Monday, October 24, 2016

31 Days of Halloween - Day 24

The Lady and Her Monsters by Roseanne Montillo

William Morrow. 2013

Subtitled; A Tale of Dissections, Real-Life Dr. Frankensteins, and the Creation of Mary Shelley's Masterpiece, The Lady and Her Monsters not only provides biographical information on Mary Shelley and her circle, but investigates scientific advancements and investigations, such as electricity and galvanism, philosophical questions of the time, volcanic eruptions, and the activities of anatomists and body snatchers that were taking place before and during the time of her writing Frankenstein. The book also relates the legendary events that took place Villa Diodati and led to a ghost story contest and the writing of Shelley's famous novel. While the material is covered in depth in other books, it is nice to have all of the disparate elements brought together between two covers. As the 200th anniversary of the publication of Frankenstein approaches, and 200 years now separates us from the events of Villa Diodati, it's a perfect way to go behind the scenes of the classic novel.


immaterial said...

Hi John -- Have you seen the Brit miniseries The Frankenstein Chronicles, starring Sean Bean? It takes the material covered in that book and turns it into a nicely textured mystery revolving around resurrection men and reanimation, including Mary Shelley and William Blake as characters. If you haven't looked into it, I suspect you would enjoy it. What I would enjoy is for you to return to Xombie/Midnight Mass style comics: you and Richard Sala are my favourite living spooky comics guys.

John Rozum said...

I really want to see that, but haven't yet. Thanks for the reminder.

I have some things that I've slowly been developing one, including an ongoing that is actually close to being a mix of my own and Richard Sala's sensibilities for which I've come up with the plots for about a half dozen stories, but not the perfect one to start with. I'm really excited for this one, and even have an artist attached. Now I just need to come up with that first plot.

immaterial said...

That is exciting news! There are surprisingly few comics I really regret the absence of when they stop publishing, but your characters have a certain warmth and interest that make me miss them the way I still miss Frank Black from Millennium (well, the Frank Black of season 2 more than the pale shadow of season 3...) and Sala's Peculia.

Perhaps I can make a contribution to your Halloween countdown. The Belgian director Harry Kumel is responsible for a couple of my favourite fantasy films -- Daughters Of Darkness and Malpertuis, the latter based on the marvellous novel by Jean Ray -- but for some reason I never looked into the remainder of his filmography until recently, when I stumbled upon a reference to his having adapted The Coming Of Joachim Stiller (1960) by Hubert Lampo. I haven't been able to see the film yet, but did scrounge a copy of the novel, which I am part way through and finding to be rather like a series of Borges' bite sized short stories, but connected by a single narrator in the manner of the Isidro Parodi detective pastiches Borges wrote with H. Bustos Domecq, though with a cumulative effect like Lovecraft's Call Of Cthulhu.

Which is overselling it: it suffers (like the Parodi stories, actually) from a less than perfect English translation, but it has an atmosphere you might find interesting. The following description from Wikipedia is the one that convinced me to seek it out:

De komst van Joachim Stiller ("The Coming of Joachim Stiller") is a novel by Belgian author Hubert Lampo, first published in 1960.

The main character in the novel is Freek Groenevelt, a 37-year-old journalist living in Antwerp. From a café, he witnesses four workers breaking up a street and then closing it up again, for no apparent reason. When he decides to write an article critical of the event, he is contacted by a member of the Antwerp city council, who explains that things are happening which he does not understand and make him afraid.

He then receives a letter from Joachim Stiller, in which Stiller announces that the event he witnessed is a portent. To Groenevelt's confusion, the letter is stamped one and a half years before he was born.

Later, Groenevelt goes to visit the editors of a literary magazine, "Atomium", which has published a very critical article about him. One of the editors, Simone Marijnissen, explains that they had received a letter from, again, Joachim Stiller, asking them not to criticize Groenevelt, before anyone had thought to do so. Thinking that Groenevelt had written the letter himself, they saw this as a reason to attack him.

Over the next few days, Joachim Stiller continues to manifest himself. Marijnissen receives a another letter from him, and Groenevelt discovers a 16th-century book, written by a German theologian from Augsburg called Joachim Stiller. Groenevelt and Marijnissen (who are fast falling in love) visit an art historian who determines that her new letter is thirty-eight years old. A graphologist determines that Stiller's handwriting is exactly what he would expect from a man "who doesn't exist at all, but could nonetheless write". Persistent rumours of the end of the world begin to circulate around the city, and police officers detailed to investigate the situation disappear without a trace...