Tuesday, January 29, 2008

"Did you just make a yummy sound?"

Read the Review

Thanks stomach flu! *blarg* So above I have my "professional" review of the book. Haha. Professional. Whatever. Anywho, that contains half my thoughts on Frankenstein. Yes, Mary Shelley did a good job. Skillful writing, descriptions you can sink your teeth into, and a vocabulary I wish I had. Ah, to have lived during that time. Then again, had I lived during that time, I wouldn't be writing what I am now (well, who knows?). So what do I have to say here that I didn't say in my review?


Aside from my continual disbelief that Frankenstein's creature (ok, you know what? I'm tired of calling him that. From now on, Victor will be Victor, and his creation will be Frankenstein. There.) is able to communicate so flawlessly, I have a bone to pick with Victor.

He is a selfish, selfish man. That's what I kept getting from him. Not in the very beginning, even when he's making Frankenstein, because then he's got this semi-wacked out haze going on in his head: "I can do it, I can make it, it will be fantastic, just think!" and so on. He's so bent on creation, he's basically forgotten everything else. A lot of people can, and have, done that. Though it was a selfish desire that motivated him. Glory, oh glory! Fool. But after that, it became all about Victor, in his mind at least. Oh, sure, he had his moments of "Oh William! Oh Justine! Oh Elizabeth!" and anyone else that had a moment of vulnerability to Frankenstein in Victor's mind, but otherwise it was aaaalll about him. Things like, "Oh how I'd hate to see that wretch [Frankenstein] again! How I am so miserable! Woe is me! I wish I'd never created that abomination!" Yadda yadda yadda. Now, I can understand falling into a guilty depression of Dear God what have I done? This is all my fault! But the man was so consumed with his misery, he didn't ever seem to take into consideration the misery of those around him. Did he ever think on how to solve the problem? No. Did he ever confess his crimes? No (well, once to the judge and then to Walton, but those don't seem much like confessions to me). Even when he thought on death - "Why did I then not die?" - to me it seemed selfish. Sure, your misery is so bad, you think you should just die in order to be free of all the pain. But what about your father, fiancee, brothers, and others around you? And what about Frankenstein? Hmmmm?

I think the height of his selfishness (to me) appeared when Frankenstein said, "I will be with you on your wedding-night" and Victor immediately thinks, "He means to kill me then." Victor may be a genius, but the man has no sense. Take a moment; you'd just refused to create a mate for Frankenstein. Franky's already killed three people close to you. He seeks to make you miserable the way he is; alone. He plans to pop up the night you're married. Just WHO do you think he plans on killing? It doesn't take a rocket scientist. Yes, yes, I know, if Mary Shelley hadn't written the book this way, it may not have gotten to where it needed to go, but I think it's entirely possible for Victor to have known better and still failed. Heck, he can never flippin catch Franky anyway.

There were a few times when Victor managed to get his head on straight and think in the right direction. First when traveling with Clerval and panicking in thinking that Frankenstein might pop up and kill Clerval. Then when pausing to think on what might happen should he finish making a female version of Frankenstein. That was a good, solid train of thought.

Victor is also a fool because he never fully understands just what he has done to Frankenstein. Sure, he listens to Franky's story, but he doesn't truly listen. Franky, in my eyes, really did have promise. Sure, he's a freakish thing in terms of appearance, but consider how often he tried to be good, tried to be useful, and appealed to the better sides of mankind. I'm not defending him when it comes to the murder he does, but I don't doubt that without proper education of morals (despite what he might have heard and read before) and love from the one that made him, he could have turned out much differently.

So, what about the book as science fiction? It's nice to read something from very early on, just for history's sake. Helps one to see how writing and content has evolved since then. Content seems to have continued on the same course. This could have been written now and still rocked the house. It would have to be written differently, of course, as not naming Victor for so long (as mentioned in the review) would bug a lot of people, and having so little dialogue and mostly narration could turn people off. Then again, who knows? The book is still in print, isn't it? Except now it's read as a classic (sometimes a necessity depending upon the classroom teacher that decides to stick it into a lesson plan) as opposed to the stuff on bookstore shelves that others consider mindless sludge. "All that sci-fi nonsense. It's so lame." Actually SF has a better rep now, so maybe not. It always depends on the readers.

Come to think of it, we've redone Mary Shelley's Modern Prometheus story already. Take a look at one of the many AI stories out there. Funny. The things we make always tend to turn around and destroy us, oftentimes because we fail to teach it correctly or reject it and attempt to destroy it, which then leads to the creation attempting to save itself. And what about superiority? Well Frankenstein did inform Victor (who was already quite aware) of his abilities to survive through much more than any human ever could. Small amounts of food, extreme heat, extreme cold, etc. Victor wanted to build a superior creature - he did. In SF humans wants to build better robots - we do. Scary.

When our modern-day, metallic Frankenstein finally wakes up, I don't think it'll be here. I'm willing to bet it will be in Japan. I'm telling you, they need to stop with the smart robots, but will they? Noooo....

Currently: OMG RLY? (slightly spastic for no reason)

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Strunk Has Style!

The Elements of Style by William Strunk and E.B. White, as we all know (at least, my residency posse knows), is a tiny book filled with nuggets of gold for writers. That can include everyone, if you're still in school working on college papers and whatnot.

The book is the smallest grammar/style book I've ever encountered, due to (ah, now here I almost wrote "the fact that" - Strunk would be hitting me in the head with a ruler) only a certain number of "rules" listed. Where to put a comma, a semicolon, how to handle yourself with apostophes and so on. I have another grammar book leftover from a creative writing class that lists more usage rules for em dashes, puncutation inside and outside of quotation marks (which I wish Strunk had addressed), and other such items. You get the idea. There's also a nice list of words; how to not screw up allude with elude. Again, you get the idea. If you remember those Mead folders with all the junk on the inside, you should remember the English one with the list of commonly confused words.

But enough about what's inside the book. What about it? It's good (what did you expect?). Strunk wrote this for his students, something I thought was a fantastic idea, and when I started to think about it, I wondered why I'd never heard of the book before. I think everyone in my high school English classes could have used this book. Especially since our teachers (except a one of them) didn't do jack to teach us. It's amazing I love English at all, considering much of the time was spent either watching movies or filling out sheets of busy work. Or doing nothing. I recall doing very little in my senior English class. Right, so I don't get on a rant about poor English teaching, back to the book. Strunk chooses brevity over wordiness, a good idea since wordiness can kill a sentence. I loved some of the ideas he put down on ways to cut out unnecessary words and phrases. I was happy reading, knowing that many of these things I was already doing through choice. You know, that feeling of "That just doesn't sound right" before you reword a sentence? I think a lot of us tend to do that, not because a teacher told us to, but because it isn't hitting our ear right. We want ear candy. Ear candy!

I did feel a bit ignorant when reading words like "gerund" and "participle" and other grammar terms because I couldn't remember what they meant. Ok, shut up, it's been years since I was in a 7th grade English class learning these things. Even then the lack of enthusiasm the teacher had made me drowsy and I couldn't ever stand picking sentences apart and graphing them. I always thought, "This isn't right! A sentence shouldn't be subjected to this!" I was too busy being indignant on the sentence's part to accept what I was supposed to be learning. Now that I sound like a bad student (wasn't, really, I aced the class, but our teacher needed a vacation or to spice up the class somehow). ANYWAY, to get back on point, I had to go look up what some of those meant, only to find out later that (duh) there was a glossary in the back of the book. I laughed to myself and hoped I wasn't the only one who needed it.

I wonder who put it there - Strunk or White? Either way, good move.

I only borrowed the book from work (yeah, again I look like a bad student, I didn't buy it right away, but I have learned that when I do, I'll opt for the paperback instead), but it's on my list o' books to buy. I have no shelfspace (no, seriously, I don't. But I am the God of Organization, so I'm sure I'll be able to think of something), even though I did find a great deal on a pristine copy of Word Painting by Rebecca McClanahan. Yeah, my description has been sucking this time around. I think this surprised one person at residency who had my submission piece. Looking at some of my other works, I don't know what's going on. I have some lovely similes and metaphors.

Strunk and White, eventual revision buddies.

Currently: Whoo!