“Frankenstein: A cultural history” by Susan Tyler Hitchcock
“This is our monster. This is the monster we know so well, the monster we have taken into our hearts and lives, the monster we love to tremble and to cheer for, the monster we fear, the monster we seek, and the monster we have become. This is the monster made by man. This is the monster called by his creator’s name, if named at all. This is the monster known as Frankenstein.” – Susan Tyler Hitchcock’s “Frankenstein: A Cultural History.
America loves their Frankenstein. Or at least, the monster that has come to be known as simply Frankenstein. (This Mary Shelley nerd will refrain from the oft-repeated argument that at no point in the original novel is the monster called “Frankenstein,” and that – in fact – Frankenstein is the name of the monster’s creator.) From cartoon appearances, to Halloween costumes, to seemingly ubiquitous iconography, everybody can identify Frankenstein from a young age.
Susan Tyler Hitchcock is a Frankenstein fan herself, and seems to revel in tracing the origins of this monster from being a character created in a novel written by a teenage girl to being one of the most famous monsters of all time. Her book “Frankenstein: A Cultural History” is a blast to read, and full of useful information. As the monster morphed from book character to common character in stage plays, and finally made his way to the movies, the features became more and more known and iconic.
Much of Tyler Hitchcock’s book focuses on the Universal Studios horror film starring Boris Karloff that gave the world the flat-headed, green, bolt-necked face we’re so familiar with today. (Karloff was a big fan of his character, calling the monster his “old friend” years late in reverence.) Frankenstein’s appearances in a string of movies are examined, and we even get a backstage pass as to how the Bride of Frankenstein’s famous hairstyle was created.
From becoming a mega-monster, Frankenstein’s renaissance seemed to come with two more modern films – “Young Frankenstein” and “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.” It was around the 70s/80s that Mary Shelley’s novel came back into play and started to receive serious scholarship, bringing the origins of this adored monster full circle.
If you’re interested in literary/film/media history, this book is right up your alley. As one who can’t get enough Frankenstein, I adored it. Tyler Hitchcock is smart, funny, and an encyclopedia of knowledge on the topic she’s writing about and the result is just great. Two thumbs up.