplexing title, not least because it contains the gloriously odd “Ed Luby’s Key Club,” a story which fuses elements of Raymond Chandler and Kafka — bad cops, corrupt officials, an impenetrable legal system, a hunt for a fugitive — and has some final twists that are as bizarre as they are unconvincing, but in which the matter of “work ethic versus fame and fortune” is not, to my mind, foregrounded.
There’s also a section titled simply “Behavior.” Klinkowitz writes, “Human behavior has always been a prime topic for fiction writers.” Well, yes. Pretty much all of Vonnegut’s stories might be included under that title, as for that matter could pretty much any story ever written by anybody. Still, one can’t blame a dead author for the foibles of his editors, and it’s good to have all of Vonnegut’s stories accessible and in one place at last.
¤
Sudden immersion in the early work of Kurt Vonnegut, the kind of immersion that comes with reading your way through 900 pages of his short stories, reveals a world very different from our own — very much whiter for one thing — but by no means alien or unrecognizable. One way or another, the United States and its ideals, aspirations, and failures are always on his mind. His political concerns are, for the most part, as relevant as ever: environmental conservation, overpopulation, state control, and, of course, war.
Other early Vonnegut stories are far more domestic, and the world they depict does seem, some six decades on, a little bit square. The characters tend to be middle class, often with jobs in sales. They want to live in decent homes, and care about money and respectability above all. Relationships tend to be what Vonnegut very definitely would not have called heteronormative. Of course there are problems; people stray, betray each other, undergo adjustments and realignments, and naturally some relationships fail completely. But there’s always the sense that human companionship, and above all love, is the goal worth fighting for. In the story “Paris, France,” for instance, we meet three couples, one old, one young, one middle-aged, traveling on the train from London to Paris. The two older pairs appear to have terrible marriages, while the young couple are in the first flush of love. Later we see them all again — well, five out of six of them — on their way back to London. The older couples have found ways to reconcile, the young lovers have split up. You feel this could have been taken from one of those 1960s portmanteau movies, probably starring Cary Grant.
For obvious historical reasons, the women in Vonnegut’s stories would not call themselves feminists, though judging by their actions that’s what they are. They’re also invariably wiser and stronger than their male counterparts. In “Miss Snow, You’re Fired,” for instance, two men fall desperately in love with the same woman; neither has a clue who she really is, and she’s the one who’s smart enough to point that out. The one story where the sexual politics goes completely haywire is alas, one of Vonnegut’s best known: “Welcome to the Monkey House,” set in a future where the government controls reproduction, and the outlaw Billy the Poet “rapes” women into “liberation.” Even in 1968 this wouldn’t do. The fact that he wrote the story for Playboy somehow makes it even less forgivable.
Though not everything works, there are wonderful lines, sentences, and whole paragraphs throughout the collection; it is full of constructions that are funny, clever, and unexpected. In “Eden by the River” you’ll find: “The boy was seventeen, tall, still growing — as graceless as a homemade stepladder.” In “The Honor of a Newsboy,” the police chief is trying to solve a murder case: “He guessed Earl Hedlund had done it […] Estelle had told Earl to go to hell one night at the Blue Dolphin, told him off the way he’d never been told off before. Nobody had ever told Earl off that way because everybody knew Earl would kill anybody who did.” And from “The Big Space Fuck”: “In 1987 it became possible in the United States of America for a young person to sue his parents for the way he had been raised. This was not only an effort to achieve justice but to discourage reproduction, since there wasn’t anything much to eat any more.”
What even the best of the short stories don’t, and I suppose can’t, do is create the broad sweep and the sense of interconnectedness that’s present in Vonnegut’s novels. In Breakfast of Champions, for instance, my favorite work of his, we see how entangled are the fates of various classes and types of people. There is no us and them. The “fabulously well-to-do” businessman, the guy who runs the car dealership, the kid who sweeps up at the dealership, the cocktail waitress, and the pulp sci-fi writer Kilgore Trout are all destined to cross paths and have their lives changed, and there’s nothing they can do about it. The short story form doesn’t allow for that kind of breadth and complication, and that was what Vonnegut needed.
I think it’s fair to say that we wouldn’t be so fascinated by Vonnegut’s short stories, might not be reading them at all, if they hadn’t led to the greater achievement of the novels, and in particular Slaughterhouse-Five. There are 19 stories in the section labeled “War,” and the effects of war are felt in others too. A moral discomfort and ambiguity informs most of them. People in wartime, Vonnegut tells us, are selfish, corrupt, unheroic: that’s what war has done to them, but to understand all is not necessarily to forgive all. The distinction between the good guys and the bad guys is never simple or clear cut, but that’s not an occasion for cynicism, rather for even finer shades of moral distinction. In the story “The Commandant’s Desk,” a carpenter in Czechoslovakia is forced to build a desk for the occupying Russian commandant, but before he can finish it, the Americans arrive and a boorish army major requisitions the desk. It contains a bomb, and the carpenter is every bit as willing to blow up the US major as he was to blow up his Russian predecessor. The major leaves and is replaced by a new, generous, decent captain who saves the day. Generosity and decency seem to be the two qualities Vonnegut values most, even as he recognizes their fragility and rarity.
Reading these early war stories, it’s possible to sense that Vonnegut is trying to find a new way to write on the grand scale about war, but, like Joseph Heller and Thomas Pynchon after him, he needs to approach the subject obliquely, to find a MacGuffin. Even so, there’s very little here to suggest he would succeed in this by combining fictionalized autobiographical material with an improbable time-travel narrative as he did in Slaughterhouse-Five. Who could possibly have dared even to think such a thing was possible? The obvious answer is: A writer of genius. But if this collection of stories proves anything, it’s that genius never arrives fully formed. So it goes.
¤
Geoff Nicholson is a contributing editor to the Los Angeles Review of Books. His latest novel, The Miranda, is out now.

 

Meeting, November 30, 2017

All entries in this blog are freely submitted by members of the Kurt Vonnegut Book Club and are uncensored. Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent the opinions or positions of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, its staff, or its management.

We met on Thursday, November 30, 2017 at the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library to discussa historical novel by our fellow Hoosier, Jessamyn West, “The Fall Creek Massacre,” (1975).  Ms. West spent part of her childhood in southeastern Indiana and was, if you really want to know, the second cousin of the almost Hoosier, Richard Nixon. Those participating were: Karen Lystra, John Sturman, John Hawn, Phil Watts, Bill Briscoe, Janet Penway (our moderator), Dave Young, and Celia Latz.

Historical novels are always problematic in that their history is inaccurate and their imagination is limited by that history. West had a tough time because contemporaneous accounts of the 1824 massacre of nine Native Americans by seven white settlers were almost nonexistent and the trial record was incinerated in a court house fire in Pendleton, IN in 1880. Nevertheless, she revisited her Hoosier roots and did a fairly good job of depicting the nastiness, regularly relieved by corn likker, of life in early 19th century frontier Indiana. Alcohol, it seems, was safer to drink than water in those awful days. One of our number told us of a highly regarded historical novel “Wolf Hall” a trilogy by Hilary Mantel. This 2009 tome deals with 15th Century England and some authority has dubbed it one of the ten best historical novels ever.

There were some actual historical characters in the novel. A Seneca named Handsome Lake actually existed. He had adopted Christian beliefs and was a moderating influence. Another key figure was Governor James Brown Ray who rode in on his horse to spare a fourth settler to was about to dangle from the rope. He took pity on the young settler who had just watched the execution of his father. The quality of mercy was not strained. How he journeyed all the way from Corydon to appear at the precise moment is not explained. Hollywood could not have staged it better.

Janet, our gracious moderator, found a connection to KV. In “The Sirens of Titan,” Malachi Constant says that when he returns to earth he wants to go to Indianapolis “the first city ever to hang a white man for the murder of an Indian.” He went on to say that Indianapolis had “my kind of people.” He must have meant the people of Madison County, Indiana (not to be confused with the Madison County where the Bridges are). It was pretty clear to all of us that the settlers had not acted out of any noble desire to recognize the humanity of the Native Americans or to share equal justice with them. They knew that they were greatly outnumbered by the Seneca warriors north of the Sugar Camp where the atrocity occurred. If they didn’t show that the white man could clean up his own mess, the Senecas would do it for him.

Her prose is fluid but there seems to be a lot of descriptive padding. She had to spice the story up by introducing a hokey romance and some extra-marital sex. We surmised that in those days it was okay to have sex if it appeared you would get married as soon as a preacher could be found. We wondered how much West was influenced by current events as the sexual revolution of the sixties and seventies was in full swing and the memory of the 1968 Vietnam My Lai massacre was still fresh. West effectively used the device of internal correspondence between a literate young settler and his father to advance the narrative.

It was never made clear what provoked the massacre although alcohol was probably a contributing factor. Someone in the group speculated that the bitchy wife of one of the settlers made him feel sexually inadequate and that set him off. The Senecas were basically hunter-gatherers in winter and agrarian in summer. They collected maple syrup and boiled it down to sugar in “sugar camps.” They did not seem to be territorial and had no understanding of the white man’s metes and bounds. There was also a problem of stealing from traps, even though it was never clear who was doing the stealing.

The novel is written from the point of view of the white settlers and no one knows what the Indians were thinking. They did not seem to gain anything after this and only a few tribes (like the Catawba) who played along with the treaties and paperwork were able to put off their eviction from their native lands for a little while. It wasn’t until the Dawes Act of 1887 that the US Government set up a reservation system to protect the “Five Civilized Tribes.” That legislation was authored by Henry Dawes. Bill, our esteemed Delta Upsilon historian, confused this act with the Dawes Plan of 1924, authored by Charles Dawes who pledged Delta Upsilon at Marietta (Ohio) College in the 1880’s. Charles Dawes was vice president to Calvin Coolidge with whom he was in constant combat. This plan had something to do with reorganizing Europe after WWI. Charles Dawes was later sent to the Court of St. James where he displeased the King of England by refusing to wear knee britches. DU men apparently do not do knee britches or knickers. Maybe they just go commando!

We gave this book a rather low 6.0 rating on the world famous KV ten point scale. Some felt that the book was hokey, contrived and much too long.

At 12:30, seven of us headed to Ralph’s Great Divide, 743 E. New York, for a leisurely meal.

Our next reading adventure will culminate at 11:00AM on Thursday, December 14, 2017 at the KV Memorial Library when we will take on the mother of all KV short story collections, “Kurt Vonnegut Complete Stories” published 9/26/17 by Seven Stories Press. 944 pages. List price is $45, but you can get it through Amazon for $28.26 or Barnes and Nobles for $29.72. We are limiting our discussion to five “new” added stories. If you can’t get your hands on it by 12/14, contact Bill Briscoe for a summary.

Dave Young

I have not been able to find a good summary of the novel. Below is a rather lengthy Wikipedia article which may be as good a summary of the historical event as is available. The grammarians among our wide readership will note that the stone marker at Pendleton states that the white men were “hung” there. Thus were they dehumanized. In 1966, the State of Indiana erected a formal historical marker using the correct past tense of the verb.

Fall Creek massacre
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Fall Creek massacre refers to the slaughter of 9 Native Americans—two men, three women, two boys, and two girls—of uncertain tribal origin on March 22, 1824 by seven white settlers in Madison County, Indiana. The tribal band was living in an encampment along Deer Lick Creek, near the falls at Fall Creek, the site of present-day Pendleton, Indiana. The incident sparked national attention as details of the massacre and trial were reported in newspapers of the day. It was the first documented case in which white Americans were convicted, sentenced to capital punishment, and executed for the murder of Native Americans under U.S. law. Of the seven white men who participated in the crime, six were captured. The other white man, Thomas Harper, was never apprehended. Four of the men were charged with murder and two testified for the prosecution. The four accused men were convicted and sentenced to death by hanging. James Hudson was hanged on January 12, 1825, in Madison County, and Andrew Sawyer and John Bridge Sr. were hanged on June 3, 1825. James B. Ray, the governor of Indiana, pardoned John Bridge Jr., the eighteen-year-old son of John Bridge Sr., due to his age and the influence the others may have had on his involvement in the murders.
Few details about the victims are known. The white men knew the Native American men only as Ludlow and Logan. The names of the remaining victims were not recorded. It is possible that the band had a mixed tribal background of Seneca, Shawnee, and Delaware, which was not unusual in the tribes of the region. John Johnson, a federal Indian agent, identified them as a band of Seneca who had come to the area as part of their winter migration from their home base near Lewis Town, Ohio.
In spite of the case’s notoriety and the convictions of the white perpetrators, the massacre did not set a lasting precedent for equal justice under American law. A stone marker in Pendleton’s Fall Creek Park commemorates the site of the hangings. A state historical marker along State Road 38 in rural Madison County, close to present-day Markleville, Indiana, identifies the nearby site of the murders. The events also served as the inspiration for The Massacre at Fall Creek, a novel by Jessamyn West, which was published in 1975.

Prior events
Sometime between November 1823 and February 1824, a small party of Indians came to the area along Deer Lick Creek, near the present-day town of Pendleton, Indiana, in Madison County, to hunt, trap, gather furs, and collect maple syrup.[1][2] The band included three men known to local whites as Logan, Ludlow, and M’Doal (or Mingo), three women, two boys, and two girls.[3][4] Their tribal origins remain a mystery, although some sources connected to the case, such as the Federal Indian agent, John Johnston, describe them as a mixed band of Seneca and Shawnee from their home village of Lewis Town in northwest Ohio, approximately one hundred miles to the east.[1][5] Other, slightly later sources, suggest the band included Delaware, Miami, and mixed-race members having some European ancestry. Bands with remnant members from numerous tribes in the Old Northwest were quite common at this time, but the precise ethnic backgrounds of this particular group’s members will never be known.[6] They established their camp in Madison County, near a village of white settlers with whom they could trade their goods.[5]
Sources reporting the massacre’s events suggest the white settlers had developed a friendly relationship with the band, which was headed by Chief Logan, a “venerable old chief” and “a friend of the white men”;[7] however, historians have proposed that tensions were growing between Ludlow and some of the settlers, most notably James Hudson, Thomas Harper, and John T. Bridge Sr., in the days leading up to the attack.[8] Hudson alleged that he had encountered Ludlow several days prior to the massacre and heard him threaten to kill any white man who disturbed his animal traps. He also accused Ludlow of threatening to harm his wife after she refused to trade with Ludlow several days prior to the attack.[9] Bridge Sr. and Harper had also visited the camp a few days prior to the attack. Hudson later acknowledged that three days prior to the massacre he thought Bridge intended to poison the Native Americans, but decided did not proceed with the idea. Hudson also reported that Ludlow became angry after a dog he had purchased from Harper was later taken away from him.[10]
More details are known about the background of the victims’ attackers. Hudson, who was originally from Baltimore County, Maryland, moved to Kentucky as a boy and later migrated to Ohio before settling with his wife, Phoebe, and their family in Madison County.[11][12] Harper, a wandering frontiersman who drifted from Butler County, Ohio, into Madison County early in 1824, was an obsessive Indian-hater.[13] Native Americans kidnapped his three-year-old sister, Elizabeth, in 1800, and killed his brother, James, during the War of 1812.[14] Harper was also the brother-in-law of John T. Bridge Sr., who was born in Boston, Massachusetts, and moved to Ohio before migrating to Indiana with his wife, Mary Harper, and their children in 1819. Mary died two years later and Bridge Sr. may have married the sister of a neighbor named Andrew Sawyer, who was also involved in the massacre; however, this has not been confirmed. Little is known of Sawyer’s family background.[15]
On Friday, March 19, 1824, when several local settlers gathered for a house-raising, Harper, Hudson, Sawyer, and others began discussing the Indian presence in the area. The conversation became heated as the men drank liquor and boasted that they would kill any Indian who stole their property or threatened a settler’s wife.[16] On Sunday, March 21, the day before the attack, Sawyer came to the Hudson farm to report that two of his horses were missing and asked for help in recapturing them. Harper and Sawyer; Sawyer’s son, Stephen; John T. Bridge, Sr.; his two sons, James and 18-year-old John Bridge, Jr.; and a boy named Andrew Jones went on an unsuccessful search for the horses.[17][18] The men gathered at the Sawyer cabin the following morning to continue the search.[17] During this time Hudson began to suspect that Harper had convinced Sawyer to harm the small group of Native Americans living hear Deer Lick Creek, even if they had not been involved in the horse theft.[19]
The massacre
The white men approached the band on March 22, 1824.[20] There were just two men in camp with the women and children at the time of their arrival. M’Doal had gone to check his animal traps before the men arrived.[21] Hudson and Sawyer asked Logan and Ludlow for help in tracking the two horses that had escaped from Harper’s farm. The two men agreed to help for an agreed upon fee of fifty cents each,[17] and walked with the white men toward the woods, joking as they went.[22] The white men, who had been drinking heavily for several days, were heavily armed with knives and rifles.[21] After a brief stop at an abandoned cabin, where several of the men drank more liquor, the party divided into two groups and continued into the woods. Logan joined Hudson, Bridge Jr., and Jones, while Ludlow went in a different direction with Harper, Andrew and Stephen Sawyer, and James Bridge. James left the group for unknown reasons and was replaced by his father, John Bridge Sr.[23] As Logan moved ahead, the three white men in his group fell behind and Hudson shot him in the back. Bridge Jr. struck Logan in the head with his rifle and stabbed him before the men hid his body in the woods. In the meantime, Harper shot Ludlow in the back as the others in his group watched. Ludlow’s body was never recovered.[24]
The men, with the exception of Hudson, returned to the camp, where they murdered the three women and four children. M’Doal, who was not in camp when they arrived, witnessed the killings as he returned. Although he may have been wounded by gunfire, M’doal escaped into the woods and was never found.[25][7] In all, Harper’s party killed nine people: two men, three women, and four children. The men also stole everything of value before leaving the Indian camp and returning to their farms.[26]
Reports of gunfire, the sudden disappearance of the nearby Indians, and conversations that neighbors overheard in the Sawyer and Bridge homes prompted a search party to begin an investigation the following morning.[27] John Adams, a neighbor boy who was staying overnight at the Bridge cabin, overheard the men when they returned home the night of the murders. Bridge Sr. sent the boy home and asked him to return with his father, a local farmer named Abraham Adams, to help search for Sawyer’s missing horses. Adams also told his father what he had overheard.[28] Adams and his son went to the Sawyer farm, where they met Bridge Sr., two of Bridge’s sons, and Harper. Sawyer informed the men that the horses had come home on their own, but he reported hearing gunfire at the camp. The men went to investigate. Adams realized that the abandoned camp was the scene of the murder after the bodies were discovered nearby.[29] The men also found that one of the women, although injured, had survived the attack, but was unable to clearly explain what had happened. The group left her at the scene and rode off to report it.[22] On Wednesday, March 24, two days after the attack, a second group of men arrived at the camp to find her still alive. They also located Logan’s body and buried him at the scene.[30] The surviving woman was taken to a settler’s farm, but the owner refused to let her stay, so she was taken to the Bridge’s cabin, where she died later that day.[31]
On Thursday, March 25, within three days of the killings, the authorities arrived to arrest Harper, Bridge Sr., and Bridge Jr.; however, Harper escaped into the woods. Hudson, Jones, and both Sawyer men were arrested shortly thereafter.[32] Within a week they were all in custody, with the exception of Harper, who had taken the stolen goods and fled.[33] He was never captured.[34] Following their arrest Hudson, Bridge Sr., Bridge Jr., and Andrew Sawyer were chained in Madison County’s newly built log jail until their trials. Andrew Jones and Stephen Sawyer, who remained free on bond, and John Adams turned state’s evidence in the upcoming trials.[34][35]
News of the crime spread quickly, and settlers feared retribution from Native Americans living in the local Delaware villages. Native American customs at the time also called for monetary compensation to the victims’ families.[36] While the accused men awaited trial, William Conner, a trusted frontiersman, interpreter, and community leader, and John Johnston, and Indian agent residing in Piqua, Ohio, at that time, traveled to the local Indian villages to talk with the people.[37] Johnston and Conner, whose intent was to maintain order, calmed the fears of the white settlers and assured the Native Americans that the men who had attacked their people had been caught and the government would seek justice for their murders.[38] The two men’s efforts were successful, and no violence erupted. The threat of retaliation for the murders subsided, but no one knew how long the peace would last.[39]
Trials and executions[edit]
The four men who had been arrested were tried in Madison County Court. Seven of the state’s top lawyers were hired to defend them. It is unclear whether the men paid for their own legal fees or others paid all or part of their defense. The two lead defense attorneys were Calvin Fletcher and Martin M. Ray, a brother of James Brown Ray, the governor of Indiana.[40] The other defense lawyers were Bethuel F. Morris, William R. Morris, Lot Bloomfield, Charles H. Test, and James Rariden.[41] U.S. Senator James Noble was appointed as special prosecutor to assist two local attorneys, James Gilmore and Cyrus French. Noble selected Harvey Gregg and Philip Sweetser to assist him.[42] Hudson, Bridge Sr., Bridge Jr., and Andrew Sawyer were indicted on April 8, 1824; however, their trials were postponed until October 1824, due to the illness of the circuit court’s lead judge, William Wick.[43] While awaiting trial, the prisoners escaped from the county jail on more than one occasion, but were quickly recaptured.[44]
The Fifth Judicial Circuit Court of Indiana opened in Madison County on October 7, 1824. At that time state law allowed the court only three days to complete its work before adjourning the session.[45] The cases were tried before a three-member circuit court panel, which consisted of Wick, Samuel Holliday, and Adam Winsell.[46] Following the conclusion of other court business, a twelve-member jury was seated for the trials, which generated nationwide attention.[45] The following morning, James Hudson was tried first. Andrew Jones was a key witness for the prosecution; however, the defense called no witnesses on Hudson’s behalf.[47] The jury deliberated only an hour before finding Hudson guilty.[48] Some people were surprised by the verdict. Hudson was sentenced to death by hanging, with an execution date set for December 1, 1824.[49] It was the first time any white man in the United States had been sentenced to capital punishment for killing a Native American.[18][50] The trials for the other three men were postponed.[48]
Hudson appealed to the Supreme Court of Indiana, then in session at Corydon, Indiana. The court issued an opinion on November 13, 1824, written by Chief Justice Isaac Blackford that upheld the lower court’s decision and rejected all points of Hudson’s appeal.[7] Two days later, Hudson escaped from jail and hid beneath the floor of a vacant cabin, where he suffered from frostbite and dehydration. He was recaptured ten days later, when he came out of hiding to find water and was returned to the Madison County jail. While he was missing, the execution date was rescheduled for the following January.[50] On January 12, 1825, a large crowd, which reportedly included several Seneca and Shawnee, gathered to witness the historic execution. The condemned man had to be carried to the gallows due to the frostbite he had suffered while in hiding.[7] Hudson was interred in a nearby cemetery, north of the falls at Fall Creek.[51]
The trials of the remaining three men, Bridge Sr., Bridge Jr., and Andrew Sawyer, began on May 9, 1825, in the Third Judicial Circuit Court in Madison County. Miles C. Eggleston replaced Wick as one of the three presiding judges. Oliver H. Smith was the chief prosecutor and James Rariden led the defense team. After fifteen hours of deliberation, the jury reached a verdict in Sawyer’s case. He was found guilty of manslaughter, not murder, for killing one of the women. His punishment was two years in prison and a fine of one hundred dollars.[52] Bridge Jr. who faced two murder charges in Logan’s death, was tried next. The jury found him guilty after three hours of deliberation on both counts; however, they recommended a pardon for the teenager due to the influence of his father and uncle. The jury took only a few minutes to return a guilty verdict for Bridge Sr.[53] To conclude the trials Andrew Sawyer was tried and found guilty of murder.[54] A petition on behalf of Bridge Jr. was signed by ninety-four locals, including many members of the jury, the county clerk, several attorneys, two prison guards, and a minister, and submitted to Governor James Brown Ray.[55] The petition requested a pardon and cited “his youth, ignorance, and the manner which he was led into the transaction.” By the appointed date of execution, it had not been answered.[18]

On June 3, 1825, another large crowd, including numerous Native Americans, gathered for the executions, which were conducted one at a time. Sawyer was hanged first, followed by the execution of Bridge, Sr. His eighteen-year-old son, John Bridge Jr., witnessed both hangings before being led to the gallows and fitted with a noose and hood. At that point, Governor Ray, who had arrived on horseback, moved through the crowd and stopped the execution. After presenting the pinioned teenage prisoner with a written pardon, the governor announced, “Here is your pardon. Go sir, and sin no more.”[56] The young prisoner was immediately set free.[57] A Seneca chief in attendance at the hangings and the dramatic pardon remarked, “We are satisfied.”[58]
Aftermath
Furor over the massacre quickly subsided following the trials and hangings of Hudson, Bridge Sr., and Sawyer. The village at the falls of Fall Creek soon faded from the public spotlight and settlers continued to move into the area.[59] Johnston returned to his home in Ohio. The defense and prosecuting attorneys went on to achieve political success. Oliver H. Smith was elected to Congress and James Brown Ray was re-elected as governor.[60] Thomas Harper, the ringleader of the murderers, was never apprehended. It is not known what happened to Andrew Jones and Stephen Sawyer. John Bridge Jr. returned to his home in Butler County, Ohio, where he worked as a farmer. In 1824 he settled in Carroll County, Indiana, where he became a dry goods merchant. He died at Delphi, Indiana, in 1876.[61]
The prosecutions of the white men for the murders of the Native Americans, which cost the United States government nearly seven thousand dollars, avoided further disruptions in the area.[59] Removal of native tribes from the area east of the Mississippi River continued, as did white settlement along the White River.[61] The guilty verdict from the white jury “remained an extreme anomaly”.[62] Other acts of violence between whites and native tribes occurred in the decades that followed; however, the events at Fall Creek set a precedent with the trials that recognized the civil rights of Native Americans in a court of law.[62]
Complete details of all the related events remain unknown. The original transcripts of the trials were destroyed in a fire at the Madison County courthouse in 1880, and details gathered from the surviving sources leave behind an incomplete record of conflicting information and disputes over the accuracy of the reports. Two official documents incorrectly recorded that the massacre occurred on April 20, 1824.[63] No written accounts from the victims or other Native Americans living in the area at the time were recorded, and none were called to testify in the legal proceedings.[64] The events near present-day Pendleton, Indiana, remains a part of the area’s local history, despite a lack of detailed records, inaccuracies among the sources, and its disappearance from recollections of national events.[65] It also inspired a fictional account of the events in Jessamyn West’s novel, The Massacre at Fall Creek, published in 1975.[66]
Memorials

In Fall Creek Park in Pendleton, Indiana, a stone marker reads: “Three white men were hung here in 1825 for killing Indians.”[67] In 1991 the Pendleton Historic District, which includes the park and this historical marker, was named to the National Register of Historic Places.[68]
In 1966 the Indiana Sesquicentennial Commission erected an historic highway marker noting the incident along State Route 38, one-half mile east of Markleville, Madison County. It reads: “In 1824, nine Indians were murdered by white men near this spot. The men were tried, found guilty and hanged. It was the first execution of white men for killing Indians.”[69][70]

[Footnotes and references omitted to save space. You can find them on the internet – DEY]

 

 

 

All entries in this blog are freely submitted by members of the Kurt Vonnegut Book Club and are uncensored. Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent the opinions or positions of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, its staff, or its management.

We met today to talk over KV’s 1965 novel “God Bless You Mr. Rosewater or Pearls Before Swine.” John Hawn expertly guided our discussion. Those participating were: Tom Logue, John Hawn, Diane Richards, Dave Young, Bill Briscoe, and Phil Watts.
.

This novel gives our clandestine oikophobe, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr, a chance to vent his displeasure at the deplorable citizens of Rosewater, IN. The novel was probably conceived in 1964 during the Goldwater-Johnson presidential campaign which also provides him with reason to satirize the upper class. Early on, he devises a speech to the US Senate by Senator Lister Rosewater (the father of the protagonist Eliot Rosewater) which proclaims the Republican “sink or swim” philosophy. The government should not support those who cannot stay afloat on their own. Like the Senators who served later, Bayh and Lugar, Senator Rosewater never lived in Indiana after political success in the seat of government and only gave lip service to helping his home state.

“God Bless….” was KV’s fifth novel, written before he found fame and fortune. He was born to wealthy parents who lost their status due to The Noble Experiment and The Great Depression. His work shows disdain for inherited wealth while not really being down with the hoi polloi. It is something of an outlier in the KV canon. Some critics do not even believe that this is a novel as it lacks a strong narrative and weak character development. Nevertheless, it is an amusing work, full of insight and epigrams. Money is the star of the novel, but the key epigram is Eliot Rosewater’s little speech when he officiates at the baptism of twins: “Hello babies. Welcome to Earth. It’s hot in the summer and cold in the winter. It’s round and wet and crowded. On the outside, babies, you’ve got a hundred years here. There’s only one rule that I know of, babies – God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

KV did present a challenge to the blue noses of 1965. In Chapter 13, he gratuitously uses the word “motherfucker” in the mouth of Noyes Finerty who speaks it in frustration when he is unable to snap a broom over his knee. KV likes to work old Indianapolis names into his stuff and the Noyes family is closely associated with the Lilly fortune.

We pondered the difference between philanthropy and charity. Philanthropy seems to be more oriented toward rooting out the causes of poverty while charity is directed toward meeting the immediate needs of the impoverished. Eliot Rosewater is inclined toward charity, preferring to dole out small sums of money to local characters on a weekly basis. He establishes no relationship with them and is unable to identify them by name. He finally demonstrates his utter contempt for his inheritance by giving all of his money away before he boards a Greyhound to Indianapolis on the way to oblivion. We resolved that if we ever did this novel again we would invite someone from IU’s School of Philanthropy to educate us on the finer points of giving away one’s fortune.

Vonnegut missed at least two opportunities to enrich this novel. It seems odd that an alcoholic and possibly mental ill old man, living in a wretched apartment amidst piles of cash, would never be knocked over by some of the despicable, deplorable, and desperate citizens of Rosewater, IN. And what about those women who claimed that the apparently asexual Eliot Rosewater fathered fifty-seven future Rosewaterians? Surely there was story here that KV could have exploited.

After bitching about the lack of plot and the unclear ending to what some do not even consider a novel, we rated this work a 7.7 on the scientifically validated KV ten point scale. We then adjourned and four of us headed out to lunch at Mama Irma, a worthy Peruvian restaurant in Fountain Square only to find that it had closed, never to reopen. We went across the street and dined well at El Arado Mexican Grill, 1063 Virginia Avenue.

Our next book will be “The Massacre at Fall Creek” which is Jessamyn West’s account of the murder of nine American Indians near Pendleton, IN in 1824. Janet Penwell will moderate our discussion.  The perpetrators were several white men, three of whom were executed by rope very soon thereafter and were thought to be the first white men in America ever to be executed for killing native Americans. Ms. West spent her first six years in North Vernon, IN before moving to Yorba Linda, CA with the Milhous-Nixon clan. She was Richard Nixon’s second cousin, if you really want to know. We are moving the meeting date up because of the holidays and so will gather at 11AM on Thursday, November 30, 2017 [date corrected – DEY] at the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library. Everyone is welcome to join the frivolity.

Dave Young

Plot Summary from Wikipedia:

The Rosewater Foundation was founded by United States senator Lister Ames Rosewater of Indiana to help Rosewater descendants avoid paying taxes on the family estate in Rosewater County. It is operated by a large legal firm in New York and provides an annual pension of $3.5 million to Eliot, the senator’s son.

Eliot, a World War II veteran and volunteer firefighter who has developed a social conscience, sets out across America visiting various small towns before landing in Rosewater. Eliot’s drunkenness, his generous relationship with the poor in Rosewater, and his odd relationship with his wife make him appear eccentric and mentally ill. Norman Mushari, a conniving lawyer, is determined to prove Eliot insane so that he can reroute a portion of the Rosewater fortune to unwitting distant Rosewater cousins in Rhode Island, thus earning a portion for himself.
After experiencing a breakdown, Eliot spends a year in a mental institution where he is then visited by his father, lawyer and Kilgore Trout, his favorite science fiction author. He wills his fortune to fifty-seven children whom their mothers have claimed he fathered, and asks that they be fruitful and multiply.
Stanley Schatt notes “the plot does not really do the book any justice, for in many ways it is Vonnegut’s richest and most complex novel.
********* end **********

 

Meeting, September 28, 2017

All entries in this blog are freely submitted by members of the Kurt Vonnegut Book Club and are uncensored. Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent the opinions or positions of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, its staff, or its management.

We met on this lovely fall day at the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library to discuss George Orwell’s dystopian novel, “1984,” which was published in 1949. The discussion was moderated by Bill Briscoe and others participating were Janet Hodgkin, John Hawn, Phil Watts, Dave Young, Karen Lyst, John Sturman, and Janet Penwell.

In 1958, William Styron was quoted in “Writers at Work” as saying:
“A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it.” Most of us found the book painful and exhausting but nevertheless worthwhile. The torture scene with the rat cage in Room 101 was indelible. Among us were a few who were in their formative years when this book was written and we recalled how tenuous our form of government seemed in the 1950’s. Communism threatened to bury us and the alternative to Communism appeared to be some form of fascist totalitarianism. Almost seventy years later, democracy still prevails in the West but it seems to be threatened again by technological advances that were beyond Orwell’s wildest dreams and ever more powerful and demanding governments that have lost, to a large degree, the trust of the underclass (Orwell’s Proles) and the middle class (his Outer Party) and are controlled by a bi-partisan elite (his Inner Party) that can no longer relate.

We decided that “Big Brother” worked more effectively for Orwell as a concept and not a person because a concept can be immortal. Reference was made to Steve Bannon’s favorite work “The Fourth Turning” (Howe and Strauss – 1997) and its dire pronouncement that every 80 years or so there is an upheaval. “History is seasonal, and winter is coming,” they warn. To add fuel to the fire, someone dug up the old chestnut, attributed to Peter Drucker, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” Actually no one can prove that he ever said that. The phrase “culture beats strategy” has been around for decades and someone has tarted it up for modern consumption.

Just to prove they are hip to dystopias, the literati among us brought up
“We” the dark 1921 Russian novel by Yevgeny Zamyatin (okay, I admit I had to look it up) and Cormac McCarthy’s 2006 post-apocalyptic novel “The Road.”   Our group’s favorite destination appears to be dystopian.

Orwell’s take on the future in 1949 still has meaning for today even if his timetable is way off. Our representative government is divided and seems unable to deal with problems. Our bloc of nations (Oceania) is constantly struggling with other blocs in East Europe and in Asia. We seem to have a constant need for an external enemy to more or less hold us together.

The cultural root of all this is that there is no reality. Everything is perception which trumps reality. Truth is malleable and fake news is everywhere. Language controls thinking but not feeling and when language becomes flexible and is controlled emotion triumphs.

Orwell’s two way television set that could capture your bedroom action while you were watching late-night TV is very old hat. Don’t forget to put a piece of tape over that little camera facing you on your laptop! Paranoia everywhere. Someone in Russia is probably monitoring every keystroke on your many keypads and sampling your phone conversations! Maybe when your family doctor gave you your flu shot he also slipped in a microchip that regular reports your GPS location to the authorities. Run, run for your life.
………………. .

“1984” merited an 8.4 out of 10.0 on the vaunted KV Scale. We then journeyed a few blocks northeast to Asian Harbor, 203 W. Michigan, and enjoyed its Asian Fusion (that means you can choose both sushi and chop suey) menu. We will next meet on Thursday, October 26, 2017 at 11AM at the KV Memorial Library. John Hawn will lead us through KV’s 1965 novel “God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater” in which he skewers philanthropy. Maybe someone from the Lilly Foundation will appear to give us another viewpoint.

Dave Young

A synopsis from Wikipedia follows:

Winston Smith is a man who lives in Airstrip One, the remnants of Britain broken down by war, civil conflict, and revolution in the year 1984. A member of the middle class Outer Party, Winston lives in a one-room London flat in the Victory Mansions. Smith lives on rations consisting of black bread, synthetic meals, and “Victory”-branded gin. Telescreens in every building, accompanied by microphones and cameras, allow the Thought Police to identify anyone who might compromise the Party’s regime, and threat of surveillance forces citizens to display an obligatory optimism regarding the country, who are afraid for being arrested for thoughtcrime, the infraction of expressing thoughts contradictory to the Party’s ideology. Children are encouraged to inform the officials about potential thought criminals, including their parents, and are indoctrinated by Party propaganda from an early age. Winston’s neighbor, Mr. Parsons, is deeply involved in patriotic activism, and his children are highly indoctrinated with Party propaganda and desensitized to violence.
Winston works at the Ministry of Truth, or “Minitrue”, as an editor. He is responsible for historical revisionism; he rewrites records and alters photographs to conform to the state’s ever-changing version of history itself, rendering the deleted people “unpersons”; the original documents are destroyed by fire in a “memory hole”. At work, he re-writes a Times article reporting on a government official condemned as a thoughtcriminal by writing a story on a nonexistent war hero named “Comrade Ogilvy”, and notes the state-sponsored media reporting an increase in the chocolate ration during an actual decrease. Despite his proficiency in his profession, Winston becomes mesmerized by the true past after seeing a photograph of three former high-ranking upper class Inner Party officials in New York, discounting the official government account that they had been collaborating with Eurasian officials. Winston tries to get more information about the true past, and purchases an old journal in an antiques shop in a proletarian neighborhood of London. In a place beside his flat’s telescreen where he believes he cannot be seen, he begins writing a journal criticizing the Party and its enigmatic leader, Big Brother. By doing so, he commits a crime that, if discovered by the Thought Police, warrants certain death, and Winston quickly resigns himself to the fact that he will eventually be arrested for thoughtcrime. In the journal, he records his sexual frustration over a young woman maintaining the novel-writing machines at the ministry named Julia, whom Winston is attracted to but suspects is an informant. He also suspects that his superior, an Inner Party official named O’Brien, is a secret agent for an enigmatic underground resistance movement known as the Brotherhood, a group formed by Big Brother’s reviled political rival Emmanuel Goldstein.

The next day, Julia surreptitiously hands Winston a note confessing her love for him. Winston and Julia begin an affair after Winston realizes she shares his loathing of the Party, first meeting in the country, and eventually in a rented room at the top of the antiques shop where Winston purchased the diary, which is owned by the seemingly kindly Mr. Charrington. They believe that the shop is safe, as the room has no telescreen. During his affair with Julia, Winston remembers the death of his family; during the civil war of the 1950’s, Winston stole rationed chocolate from his malnourished infant sister and his mother, and would return home to discover that they had disappeared. He also recounts his terse relationship with his ex-wife Katharine, whom he was forced to have sex with and despised to such an extent that he considered pushing her off a cliff during a nature walk. Winston also interacts with his colleague Syme, who is writing a dictionary for a revised version of the English language called Newspeak. After Syme insightfully reveals that the true purpose of Newspeak is to reduce the capacity of human thought, Winston speculates that he will be vaporized. He is later proven correct when Syme disappears without a trace, and no one acknowledges his absence.

Weeks later, Winston is approached by O’Brien. They arrange a meeting at O’Brien’s flat where both Winston and Julia swear allegiance to the Brotherhood. A week later, O’Brien clandestinely sends Winston a copy of “The Book”, The Theory and Practice of Oligarchical Collectivism by Emmanuel Goldstein, the publicly reviled leader of the Brotherhood. Through The Book, the author explains the structure and practices of Oceania. In particular, The Book explains the concept of perpetual war, the true meanings of the slogans “War is peace”, “Freedom is slavery”, and “Ignorance is strength”, and how the Party can be overthrown through means of the political awareness of the proles (proletarians).
The Thought Police capture Winston along with Julia in their rented room. The two are then delivered to the Ministry of Love (Miniluv) for interrogation. Mr. Charrington, the shopkeeper who rented the room to them, reveals himself as a Thought Police agent. O’Brien is also an agent of the Thought Police. He is part of a special sting operation used by the police to find and arrest suspected thoughtcriminals. Winston is placed in a prison cell with Parsons, who had been reported by his children and believes himself to be guilty. O’Brien interrogates and tortures Winston with electroshock, telling Winston that he can “cure” himself of his “insanity”—his manifest hatred for the Party—through controlled manipulation of perception. Winston is held in the prison for an unspecified length of time, and confesses to crimes that O’Brien tells him to say that he has committed, but O’Brien understands that Winston has not betrayed Julia. After awakening from a nightmare in which he confesses his love for Julia, O’Brien sends him to Room 101 for the final stage of re-education, a room which contains each prisoner’s worst fear. Winston shouts “Do it to Julia!” as a wire cage holding hungry rats is fitted onto his face, thus betraying her.
After being put back into society, Winston meets Julia in a park. She admits that she was also tortured, and both reveal betraying the other. Later, Winston sits alone in the Chestnut Tree Cafe. As he remembers a rare happy memory of his family, he convinces himself that it is false. A raucous celebration begins outside, celebrating Oceania’s “decisive victory” over Eurasian armies in Africa, and Winston imagines himself as a part of the crowd. As Winston imagines a gun being pointed at his head, he feels that he has at last ended his “stubborn, self-willed exile” from the love of Big Brother—a love Winston returns quite happily as he looks up in admiration at a portrait of Big Brother.
********************************end***************************

Unknown

“No sense of the irony of human existence, that we are the highest form of life on earth and yet ineffably sad because we know what no other animal knows, that we must die.”
― Don DeLillo, White Noise

“Beware Friend as you pass by
Where you are now
So once was I
So prepare yourself
For Death and Eternity”
— Tombstone seen in my family’s cemetery

 

Meeting, August 24, 2017

All entries in this blog are freely submitted by members of the Kurt Vonnegut Book Club and are uncensored. Opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent the opinions or positions of the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library, its staff, or its management.

We met to discuss Don DeLillo’s 1985 novel “White Noise.” Dave coordinated the discussion.   Those present: Celia Latz, Karen Lyst, John Sturman, John Hawn, Diane Richards, Fritz Hadley, Bill Briscoe, Dave Young, Jay Carr, and Janet Penwell.

I (Dave) kicked the meeting off with a sketch of Don DeLillo condensed from his biography on Wikipedia. He was a New Yorker through and through, born and raised in an Italian-American family in the Bronx, educated at Fordham and something of a cult writer until he was about 50 when “White Noise” made it to the charts. He had no particular interest in writing as a young man but spent all of his leisure time at the movies. He later speculated that movies taught him how to understand plotting and character development. He never went Hollywood and his only screen play was a baseball flick “Game 6” starring Michael Keaton which first ran in 2005. He did write five stage plays in addition to fifteen novels. KV and DeLillo must have caught up with one another in New York, but I can find no evidence of it. KV was president of PEN and PEN gave DeLillo a few awards……so there!   DeLillo also dedicated his fourteenth novel, “Cosmopolis,” to KV. That novel, about the 9/11 disaster in NYC was rated by many as his worst novel. DeLillo, who is still writing at the age of 80, has always been rather humble and reclusive. He rarely gives interviews and claims not to care what critics think of him. Some critics have treated him harshly. I am lifting the following from Wiki:

“[They] argue that his novels are overly stylized and intellectually shallow. Bruce Bawer famously condemned DeLillo’s novels insisting they weren’t actually novels at all but “tracts, designed to batter us, again and again, with a single idea: that life in America today is boring, benumbing, dehumanized…It’s better, DeLillo seems to say in one novel after another, to be a marauding murderous maniac – and therefore a human – than to sit still for America as it is, with its air conditioners, assembly lines, television sets, supermarkets, synthetic fabrics, and credit cards……” George Will called DeLillo a “sandbox intellectual” and a “bad citizen.” Another ecocritic accused him of indulging in “hysterical realism.”

Then we riffed around the room trying to figure out the meaning of the phrase “white noise.” I thought it was the sound put out by some Black guy on his motorcycle amplifying rap music at about 130 decibels but one of our more educated members gave us a scholarly definition of “white noise” and contrasted it with “pink noise.” A lot of stuff about wave lengths and coefficients if you really want to know. No one talked about “black noise” and although DeLillo seemed anxious to address everything that was troubling America in the 1980’s, he had little to say about racism. Then someone piped up with the distinction between bright white light (which is the sum of all wave lengths) and pigment (which is the absorption of some wave lengths). If that wasn’t enough we were obliged, in the current fashion, to determine if there was a racial element to all of this. Is white noise somehow connected to white privilege? The mind boggles.

One of our scholars reminded us that “whiteness” as the symbol of death is a major theme in our literature. Think of Moby Dick, the White Whale.  Another theme in Western literature is regeneration through violence. Dostoevsky’s “Crime and Punishment: comes to mind. Then someone let us know that the book itself was “white noise.”   Full of distractions, intentional nonsense phrases, and the author’s tendency to show off with extended philosophical dialogues that went nowhere other than to convince the protagonist, Jack, that killing someone else would somehow enhance his meaningless existence. Intentionally using a lot of deja vu, the author constantly loops around various themes, repeating catch phrases. Reportedly, DeLillo wanted to call the novel “Panasonic” but his publishers exercised their contractual right to call it whatever they wanted.

The novel seems to be making a statement about the nuclear family.
Jack has been married to four different women. His previous wives had some mysterious connection to the intelligence community which made them somewhat inaccessible. His current wife, Babbette, whom he objectifies by addressing her in the third person, seems at first glance to be a healthy, athletic, out-going mom of their toddler and an assortment of children from their previous marriages. You almost need a scorecard to keep track of all the characters. However, she is consumed by a fear of death and takes her body to a seedy motel to exchange sex acts for a pill which is supposed to suppress that fear. That pill was developed by her commercial lover, Willie Mink, who is destined to be gut-shot by Jack.   The children, it seems, are wiser and better grounded than the adults.

DeLillo indulges his black humor by ridiculing academia, particularly the American Studies (styled as American Environments) Department at the College-on-the Hill. Jack and his colleague, Murray, like to take long walks on campus clad in their abbreviated academic robes with their hands clasped behind their backs, European style.  One of our number compared this part of the novel to the Beeb 2’s “A Trip to Spain” series in which a pair of Brits walk about Spain and sample various foods while discussing philosophy and putting one another down.   At least the Brits got a good meal out of it.

Jack invented the Hitler Studies program for the college and is hosting an international meeting of Hitler scholars. Much is made of his ignorance of the German language and his attempts to cover it up. Other colleagues are devoting their scholarship to studying car crashes in movies and the importance of Elvis.

DeLillo is not finished with the Germans. Failing to completely carry out his plan to murder his wife’s lover, he loads the  gut-shot lover up in a car and takes him to an infirmary run by a nameless order of German nuns laboring under a picture of JFK holding hands with Pope John XIII in heaven. The nuns are nun-believers but their obligation is to pretend that there is a God because “Hell is when no one believes.” This caused us to think about KV’s formulation: “We are what we pretend to be.” Does a belief in religion make it easier for us to accept that we are all going to die? Talk amongst yourselves.

KV also liked to say that humans are “dancing animals” and he always seemed to find some joy in his dystopias. There is little joy in this book.  We tried to put this 32 year old novel into a modern context realizing that the world wide web was in its infancy in 1985 and people communicated via snail mail or ephemeral phone conversations. Now social interactions are preserved forever and everyone thinks they know everything. So much noise becomes like no noise. We talked about working in offices dominated by wall-less systems furniture and how dehumanizing that is.

Another similarity to KV’s novels is the open architecture of “White Noise.”
Many plot lines are opened up, but nothing ever seems to get resolved. There is a gesture toward community, however. In the beginning of the novel there is the long-standing ritual of move-in day at the college with a cortege of station wagons. At the end of the novel, the community silently assembles on an overpass to watch the sun gloriously set in the polluted toxic atmosphere.

Perhaps white noise is nothing more than the diversions that fill up our lives. Our fears of death are drowned out by consumerism, the media, sex, our complicated familial relations, and whatever is happening now.

“White Noise” received the National Book Award and made the reading list of several compendiums of the best in American fiction. But,
the book was not very well received here and two of our number could not summon the energy to finish it. We gave it a rather low 7.0 rating on the infallible Kurt Vonnegut ten point scale.

Afterwards, we all went to the legendary John’s Famous Stew, 1146 Kentucky Avenue, where the tatted waitress tried to force all of the “first-timers” to order the stew. Next book: on 9/28/17 we will discuss George Orwell’s 1949 dystopian novel “Nineteen Eighty Four.” Bill Briscoe will try to keep us on track.

Dave Young

Plot Summary (from goodreads.com):

White Noise tells the story of the Gladney family — Jack, Babette, and their four kids (two by previous marriages) — as they come to terms with their own fears and desires, with the strangeness of contemporary American culture, and with the omnipresence of death and catastrophe. As the main characters go about their daily lives, characterized by all the trivialities of a consumerist society, they also confront the major philosophical and social concerns of the modern era.

In part I (“Waves and Radiation”), we get to know who we are dealing with. Not much actually happens in this section, in terms of plot, but it prepares us for what follows. Jack Gladney, the first-person narrator, is founder and chairman of the Hitler Studies department at the fictional College-on-the-Hill. His colleagues, Murray Jay Siskind, who specializes in Elvis Presley, and Alphonse Stompanato, head of the college’s popular culture department, resemble Jack in their fascination with contemporary culture. But the real focus is Jack’s family. He and Babette, his fourth wife, could be almost any other American couple coping with the usual trials of parenthood and professional anxiety, but the family is undeniably unique, even a bit strange. Babette is concerned that Jack’s son Heinrich might become a mass murderer; Babette’s daughter Steffie is fascinated with health and medication; Jack finds some strange pills that Babette has been taking. The Gladney parents grapple almost obsessively with the idea of death, wondering who will die first, and whether it would actually be better to be the first to go. Part one, in other words, has introduced us to the novel’s major themes: consumerism, disaster, love, death.

In Part Two (“The Airborne Toxic Event”), a train derails and releases an enormous, noxious cloud that slowly drifts over the area, forcing an evacuation of local residents. Hundreds of families get in their cars and crowd the roads, trying to flee, as the government sends in helicopters and a SIMUVAC team in attempt to restore order. The Gladneys, confused and distressed by the calamity (with the possible exception of Heinrich, who seems to thrive on the intellectual excitement of it all), are eventually quarantined for nine days with the other families in an army barracks. It turns out that Jack has been exposed to the black cloud — identified as the lethal chemical Nyodene D. — but no one knows how long he has to live or how his life might be affected. One of the symptoms is reported to be déjà vu.

The third section (“Dylarama”) deals with the aftermath of the Airborne Toxic Event and with the more personal disasters that Jack and Babette confront in their own marriage. Jack makes two discoveries: first, that Babette has been taking Dylar, an experimental drug designed to stave off the fear of death, and second, that she has been having an affair with the scientist, Willie Mink, who has been developing the pill. Jack conceives the plan of murdering Mink, drives out to the motel where the scientist is staying, confronts him, shoots him, and then, in an act of mercy and compassion, drives him to the hospital. The novel then closes with a series of images and vignettes that are thematically significant but do not really resolve anything: the young boy Wilder pedaling his tricycle across the expressway, families coming out to watch a spectacular sunset, Jack avoiding his over-curious doctor, people in a supermarket confused by the rearranged shelves.
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