This is a place holder until I get the real skinny on our last meeting which I missed because I was in Chicago! The group met on September 27, 2018 to discuss “The Color Purple” a 1985 novel by Alice Walker.  John Sturman led the discussion.   I think that the meeting took place at the Vonnegut Room in the Atheneum because neither the law firm or the KV Memorial Library could find space for us.  Not a good sign.   [update 10/3/18]   Briscoe advised me that the Vonnegut Room was not available but that another venue in the Atheneum was arranged.  Lunch was served.  The great minds attending voted this epistolary novel an “8” on the fabulous Vonnegut 10 point scale. Our next meeting will be on Thursday, October 25, 2018, at 11AM.  Not sure where we will meet.    Karen Lystra will help us get through Thomas Childer’s “The Soldier from the War Returning”   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.

Seven of us appeared on this beautiful August day to discuss Tom Wolfe’s 2004 novel “I Am Charlotte Simmons.”  All claimed to have read the 676 page tome whose driving narrative kept the leaves turning.  Fritz Hadley,  Janet Penwell, Phil Watts,  Kathleen Angelone, John Hawn and Bill Briscoe joined in the fun while Dave Young tried to keep the conversation on track.  Celia, Karen, and John sents regrets that they wouldn’t be able to show.

The seventy-something Tom Wolfe, Master of the New Journalism, descended on Duke (rendered as Dupont in the Novel)  University, to gather material for his third novel “I Am Charlotte Simmons”  sometime early in the 21st Century.  It is a daunting task for someone from an older generation to penetrate the mind of the 18 to 22 year old set with its ever new language, mores, politics, and orientation toward race and sex.    Wolfe does a pretty good job of weaving the freshman Charlotte’s search for identity as she traverses the space from a cultural backwater in the Appalachian mountains to a “sophisticated” top-ranked urban university.  He weaves satirical subplots involving Division I basketball at the highest level, Greek life,  the professoriat,  and the notorious “Skullfuck” which was an incident in which two frat rats observed a prominent politician receiving head from an undergrad female, the possible basis for a blackmail attempt.  Wolfe is known for his sharp observation of social and cultural trends and his tendency to use artistic license to the fullest in exaggerating them.

Had not Wolfe been a Southern Gentleman,  he might well have called the book “The Night of the Skullfuck”  because that sex act is the McGuffin that resolves all of the subplots.  This was not an easy topic for our mixed-gender senior citizen group to deal with.  The discussion went off in tangents as most of us preferred to remenisce about our college days in the fifties and sixties.  Although everyone seems to have read every page, we did not fully address the novel.

Most of Wolfe’s non-fiction and fiction centers on males and hyper-masculinity.  His breakthrough 1965  collection of essays “The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby” dealt with the culture of custom car builders.  “An excellent book by a genius” blurbed our very own Kurt Vonnegut.  “The Right Stuff” examined the heroic world of astronauts.

“Bonfire of the Vanities”  described the humiliation of the Master of the Universe bond trader,  Sherman McCoy who is caught up in the racial morass of NYC..  “A Man in Full” satirizes Atlanta high society and the downfall of a powerful real estate broker in a city rife with racial tension.  “Back to Blood,”  his final novel, was described by some wit as  “Bonfire of the Vanities with Boats.”   Plotting in this novel is very complicated as a hyper-male Cuban in the Miami Police Department does his best to maintain Cuban superiority over the rising tide of Black resentment.

So, Charlotte may seem to be a departure or maybe some left-handed tribute to his daughter who did attend Duke University.  Nevertheless, the book devotes considerable attention to the three main male student characters,  Hoyt, Adam, and JoJo.   They, in a less introspective way,  are also trying to find out who they are and where they are going.  Self esteem rises and falls like a yoyo.   Hoyt, the hot fraternity stud who deflowered Charlotte, looks forward despite his horrible grades to a future as an investment banker (Hello, Sherman McCoy) based on a job offer. The offer was made so he would keep his mouth shut about the skullfuck.  This job offer disappears after Adam,  a nerd who lusts for Charlotte but is rejected because of his self-pity (he thinks he will lose out on a Rhodes Scholarship because of a plagarism charge) writes a story for the campus newspaper exposing the skullfuck.  Hoyt will probably be saved by his wealthy fraternity connections.    Adam, who also works as a tutor to JoJo, the only white starter of the championship Dupont basketball team, is in deep shit because a twerpy history prof who hates athletes has discovered that JoJo submitted a course paper totally written by Adam.  JoJo, who had assumed he would be a high NBA draft pick, is almost destroyed to learn that a charge of plagarism could end his career.  He vows to take his studies seriously despite the ridicule of his coach and teammates.  All is resolved when the nasty prof drops his charge because he hates the politician Adam exposed more than he hates Dupont athletes.

Charlotte, who shares a French class with JoJo,  encourages and inspires him and, pushing all of the groupies aside, he falls in love with her.  The attention she receives from males does not go unnoticed by the sisters of the fancy sororities on campus.  One of them, the “Douches” (Bill stepped in to say that the name had nothing to do with his beloved Delta Upsilon) who had disdained the poor scholarship kid from Appalachia even invited her to participate in rush. The novel ends with Charlotte sitting behind the Dupont Basketball team bench toward the end of an undefeated season.  She came to Dupont with the highest expectations, hoping to live the life of the mind.   She has no interest in basketball, but finds herself clapping the team on.  Wolfe leaves it at that but she seems to be on the path to becoming an NBA wife.  It has become more important to her to become accepted than to become an intellectual.   So delightfully complicated.

Like Vonnegut,  Wolfe was commercially successful but never fully accepted by the writing community and not at all by the academic critics.  But no one denies that he is not a compelling writer whose caustic observations and keen plotting keep the pages turning.   This is entertainment, not literature, they say; a comic book and not a novel.   Three of his contemporaries, Normal Mailer, John Irving, and John Updike railed against him and he shot back calling them “The Three Stooges.”  

One of our number found some problems in his send up of college basketball but the new journalist is always looking for a greater truth than that found in mere facts.  Wolfe can be surprisingly sloppy at times and his tangential explorations of history, philosophy, mind-body dualism and so forth can be a little sophmoric.  He also seems to lose patience with his own writing at times when he allows the narrator to step in and tell us what the characters are up to.    Nevertheless an enjoyable read.

We gave this interesting book an 8.7 on the fabulous KV ten point scale.  The five guys left to lunch at the 100 year old Working Man’s Friend Tavern (In Haughville where Belmont Avenue crosses the Big 4 Railroad Tracks) and added a little more to the discussion.

Our next meeting will be at 11AM on September 27, 2018  when we gather at the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library to discuss Alice Walker’s 1985 Novel “The Color Purple.”   John Sturman will help us through.  Please join us, even if you haven’t completed the book!

Dave Young

From: WikiPedia (excerpt)

I am Charlotte Simmons is a 2004 novel by Tom Wolfe, concerning sexual and status relationships at the fictional Dupont University. Wolfe researched the novel by talking to students at North Carolina, Florida, Penn, Duke, Stanford, and Michigan. Wolfe suggested it depicts the American university today at a fictional college that is “Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, Duke, and a few other places all rolled into one.”[1]

In May 2008, music video director Liz Friedlander was signed to direct a movie adaptation; the project remains in development.[2]


I am Charlotte Simmons is the story of college student Charlotte Simmons’s first semester-and-a-half at the prestigious Dupont University. A high school graduate from a poverty-stricken rural town, her intelligence and hard work at school have been rewarded with a full scholarship to Dupont.

As Charlotte prepares to say goodbye to her family and leave for college, an event happens at Dupont that will play an important role in her future. Hoyt Thorpe, member of the exclusive and powerful fraternity Saint Ray, and fellow frat brother Vance, stumble upon an unnamed California Republican governor (who was at the college to speak at the school’s commencement ceremony) receiving oral sex from a female college student. When the governor’s bodyguard spots the two fraternity members, a fight ensues with Hoyt and Vance beating up the bodyguard and fleeing. The story of the night soon spreads across campus, increasing Hoyt’s popularity.

Charlotte arrives at Dupont in the fall. Her roommate is wealthy Beverly, the daughter of the CEO of a huge multinational insurance company. She is obsessed with sex, in particular with members of the school’s lacrosse team.

Jojo Johanssen is a white athlete on the college’s predominantly black basketball team. He is struggling to keep his position because the school recently recruited an up-and-coming black freshman player, and the coach wants to bench Jojo in his senior year. This would severely hurt Jojo’s chances of playing in “the league” (the NBA).

Jojo enjoys the spoils of being a college athlete, such as using a tutor program to force other students to complete his school assignments. Jojo’s “tutor” Adam Gellin is, like Charlotte, from a working-class background. Adam writes for the college’s independent newspaper and is a member of the “Millennial Mutants,” a group of like-minded intellectuals who oppose the anti-intellectualism and class snobbery they see in their fellow students.

Charlotte and Adam first meet at the university’s computer lab, where Adam is to write a paper for Jojo. Charlotte does not back down when Adam insists that he needs the computer more than she does. Adam is instantly smitten.

Charlotte finds herself dealing with the sexual temptations of college life, culminating in her hooking up with Hoyt, who tells Charlotte of catching California’s governor receiving oral sex from a college student. He also tells Charlotte he knows that Adam Gellin has begun investigating the incident and how, at the behest of the governor a large Wall Street firm has offered him (Hoyt) a high-paying entry-level job in exchange for his silence. (The firm, Pierce & Pierce, is the name of the one that Sherman McCoy works for in Wolfe’s earlier novel, The Bonfire of the Vanities.)

Hoyt and Charlotte attend an important fraternity formal together, after which Hoyt takes full advantage of a drunken Charlotte, seducing her into giving up her virginity to him. The following morning, Charlotte is dumped by Hoyt. She is further humiliated when she returns to campus and discovers that Hoyt’s seduction and rejection has been made public via two girls Charlotte had previously befriended. The two cruelly mock Charlotte, both over her poverty-stricken background, and for how she drunkenly lost her virginity.

This drives Charlotte into a depression and eventually into the arms of Adam, who has wanted Charlotte for her beauty, innocence, and intellect since they first met. Charlotte finally emerges from her depression but finds that she has received terrible grades (B, B-, C-, D) for her first semester at Dupont.

As Adam prepares to publish his article, his world collides with Jojo Johanssen’s when a paper that Adam wrote for the athlete is accused of being plagiarized. Jojo, who treats Adam as beneath him socially, denies the plagiarism charge and protects the athletic department’s perversion of the athlete/tutor program from being exposed.

Jojo has begun to transform himself academically from a stereotypical “dumb jock” into a student who takes his academics seriously and even develops an interest in philosophy (partly as a result of Charlotte’s influence). Jerome Quat, Jojo’s professor, confronts Adam about the plagiarized paper and shows sympathy toward him in a college dominated by students obsessed with sports and sex. However, when Adam confesses to having written the paper for Jojo, the professor double-crosses him. He will sacrifice Adam in order to bring down the basketball program, which has circled the wagons to protect Jojo.

This devastates Adam, who breaks down and needs Charlotte to take care of him as he waits to be formally charged with cheating. In the meantime, Adam’s article on “The Night of the Skullfuck” is published. The sordid details of sex, violence, bribery, and a high-profile political figure cause it to be picked up by the national media. The governor’s Presidential ambitions are potentially ruined, and the job offer/bribe made to Hoyt is revoked, effectively shattering Hoyt’s life.

Hoyt now faces a post-graduation judgment day, with his family’s life savings exhausted in order to pay for his college education, and a college transcript with such bad grades that will effectively keep him from getting a job as an investment banker. Jojo’s and Adam’s necks are saved, as the liberal college professor decides to drop the entire plagiarism complaint so as to avoid undercutting Adam’s credibility in destroying the conservative governor’s political career.

Adam’s self-esteem restored, he begins to bask in the glow as the student who brought down a governor. Adam and Charlotte drift apart and she begins to date Jojo, who keeps his position as a starter on the team. Charlotte ascends to the envied position of girlfriend of a star athlete.

Charlotte now reflects upon her first semester with an elitist view, looking down at her former friends and at Hoyt, who casually threw her away. She no longer feels intellectualism is what is most important to her — rather it is being a person recognized as special, regardless of the reason.

Major themes

The book develops themes Wolfe introduces in the title essay from his book Hooking Up. The novel centers on Charlotte, a naive new student at Dupont University, a school boasting a top-ranked basketball program and an Ivy League academic reputation. Despite Dupont’s elite status, in the minds of its students, sex, alcohol, and social status rule the day. The student culture is focused upon gaining material wealth, physical pleasure, and a well-placed social status; academics are only important insofar as they help achieve these goals.

Wolfe took the name “Dupont University” from Dupont Hall, one of the halls where classes are held at his alma mater, Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. The school discussed in the book appears to be an amalgamation of several elite universities. Wolfe denies that the book is fully based on Duke, from which his daughter Alexandra graduated in 2002.

The fictional “St. Ray’s” fraternity is most certainly based upon University of Pennsylvania‘s St. Anthony Hall, or “St. A’s,” where Wolfe attended several events researching for the book, “St. A’s” being on Penn’s Locust Walk, with fictional “St. Ray’s” residing on Wolfe’s “Ladding Walk.” [3]

The basketball star, Jojo Johanssen, is a jock/celebrity character, derived from colleges like the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Kentucky, Duke, Stanford, Indiana University and the University of Florida, where, in Wolfe’s perception, student athletes are treated as superior. At the time of publication, J. J. Redick was a prominent white basketball player at Duke University. There is also a reference in the book to a freshman dormitory “Giles”, which is an actual freshman dorm at Duke University.

Besides college life, athletics, and youth sex culture, another major theme that also began in Hooking Up is Tom Wolfe’s interest in neuroscience, specifically the relationship between brain chemistry and free will. Simmons is exposed to questions about inevitability and genetics by her professor Dr. Victor Ransome Starling. In the context of the book, questions of free will are posed by the characters various dramas as Charlotte decides whether or not she will adopt the sexual norms of campus life and Johanssen attempts to become a better student and more disciplined person generally. Interestingly, despite the main characters seemingly confirming the science of inevitability, two side characters (Adam Gellin and Hoyt) are both altered considerably by a chance encounter with a presidential candidate.[4]


Reviewer Jacob Weisberg of The New York Times wrote “Wolfe is always showing us something we haven’t quite noticed. But after three thick novels and a novella (surely he will never write a short story), the issue remains: Why does a writer whose ambitions are so fundamentally journalistic insist on processing his reportage into fiction? You may never put down a Tom Wolfe novel. But you never reread one, either.”[5]

London-based Literary Review gave Wolfe its 2004 Bad Sex in Fiction Award, an “honor” established “to draw attention to the crude, tasteless, often perfunctory use of redundant passages of sexual description in the modern novel”, for his writing in I am Charlotte Simmons.[6]

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.

Our determined little book club soldiered on with John Hawn, Phil Watts, Mark Hudson, Bill Briscoe, and Dave Young.   Janet Penwell led us through a posthumous (2011) collection of KV’s Short Stories, “While Mortals Sleep.”   We previously read this work in March, 2012.

If you are a short story writer and no magazine wants to buy your stuff, what do you do? In the 1950’s and 60’s KV made a decent living selling such stories to mass circulation magazines until that market dried up. He was left with several stories that didn’t sell including the sixteen that ended up in “While Mortals Sleep.” No fool when it came to marketing, KV ultimately packaged these turkeys with better stuff and sold it all as archival material to the Indiana University Library.

There isn’t much point in going through our discussion of each of these stories. A few of us liked some of the stories, but the overall reaction was “forgettable,” “creepy,” and “outdated.”  These stories have more of an emphasis on women than we are accustomed to in KV’s work.  That may have been because women were more likely to follow the mass magazines than men. His treatment of women was condescending by today’s standards and his stories are even less likely to be published today than they were 60 years ago. I have attached a favorable review which will give you the flavor of some of the stories.

The title story “When Mortals Sleep” (from lyrics to “O Little Town of Bethlehem” – “While Mortals Sleep, the angels keep their watch of wondering love”) is social commentary on what a travesty the observance of Christmas in America has become. Some of us were chilled when on page 125 (Dial Press) the cynical newspaper editor, observing that the news was slow, says  “It’s about time somebody was running beserk with an automatic shotgun in a kindergarten, isn’t it.”   Such thoughts used to be unthinkable.

About the only pleasure a hard core KV fan can extract from this compendium is the observation of KV’s craft. He is well known for setting the famous “mousetrap” which catches the reader by surprise. Unfortunately, in many of these stories the end comes rather abruptly without shedding any light. We cynically assumed that KV had run up to the limit of the word count that a prospective publisher would pay for and dropped the story then and there. Nevertheless, these stories were not found in a shoebox under his bed post mortem and we must assume that he deemed them complete before he included them with his archival material.

We gave this work a rather tepid 6.3 rating on the vaunted KV ten-point scale and the five guys then split for a hearty lunch at Acapulco Joe’s, a mere two blocks away from the Library.

On August 23, 2018, Dave Young will lead a discussion on Tom Wolfe’s 2004 Novel “I Am Charlotte Simmons” at the KV Memorial Library.  Please join us at 11AM for 90 minutes of patter and, if you so choose, a chatty lunch afterwards.

Dave Young


from: Wikipedia

While Mortals Sleep is a collection of sixteen previously unpublished short stories by Kurt Vonnegut, released on January 25, 2011. It is the third posthumously published Kurt Vonnegut book, the first being Armageddon in Retrospect, the second being Look at the Birdie.[1] The book begins with a foreword by Dave Eggers. Illustrations by Vonnegut himself appear throughout.[2]
1 “Jenny”
2 “The Epizootic”
3 “Hundred-Dollar Kisses”
4 “Guardian of the Person”
5 “With His Hand on the Throttle”
6 “Girl Pool”
7 “Ruth”
8 “While Mortals Sleep”
9 “Out, Brief Candle”
10 “Tango”
11 “Bomar”
12 “The Man Without No Kiddleys”
13 “Mr. Z”
14 “$10,000 a Year, Easy”
15 “Money Talks”
16 “The Humbugs”
From: The Washington Times Book Review

BOOK REVIEW: ‘While Mortals Sleep’
By Claire Hopley – The Washington Times – Friday, April 1, 2011
By Kurt Vonnegut
Delacorte Press, $27, 272 pages

Until the 1950s, and even on up into the ‘60s and early ‘70s, a young unknown could sell a short story to a national magazine such as the Saturday Evening Post or Collier’s and get $750 or even $1,000 for it. For many, the first acceptance was a hallelujah moment: Writers such as Kurt Vonnegut gave up day jobs and relied on short stories for ready cash until a breakthrough novel catapulted them onto the literary scene.

In Vonnegut’s case, it was his 1963 best-seller “Cat’s Cradle” that did the trick. After that, and especially after “Slaughterhouse-Five” in 1969, he was a literary luminary until his death in 2007. But, his fame notwithstanding, many of his early short stories have never been published. In 2009, “Look at the Birdie” partially righted that. Now, a second volume, “While Mortals Sleep” presents another 16 stories.

They are old-fashioned tales: In his introduction, Dave Eggers calls them “mousetrap stories.” Their gotcha endings, often involving a twist, invariably leave readers with a lesson. The characters might also learn something, though often they are too set in their ways to apprehend their lives afresh. The title story is a good example. It’s a Christmas tale set in a Midwestern town, where the local newspaper runs an annual competition for the house with the most inventive set of Christmas lights.
The take-no-hostages city editor, Fred Hackleman, has no patience for this or any other Christmas celebration and, as the junior reporter assigned to the job of judging them discovers, cannot be moved, by either the most elaborate display or, apparently, the most affecting. He’s a hard man, and readers have no trouble realizing that they should neither be hard nor forget the real meaning of Christmas.

This story has everything it needs to become a Christmas classic: sharply drawn stock characters, including a curmudgeon, an ingenious ex-con and an ingenue reporter; imaginative and vividly drawn scenes; and, of course, a famous author. But with the exception of the latter – Vonnegut’s name – none of these would get it published today. The characters are simplified, and even the evocative descriptions would be unlikely to swing an editor in its favor. And the ending: It is definitely too sentimental, too moralistic and, frankly, too pat to satisfy the contemporary taste for the haunting, fine-tuned, short stories that are now standard.

Other stories in this volume share similar qualities. “With His Hand on the Throttle” tells of Hotbox Harrison, a successful young owner of a construction company “insistently at the center of any gathering.” He gets his jollies from his HO-scale trains in his basement, delighted to have “this much of the universe precisely where he would have it, under his thumb.” He’s always promising to take his young wife out, but it never happens. Even when his mother launches a pre-emptive wake-up call, he turns it to his own purposes.

Unwillingness to change is often the road to disaster. In “Jenny,” a brilliant engineer designs a fridge called Jenny. It has a foam-rubber face, and it can speak and move. By taking Jenny on the road and putting her through her amazing paces, he becomes his company’s ace salesman. But his obsession with electronics has limited his life and doomed his marriage.

Implicitly, these stories are a critique of the post-World War II syndrome of a working dad consumed by his job and a neglected or harried stay-at-home mom. The logical result of this system – now somewhat changed but still thriving – is described in “The Epizootic.” A smart insurance executive puzzles over the huge number of youngish men who commit suicide, leaving their widows and children well provided for by their life insurance.
Pondering the causes of this suicide craze, he sees that the proceeds of a life insurance policy may be the very best men can offer in a world in which they are judged – and judge themselves – by how much money they earn for their families.

The sadness at the center of these stories is that they are about loneliness usually created by some form of tunnel vision that withers the heart. Living a fantasy is just as limiting, as we see in “Hundred Dollar Kisses,” in which Verne Petrie claims he’d give $100 to kiss one of the sexy girls flaunted in soft-porn magazines, despite having a wife and children at home. More affectingly, in “Out, Brief Candle,” the widowed Annie Cowper confides in a pen pal, as he does with her. Soon, she is convinced that they are made for each other, but when she travels to find him in Schenectady, N.Y., she meets only tragedy.

At the end of this bittersweet tale, readers know a lot more about the pen pal than Annie does. Indeed, Vonnegut always makes absolutely certain that readers know where they stand. His stories appeal to our better selves, generally delivering wake-up calls. To respond to them is to feel good, and that was the charm of such tales in the heyday of the magazines that published them.
Today, they seem distinctly outmoded. Nonetheless, their taut telling, satiric zing and, yes, even those tidy endings often give them power. Scholars and other fans of Vonnegut’s work will applaud their publication – though they will wish that there were some notes indicating when he wrote each one and when he drew the line drawings that accompany them so effectively.
Claire Hopley is a writer and editor in Amherst, Mass.

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.

Mark Hudson, Janet Pennwell, John Hawn, Celia Latz, Dave Young, Bill Briscoe, Janet Hodgkin, Jay Carr, and Phil Watts showed up at the KV Memoral Library to discuss KV’s 1982 novel “Dead Eye Dick” on this beautiful summer day in downtown Indianapolis. John Sturman was going to lead the discussion but found something better to do in Southern California so we just winged it for ninety minutes. This is our second reading of “Dead Eye Dick.” Our first reading was in August, 2011 and Bill celebrated that occasion by bringing in some “Polka Dot Brownies” following KV’s recipe in Chapter 27. Our tummies remained empty for this outing.

Bill got us rolling with a long catalog of similarities between KV and his protagonist, Rudy Waltz. It sounded pretty good until sex raised its ugly head. Rudy was an incel who was apparently unable to consumate a sexual relationship with a female partner. KV did not appear to have that problem.

Much was made of what one reviewer called KV’s “intolerable cuteness.” His repetitive use of the opening and closing of the “peephole” to signify the beginning and end of life on earth was a little tiresome. Maybe the peephole ties into KV’s fascination with the sphincter. Other devices he used throughout were food recipes (Rudy became the family cook) which KV warns should not be tried at home and short playlets (Rudy wrote one miserable stageplay which by some coincidence had a one night stand in Manhatttan).

1982 was a rough year for KV. Never a very happy camper, he was depressed and was only two years away from attempting to do himself in with pills and alcohol. His second marriage was not going well and he probaby sensed that he had passed the peak of his creative output. That depression comes through in this dark comedy. Life is meaningless and the good and bad things that happen are more random than the result of purposeful action. The comic relief comes early when KV writes about Rudy’s father’s friendship with Hitler in Vienna before WWI. We are left to speculate how History would have unfolded if Otto Waltz had not bailed out the starving Hitler by purchasing one of his architectural studies. They maintained contact until the Anschluss in 1938 when all good German-Americans had to forget that they ever had good thoughts about that crazy Austrian.

The autobiographical touchpoints between KV and Rudy are too numerous to mention in this short piece, but family relationships drive both characters. Both sets of parents were ineffective and largely non-productive. KV’s folks were driven from their luxe life by prohibition and then the depression while Rudy’s were bankrupted by the civil suit following Rudy’s homicidal recklessness with a military weapon. Both had fathers who insisted they pursue careers in science rather than follow their inclination to become writers and both had older brothers who became successful in New York. Rudy and his brother did recoup some of the family fortune later in their lives when they sued the manufacturer of a radioactive fireplace mantel in the family home. Their mom liked to hang around the fireplace and the radiation finally killed her. Rudy and Felix used the proceeds to buy a hotel in Haiti where they apparently lived the rest of their lives. Karma meets VooDoo.

Rudy had no sister, but KV had Alice. Tall, beautiful, talented and five years older, she became his muse. All of his writing was inspired by and was for her, he said. Her death in 1958 affected him down to his roots. We talked a little about the characterization of women in his novels. They seem to come across as flat and uninteresting. He never bothers to flesh them out. So it went with Celia, the high school beauty queen from the wrong side of the tracks who married the town’s Pontiac dealer, became a heroin addict and committed suicide with a Drano cocktail.

Many of the topics KV touched on 36 years ago are still relevant today. The locus of the novel is Midland City, Ohio an upper-Appalachian hell-hole somewhere in southwestern Ohio. This is the area that has been recently worked over by J.D. Vance and Donald Ray Pollock. Opiate addiction and inbreeding were common then as they are today. Somethings don’t change.

The people of Midland City were annihilated by a neutron bomb that only bothered living organisms. The government was planning to move refugees into the undisturbed buildings. The local deplorables were invested in a conspiracy theory holding that the government had destroyed Midland City on purpose as an experiment and not by accident as had been claimed.

After some lamentation about the sad state of our struggling body politic, we were redirected by Jay to a recent book by Gregg Easterday. “It’s Better Than it Looks:  Reasons for Optimism in an Age of Fear.” Our nation has survived an incredibly brutal civil war, two world wars, a crippling depression, numerous epidemics and health scares, so perhaps the incivilities forced upon us by the media and our politicians are not so bad, after all.

We gave this somewhat sad novel an 8.2 rating on the vaunted KV 10.0 Scale. The last time we tackled this book (in August 2011) it only rated a 6.75 so we concluded that KV’s novels read better the second time around.

I have attached below a brief plot summary from Wikipedia and also a rather lengthy contemporaneous book review from the New York Times by Benjamin Demotte, a university teacher who attempts to give this work some perspective and to explain why KV has such an appeal to young readers and to those who re-read him later in life.

Bill and I couldn’t convince anyone else to lunch with us so we repaired to that 100 year old bar The Workingman’s Friend, 234 N. Belmont, in downtown Haughville for their famous double cheeseburger and pork tenderloin sandwiches.

We will next meet at 11AM on Thursday July 26, 2018, when Janet Pennwell will lead us through KV’s posthumous (2011) collection of sixteen short stories “While Mortals Sleep.”
Come join us at the Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library.

Dave Young

Plot Summary from Wikipedia:

The novel’s main character, Rudy Waltz, nicknamed Deadeye Dick, commits accidental manslaughter as a child (he kills a pregnant woman who was vacuuming) and lives his whole life feeling guilty and seeking forgiveness for it. He was so traumatized by the events directly after the woman’s death that he lives life as an asexual “neuter,” neither homosexual nor heterosexual. He tells the story of his life as a middle-aged man expatriate in Haiti, which symbolizes New York City, until the end, when the stream of time of the story catches up with him. At this point, he confronts an event that has been suggested and referred to throughout the novel. The generic Midwestern town of Midland City, Ohio (also the setting of Breakfast of Champions) in which Rudy was raised is virtually destroyed by a neutron bomb. At the ending of the book, it appears that Rudy, while he may not have fully come to terms with his actions, has at least come to live with them. In addition, the ending is where Vonnegut provides his most direct commentary on society, although there are hints here and there throughout the novel.

Another key theme throughout the book is the relationship between Waltz and his parents. Vonnegut focuses on connecting the actions and attitudes of parents to the ensuing actions and attitudes of the offspring, in this case, Rudy Waltz. Rudy writes a play, based on events in the life of his father’s former best friend. In the latter half of the book some scenes are described as theater scripts. ************end**********

Deadeye Dick
Reviewed BENJAMIN DeMOTT, OCT. 17, 1982

”DEADEYE DICK” is the life story, told by himself, of one Rudolph Waltz, born in Midland City, Ohio, in 1932 and now residing in Portau-Prince, Haiti, where he’s the chef and co-owner (with his older brother) of a well-known hotel. Like many other books from the pen that brought us ”Jailbird,” ”Slapstick” and ”Welcome to the Monkey House,” it’s a riot of randomness. At age 12 young Rudy, schoolboy, fires off an unaimed round from a rifle belonging to his father’s gun collection and accidentally kills a pregnant woman named Eloise Metzger, who’s vacuuming her living room several blocks away when hit. Jailed for the deed, both Rudy and his eccentric father are viciously beaten by the police. (The cops bathe Rudy in ink and display him in a cage to selected visitors, who are encouraged to punch him out a little: ”I was regional theater.”) Lawsuits from the bereaved Mr. Metzger ruin the Waltz family financially (Rudy’s father is heir to a drugstore chain fortune), and Midland Cityites bestow a mocking nickname on Rudy – the nickname that gives this work its title.
Act Two: Released from prison into adolescence and early manhood, Rudy confronts unique problems of career choice. He himself likes to cook, but his high school English teacher believes Rudy is a literary genius and pushes him to become a professional writer. Rudy’s farout father, Otto, is opposed. Blaming his own parents for forcing him into a career in the arts he didn’t want and heedless of the possibility that his son might want such a career, Otto insists that Rudy ignore his English teacher and take up business. (Wisdom isn’t Otto’s suit: Vain of his gifts as a gun safety instructor, he regularly boasted – before the shooting accident – that ”my boys will never have a shooting accident . . . because their respect for weapons has become a part of their nervous systems.”) Rudy earns a degree in pharmacology at Ohio State and cooks for his parents at home (this book includes recipes). Then Rudy works at night at Schramm’s Drugstore and completes a play in the daytime that wins a foundation prize and flops on Broadway. (A defect of the play is that a key character repeats the line ”Nobody dies in Shangri-La” 17 times.)
Comes midlife. Rudy relocates to Haiti, where he cooks and has a circle of intimates that includes his brother and a Haitian adept at raising the dead. More recipes are presented, but disasters keep looming. An Ohio blizzard kills Rudy’s parents. An explosion, possibly accidental, of a neutron bomb destroys the population of his hometown. (People think of fencing the bomb site and converting it into a refugee center.) Rudy observes, ”We are still in the Dark Ages. The Dark Ages – they haven’t ended yet.” Fini.
IN my estimate ”Deadeye Dick” is a cut above ”Jailbird,” which I found overly dependent on stale Watergate material and perhaps a cut below this author’s best performances, such as ”Slaughterhouse-Five.” The account of Midland City after the neutron bomb explosion is strongly imagined (at the Holiday Inn all guests have expired, all appliances are Go – phones, television sets, ice-cube makers, the rest). So too is the portrait of the town’s Police Headquarters in the grip of brutal moral outrage. (I especially liked a quiet paragraph in which Rudy remembers Patrolman Squires, right-thinking community protector, working to persuade the terrified, murderous 12-year-old to get another gun and kill himself.) On the other hand, the satirical thrusts struck me as less telling than the splendid assault on altruistic bigots in ”Mother Night,” and no moment of comic invention is as fully realized as the death of the computer in ”Player Piano.”
What will chiefly matter to Vonnegut fans, though, is that the book’s tone, content, arrangements and assumptions nowhere diverge far from this writer’s norms. This means, first, that the hero is sweet and hapless and bears a silly-sounding name. It means that strange folk abound – among them a longtime loyal friend of Hitler’s who is fond of dressing up in ”the scarlet-and-silver uniform of a major in the Hungarian Life Guard, complete with sable busby and panther skin”; an Ohio farmer who, after reading James Hilton’s ”Lost Horizon,” takes off for keeps to Katmandu; an NBC president who, after making the ten-best-dressed-men’s list, has his suits vandalized (hundreds of buttons sliced off) by one of his estranged wives, and an Oberlin graduate who dies at 77, victim of a radioactive mantelpiece.

It means, in addition, that respect for The Authorities is held to a minimum. The initial targets in ”Deadeye Dick,” obviously, are opinionated parents (Rudy’s dad is a nitwit about everything from the Third Reich to how to entertain children) and violence-prone police. But other kinds of lawgiving self-inflaters also come in for review – drug corporation executives who create an age of ”pharmaceutical buffoonery” in the name of progress, Nuclear Regulatory honchos to whom catastrophe teaches only a single lesson (”the most important thing (is) that nobody panic”), colonialists for whom history doesn’t exist. (”It’s a widely accepted principle . . . that you can claim a piece of land which has been inhabited for tens of thousands of years, if only you will repeat this mantra endlessly: ‘We discovered it, we discovered it, we discovered it.’ ”)
The continuity with the author’s past also means that the new Vonnegutisms introduced here harmonize well with those met in earlier books. In ”Deadeye Dick” one isn’t born, one has one’s peephole opened; one doesn’t die, one has one’s peephole closed, after which one becomes what one was before – ”a wisp of undifferentiated nothingness.” (People who detest Vonnegut’s stylistic special effects – ”So it goes” in ”Slaughterhouse-Five” is probably his best-known tag phrase – find them intolerably cute; people less finicky are charmed by the unique quality of resignation they hear in them, and that quality is present in the wisp and peephole routines.)
And, more important than any of this, the grand old Vonnegutian comedy of causelessness still holds center stage. Traditional novelists and traditional people inhabit a world wherein things happen for reasons; they’re forever connecting threads, limning webs of influence and interdependency, shading and lighting, so that in the end the why of this or that momentous event or feeling will blaze across the mind’s sky – AHHhhhh – marvelously incontestable and vivid. (Absurdist novelists abolish feelings altogether.) But Vonnegut lives in a world scrubbed clean of reasons. Why does the child of a gun safety specialist, using a rifle from his father’s collection, emerge as a double murderer? A tough question. Why do human beings take satisfaction in creating a neutron bomb that destroys ”only” human beings, not their accouterments? Another toughie. Why should grief-struck Rudy Waltz, headed for a presumably moving moment at his parents’ graveside, allow his train of thought to light on a certain cookie, whereupon – nod to Proust? – instead of grief we’re provided with a recipe for almond macaroons?
DON’T ask. And don’t mutter, either, about paradox, irony or absurd, incongruous juxtaposition. Such mutterings aren’t apposite. Irony presupposes the existence, somewhere, of a straight road out of irony, and that’s not on Vonnegut’s map. Granted, Rudy Waltz himself buzzes with questions voiced and unvoiced. How come I was 50, he asks, before I inquired into the fates of the surviving members of the Metzger family? Why is it that the surviving Metzger children are named for Eugene Debs and Jane Addams? Why are names funny? How come E. D. Metzger ends up in Greece owning several tankers flying the Liberian flag? How come J. A. Metzger is ”living with a refugee Czech playwright on Molokai, in the Hawaiian Islands, where she (owns) a ranch and (is) raising Arabian horses”? How come the lawyer who sued the Waltzes after the Metzger shooting has a son who is a ”welder in Alaska (after flunking) out of Harvard Law School?” Sentence on sentence, paragraph on paragraph, chapter on chapter, so it goes: a tissue of unanswerables.

But never mind: The good reader knows how to cope. The good reader knows that the mark of a nerd is precisely Rudy Waltz’s faith in the imminence of sound answers. The good reader is aware that the allegedly solid, cause-and-effect, ask-a-good-question-get-a-good-answer world is, in fact, pure scam. Why should Walter F. Starbuck in ”Jailbird,” White House Adviser on Youth Affairs and admirer of the Sermon on the Mount, allow a trunk full of illegal campaign contributions to be hidden in his cellar office? Why can’t Kilgore Trout – in ”God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater” and other Vonnegut works – find a better job than that of a clerk at a green stamp redemption center? Why level a whole living city (”Slaughterhouse-Five”) in the name of Victory?
It’s nerd-ism to ask and nerd-ism to answer; the best course is simply to kick the Q. & A. habit. As everybody knows, Vonnegut has an immense following among the young. ”Mr. Rosewater,” about a bibulous, do-gooding moneybags, was a cult book in the 60’s; memory tells me that many undergraduates knew ”Slaughterhouse-Five” and ”The Sirens of Titan” before the author’s oeuvre was mass marketed in paperback in the early 70’s; ”Jailbird” has sold millions. Twice while I was reading ”Deadeye Dick,” on a late summer airplane, two unrelated, attractive and intelligent strangers in their early 20’s, noticing the author’s name on the cover of the bound galleys, broke in to ask how the book was and to say that Kurt Vonnegut was their favorite author. The secret of this following, according to the standard judgment, lies in the author’s hostility to authority. I disagree. In my opinion the secret lies in a whole congeries of attitudes toward logical explanation – in Vonnegut’s relaxed, contagious, oddly untendentious presentation of doubt that any of us really can locate the causes of which we’re the results.
It takes time on this earth, after all, to live into (that is, to become deluded by and utterly dependent on) a sense that relations are endless, a sense that Step A necessarily leads to Step B, a sense that Divinity, History, The Social Order, and the Terms of Toilet Training called one forth, in one’s 50’s, to be, say, a tenured book-chatterer in the western part of America’s Bay State. The sense of inevitability, in short, is a function of the loss of muscle tone. (For updated evidence of this I’d refer skeptics – if I could do it without violating my fellow passengers’ privacy – to those conversations with the flying Vonnegutians. As our talk moved along from books to school to jobs, what I heard time and again was an easy humorous certainty that all things could be utterly otherwise. Q. Gee, how’d you happen to get into package engineering? A. Well . . . (Chuckle) I started out pre-med and then, etc.)
THE voice of Vonnegut fans, in my experience (in the classroom as well as on the road), tends to be that of people whose life stories to this moment strike the tellers themselves as having no more gravity or resonance than a choice of complimentary beverage. (I’ll have apple juice, thank you.) The young love Vonnegut because he’s in closer touch than most of us with the thinness of the membrane, the insubstantiality of the fabric. He knows what it’s like to search for and fail to find the connective tissue; he’s capable of being simultaneously superior to Rudy Waltz yet tender and inward with the poor soul’s puzzlement.
Vonnegut can also be, of course, something rather less interesting than this. Often the comic poet of weightlessness, the magician who freshens, for a time, in grown-ups, knowledge of the insides of unsettledness, dwindles into a mere fabricator of one-liners. (”I will explain the main symbols in this book,” says the author in a preface and adds, deadpan: ”Haiti is New York City where I live now.”) Often toward the end of his tales he forgets he’s a mystery-multiplier and tries his hand at Explaining All (witness the Dark Ages business at the close of ”Deadeye Dick”). I understand why some critics find Vonnegut vexingly soft on both the cartooning and preaching sides of his nature.
But I know that on some days this very odd writer is good medicine, whatever one’s age: on the day when, for instance, you hear that the shelling hasn’t stopped, or that the liveliest young mind in your acquaintance can’t find work, or that it’s been decided, in the newspapers, that the operations mutilating a loved one are no longer regarded as correct procedures. One reason for this is that Vonnegut’s inexplicables are admirably plain, homely, abundant, up front; there’s no epistemological complication, few philosophical conundrums, just the improbable mess of any probable human week. And the other reason is that there’s no cruelty in the man. He is, evidently, playing; take away the ever-present question (namely, How on earth can you explain this?) and his activities might not be easily distinguishable from those of a child setting up and batting down toy soldiers on a rug. But gloating and meanness are excluded from the game, and the observing eyes are sad, humorous, kind.
I predict that many Vonnegutians will grow up and away from their favorite author. I also predict that, a decade or two after they do so, many will grow back. The old rule applies: As soon as you put on weight on this earth, you discover it makes a kind of sense to lose it.


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]

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.



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: 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
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

Mary Shelley
United Kingdom
Gothic novel, horror fiction, soft science fiction
1 January 1818 (Lackington, Hughes, Harding, Mavor & Jones)

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).


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.
• 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.

“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.

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]

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• Homunculus
• Johann Conrad Dippel
• List of dreams
1 Jump up 
^ Staff writer (1 January 1818). “Books Published This Day” 
. The Times (10342). London, England. p. 4 – via “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) 
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 
^ “” 
. 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 
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 
”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 
^ “” 
. 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 
^ “” 
. Retrieved 28 August 2010.
55 Jump up 
^ “” 
. 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 
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” 
. 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” 
. 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” 
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.
• 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.
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

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

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

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.
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.