The perfect book to read on Halloween

Happy Halloween to you all!

Some people may want to be out and about dancing tonight:

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This can be fully recommended, because who doesn’t like wandering around at night and taking sweets from strangers? Right? But if you do prefer a quieter night in, away from all the ghouls and glamorous costumes, then you should definitely read The Monster We Deserve by Marcus Sedgewick.

Here is why:

  • It is set in an atmospheric and chilling cabin in the middle of the woods. There can hardly be anything more tonally appropriate for Halloween than that, as that is a classic settings for all horror stories ever. It almost seems like this book is and isn’t a parody of all horror stories. It contains all the classic features: ghosts, cabin in the woods, a victim and a monster, but there is a twist which is…
  • Frankenstein (and his monster)! This isn’t clear on the blurb, at least for the copy I bought, but the content of the book is about the protagonist’s encounter with Mary Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein (read my review of that here). So there is a double blow of an amazing story (Frankenstein), within a ghost story (the actual text). This  may be a parody of Frankenstein too, as the fictional author complains about how many stories within stories there are within Shelley’s work!
  • The title is just so compelling. I mean- ‘The Monsters We Deserve“. I did not even look inside the book before I had decided to read it. This is the power of marketing, people. But it worked, so I guess it was fine to succumb to it in this instance. Yet actually think about that phrase. Do we deserve the monsters we get in life? Do we? DO WE?!
  • It is short so that you can read it in one sitting. Like on Halloween. 263 pages may sound like it is too weighty a tomb to tackle in one go, but actually the margins are very wide and many pages have artwork on them, so it is surprisingly fast to go through. This makes it perfect to read tonight, on the spookiest of nights.
  • The message of the book. Yes, it is about monsters and so links in with the witches/ mummy/ zombie/ creepy theme, but it is actually much more philosophical than that, because the “moral” of this book is that our actions define us. That “we are responsible for our creations“, and if we do not manage these creations or our actions carefully, they will grow out of our control and take on their own life, which in turn affects us. In an everyday situation, it may be that something you say will be taken wildly out of context; if you do not manage that carefully then people could end up accusing you of horrendous things based off rumours drawn from something which isn’t true to start off with. Just look at celebrities. It really is a powerful message worth noting.
  • The Front cover and the artwork inside the book is exquisite. Really. There are some forest drawings in the book which truly complement the content, whilst the cover is aesthetically pleasing. It is a book you do not want to hide away in your shelf, with only the spine facing the world. No!

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  • It is so quotable:

“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not himself become a monster” (This is actually Nietzsche, but is featured in the book anyway)

“we are responsible for our creations”

“That is what Victor’s true crime is; not that he creates a man, but that, having created one, he does not care for what he has created”

“Monster means to think. A monster means to think. So all our thoughts are monsters?”

“Our creations end up creating us, in return. Create a lie, and you become one.”

 

So there you have it. Have a wonderful Halloween you spooky creatures and I hope that you have as much fun as these guys seem to be having!

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“If you could have dinner with…”

MARY SHELLEY

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A teenage literary giant, there is nothing that isn’t impressive about Shelley. Whether it’s the famous tale about the creation of Frankenstein, her tumultuous relationship with Percy or even the fact that she was a woman navigating here way through an overbearingly sexist industry (hence the pseudonym), it’s hard to say how she wouldn’t be thoroughly engaging. Also, she kept Percy’s heart wrapped in one of his poems. Now that is someone who I would like to meet.

NEIL GAIMAN

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Neil Gaiman is a bit of a legend. So much so that he writes free short stories on his website (check it out here) and seems to be a half-ghostly, half-firmly entrenched in reality type of guy. I don’t quite know why he appears to be so intriguing, although I suppose the subject matter of his books speak for themselves.

TERRY PRATCHETT

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Come on. Even if you haven’t read any T.P books, wouldn’t you want to have met him based on this picture? I was so keen when was I younger to tell Pratchett how much I loved his work that I even wrote him a letter and included a hand-drawn dragon. (Which I was very proud of, by the way). Unfortunately he never wrote back, although some vaguely pessimistic part of me did expect never to hear from him again anyway. It’s a real shame, but at least I can say that I tried. That said, Pratchett was a thoroughly engaging man; before becoming a writer he worked at a nuclear plant, and he seemed like the kind of man who was not only is witty, but had his fair share of outrageous anecdotes to tell.

DAPHNE DU MAURIER

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Not only has her book Rebecca never gone out of print, but du Maurier herself was quite the character. Her father was so desperate for a son that he made cut her hair short and adopt a male persona, which she called “Eric Avon”. Given that her father was an actor and indeed encouraged this behaviour, no one thought it all bizarre and it was only at adolescence that ‘Eric’ was sidelined. Then, in 1925, as if to prove a point she went a finishing school in France. A proper finishing school! I would just dream to hear the late-night stories that they shared at such a classic institution late at night… because I firmly believe that boarding school isn’t as innocent as it seems!

WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

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This is two-fold:

Firstly, did Shakespeare exist? If I sent him a memo and he didn’t turn up, then I presume not, and the whole world be shaken. (Maybe…) Or he just rejected me. Which would be an equally calamatous event compared with him not existing at all.

Secondly, if Shakespeare did turn up for 17th century (vegan) pies outside the Globe, then it would be fascinating in itself because Shakespeare’s life had been rather mixed. He came from a poor background and somehow managed to establish a life for himself amongst the literary elite, and even ended up working for the King. Asking him about his intention for the longevity for the plays (and would he consider prose?) would also feature high on the agenda.

ROALD DAHL

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Does this even need explaining? He evidently prefers children though (adults are regarded with great disdain in the majority of his books), so maybe I would have to de-age before somehow meeting him to have the richest experience possible. I don’t even think I would say anything, in all honesty (and definitely not the “where do you get your inspiration from” type-question). But to be in the presence of such an influential man would be enough.

THE BIBLE WRITER(S)

 

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This would be more altruistic than anything but at least it would put a lot of people’s minds at rest depending on who turned up… it could radically alter modern society as we know it!

A.A.GILL

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The appeal of meeting A.A.Gill is rather simple one. Renowned for his travel writing, he had seen the world and such a wealth of experience to draw upon that coupled with biting humour it would have been the most intriguing of evenings. There is still rightly so much melancholy and intense sadness surrounding his recent death in the literary and wider community. It came as such a shock to everyone, and the perhaps saddest things of all (after the loss to his family), is that the words of trips he now can never make, unwritten, are permanently hanging in oblivion.

5 reasons you need to read Frankenstein now

 

You need to read Frankenstein now. In the suspendsion between Christmas and New Year’s Eve, where you can only eat mince pies at meals because you have so many left over, there is no better way to escape to the stoic mourning of Christmas (until next August) than to read. But why read Frankenstein?

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1. This year marks the 200th anniversary of the conception Shelley’s story. (In fact, the way Frankenstein came about, with that ghost story competition with Lord Bryon at Lake Geneva is nearly as famous as the outcome- Frankenstein- itself.) Shelley had a remarkable sense of audacity to publish her book, even if it was initially anonymous, because at the time such gruesome horrors conjured from female minds was frowned upon. But luckily she did, and for the centuries since it hasn’t ceased to shock and thrill all who have come across it, whether Frankenstein was in a literary form, or in a film or stage adaptation. There would be no better way to commemorate Shelley’s great novel than to read it on this anniversary.

2. The season is to create the right atmosphere for book: at the moment, we are in the depths of winter. Darkness seeps into our windows too early everyday, leaving us looking solemnly outside from underneath our blankets, a hot tea by our side. Frankenstein is full of rich imagery concerning nature; soaring icebergs and bleak landscapes. You can all too easily submerse yourself in the wintry atmosphere. For those living in warmer climes… it might be significantly harder to envision the biting chill of polar landscapes whilst you rub the rest of your suncream in, but there you go.

3. You need to learn who Frankenstein is, if you don’t know already. For years in movies the creature that Victor Frankenstein creates has been given that name, but frankly that it grossly inaccurate and just because Frankenstein sounds like an awesome name for a monster, doesn’t mean it is one. This mistake has thus been duplicated: Frankenstein’s Bride isn’t Frankenstein’s bride at all, but his creature’s bride.

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4. It’s a classic 19th century novel, with thrilling plot, including: a string of murders, a rampant patchwork zombie and a nervy scientist who is starving for revenge. Story arcs don’t t get much more adventurous than. Despite being writing in the contemporary dialect, reading it is rarely a challenge and by reading an older novel you’re literary horizons will expand. It is on most Top 100 reads not because it is so old, but because there something so profound about it. It’s also the first novel in history about the education of a scientist.

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5. Frankenstein explores issues in society. Our world is changing- some argue too quickly. The last of 2016 is rotting away, and then 2017 will be forced upon us. Yet Frankenstein has been with us, modern humanity, for some time. It hasn’t been lost in the flurry of mouldy manuscripts because people connected with it; back then and now. Frankenstein reflects culture greatly. And that is due to the theme of ethics and science- what are the wider implications of an experiment? We have the technology so that it can be done, but does that mean we should do it? To what extent should the scientist’s have control over the created beings, or care for them- is it their duty? In many ways, it is clear that Frankenstein is more relevant today than ever before.

So what are you waiting for- find that battered copy! Or have you read Frankenstein before- what do you think of it? Literary masterpiece, or overrated? Please go ahead and comment your thoughts…