A report by Caleb Sivyer on our final event for the 2015/16 series of Cardiff BookTalk, to mark the bicentennial of the composition of Frankenstein.
A number of excellent resources related to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein can be found at Biblion: The Boundless Library, which gives users access to The New York Public Library’s impressive collection. Click on the link below to view images relating to Frankenstein on the silver screen: … Continue reading Frankenstein Resources at Biblion: The Boundless Library
Another little morsel for you before our upcoming monstrous BookTalk event, a film-screening and discussion of James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931), on the 30th June. Below is a trailer for a documentary that focuses on the man behind the incredible monster make-up, Jack Pierce. Pierce worked … Continue reading Trailer for Jack Pierce, The Maker of Monsters (2015)
There are many wonderful poster designs for James Whale’s Frankenstein (1931).
To whet your appetites in anticipation of our next BookTalk event on the 30th June 2016, here is a trailer of James Whale’s 1931 movie adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein:
A report by Robert Lloyd on the fifth BookTalk of the 2015/16 season, which took place on 3 May 2016: Simon Mawer’s Mendel’s Dwarf. Our latest BookTalk event focused on Simon Mawer’s Mendel’s Dwarf, a novel about identity as seen through the lens of genetic … Continue reading Simon Mawer’s Mendel’s Dwarf: Event Review
Doctor Benedict Lambert, the celebrated Benedict Lambert, the diminutive Benedict Lambert, the courageous Benedict Lambert (adjectives skating carefully around the essence of it all) stands to address the members of the Mendel Symposium. Applause has died away. The silence—eyes watching, breath held, hands stilled above notebooks supplied by courtesy of Hewison Pharmaceuticals—is complete. There before the good doctor, ranged in rows like sample tubes in a rack, are all the phenotypes one could wish to see: male and female, ectomorphic and endomorphic, dolichocephalic and brachycephalic, Nordic, Mediterranean, Slav, Mongoloid (three), Negroid (one). There are chins cleft¹ and normal, hair curly² and straight, eyes blue³ and brown and green, skins white, brown, yellow, and black,4 crania bald5 and hirsute. It is almost as though the organisers (the Mendelian Association of America in conjunction with Hewison Pharmaceuticals and the Masaryk University of Brno) have trawled through the whole gamut of human variation in order to come up with a representative genetic mix. And yet …
… and yet there is a constancy that is obvious to all, but consciously perceived only by the truncated figure up on the podium: each and every one of the earnest watchers is subsumed under the epithet phenotypically normal.
¹ autosomal dominant
² autosomal dominant
³ autosomal recessive, probably controlled by genes at two different loci
4 polygenic control
5 sex-limited autosomal dominant
— Simon Mawer, Mendel’s Dwarf (Abacus, 2011 ), pp. 1–2
But it was Mendel’s Dwarf that saw him come into his own as a writer. A dozen years on, his voice still lifts when he talks about it. The novel—which tells the story of the molecular biologist Benedict Lambert, great-great-great nephew of Gregor Mendel, who suffers from achondroplasia (dwarfism)—tackles science with tools that have become hallmarks of his writing: multiple timelines; an exploitation of the slippages and spaces between languages; a fascination with memory. ‘I’m distant enough from it now to say it’s a bloody good book,’ he grins. ‘I was fascinated by Mendel, but he led a fairly dull life, if intellectually extraordinary. So I had Lambert tell Mendel’s story while telling his own. It clearly wasn’t going to be a biography . . . I’m a novelist. I don’t want to tell the truth. I want to manipulate things as I choose. I want to lie.’
Photo: HN – Lukáš Bíba
Mendel’s Dwarf is an unusual piece. It’s a work of science fiction in the strict sense, but without any of the familiar traits of the genre. It is scientific literature in the literary sense but not the scholarly one; it’s a novel with footnotes that is in a hurry. Its narrator annotates his text with references because he is a scientist and that is how scientists write. But they do not write with the overtone of horror, and the unmistakable implication of looming disaster, that Simon Mawer sustains throughout his story.
It is a curious story I have to tell, one not easily absorbed and understood, so it is fortunate I have the words for the task. If I say so myself, who probably shouldn’t, for a girl my age I am very well worded. Exceeding well worded, to speak plain. But because of the strict views of my uncle regarding the education of females, I have hidden my eloquence, under-a-bushelled it, and kept any but the simplest forms of expression bridewelled within my brain. Such concealment has become my habit and began on account of my fear, my very great fear, that were I to speak as I think, it would be obvious I had been at the books and the library would be banned. And, as I explained to poor Miss Whitaker (it was shortly before she tragicked upon the lake), that was a thing I did not think I could bear.— John Harding, Florence and Giles (Blue Door, 2010), p. 5