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Ultimate Frankenstein

Aug. 15, 2017
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In his introduction to The New Annotated Frankenstein (Liveright), horror movie master Guillermo del Toro says this book “may very well be the best presentation of the novel” to date. Editor Leslie S. Klinger, meanwhile, reflects on Frankenstein’s original author: “Remarkably, a 19-year-old, writing her first novel, penned a tale that combines tragedy, morality, social commentary and a thoughtful examination of the very nature of knowledge.”

If you think you know the story of Frankenstein inside and out from a lifetime of movies and late-night TV watching, you’re in for a surprise. In fact, even if you’ve gone so far as to read Mary Shelley’s original horror story at some point (high school lit class?), you’re still missing something. This book has it all, for, in its pages, Klinger revisits Shelley’s dark masterpiece by reproducing her original (1818) text alongside lavish illustrations and thorough annotation. There are more than 200 illustrations copious notes and references, this splendid book—kind of a Frankenstein compendium—captures Shelley’s early-19th-century world with great precision and imagination.

The photos take us to places referenced in Frankenstein; drawings of the monster in the eyes of Shelley’s contemporaries vividly depict for us how she fired the literary and artistic imagination; finally, in the book’s last pages, there is a collection of more contemporary takes on Shelley’s monster—from serious horror comics to classic horror films starring Boris Karloff to Fred Gwynne’s loveably oafish Herman Munster. As del Toro aptly puts it, Mary Shelley—breaking ground for women and for the whole of the literary world—“with a rebellious scream, gave birth to a world of gods and monsters.”

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