On trying to read Frankenstein

I’ll admit it, on this day of Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s birth, that I have not yet read Frankenstein. It’s a hole in my education as an author of genre fiction, though I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a failure. I’m not done trying, yet! This of course is especially a bit embarrassing seeing as she was featured on the cover of a previous issue of LSQ. Oh my!

In an effort to set things right and with Ms. Shelley’s birthday fast approaching, I sat down this year to read Frankenstein, settling in with a humble Dover edition I had picked up secondhand. The volume is slim, for all its reputation, and I thought I would slip through those pages with ease. Unfortunately, reading the book is akin to reading Shakespeare or watching a black and white movie, where it takes the mind a little time to adjust to the prose and style.

Sadly, my mind simply isn’t in the right state to read something so beautifully, but densely, written. However, in giving it a solid try anyway, I did uncover some very useful resources that I’ll be leaning on when I make my next attempt. I thought I would share them with you all so that you can have a little support as well if you’ve picked it up, been intimidated by the prose, and subsequently put it down as I have.

First, there are a couple of annotated versions of the text that would be helpful in providing context for the novel, both via footnotes and essays:

The New Annotated Frankenstein
“Featuring over 200 illustrations and nearly 1,000 annotations, this sumptuous volume recaptures Shelley’s early nineteenth-century world with historical precision and imaginative breadth, tracing the social and political roots of the author’s revolutionary brand of Romanticism. Braiding together decades of scholarship with his own keen insights, Klinger recounts Frankenstein’s indelible contributions to the realms of science fiction, feminist theory, and modern intellectual history—not to mention film history and popular culture.”

Frankenstein: Annotated for Scientists, Engineers, and Creators of All Kinds
“This edition of Frankenstein pairs the original 1818 version of the manuscript—meticulously line-edited and amended by Charles E. Robinson, one of the world’s preeminent authorities on the text—with annotations and essays by leading scholars exploring the social and ethical aspects of scientific creativity raised by this remarkable story. The result is a unique and accessible edition of one of the most thought-provoking and influential novels ever written.”

There’s also the lightly annotated version that I’ve been reading as well: Frankenstein: Dover Thrift Edition

Then there are a few reading guides, meant for students, that may help with parsing the text and understanding what’s going on.

The BBC’s GCSE guide to Frankenstein
Penguin Random House’s Frankenstein Reader’s Guide (I still say they missed out by not calling the company Random Penguin, but I digress)
The Glencoe Literature Library Study Guide for Frankenstein

Finally, I’ll pass along a few resources that are a little more out of the box. These might help get you in the right mindset and place things in a bit more context for reading the book:

Everything you need to know to read “Frankenstein” – TED Ed put together a short video and other resources to guide you through the book.
Frankenstein by Mary Shelley // Literature in a Nutshell – Christy Anne Jones sums the book up in a short video. Here be spoilers, if you’re looking to avoid such things.
Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus on Libravox – a free audio book version for those who might better absorb the language of the book via audio.
Frankenstein on Wikipedia – for a broad history of the book.

There are numerous other audio recordings, staged plays, etc. available on places like Youtube. Be sure to check your local library (including Hoopla and Libby) as well for both print and audio editions. I encourage you to seek out the tools you need to support your reading, no matter the book. I hope this list gives you the hand you (and I) need to enjoy this classic of science fiction literature.

My most sincere apologies to Ms. Shelley. Perhaps next year will be our year. Happy 224th birthday, madame.

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