Photo taken at Drombeg Stone Circle, Glandore Co. Cork.
Frankenstein is not my favorite book.
There is a list of texts: novels, short stories, biographies, poetry, that I turn and return to time and again when I need to leave the world lie for a spell and live on my own. These are my solitary joys, hoarded on my shelves and in the bowels of my hard-drive to be left undiscussed except with a very select few. These are the stories that make my nerves dance, my fingers twitch, that send me into creative spirals and lay me still with meditation. Frankenstein does not crack the top ten, of that, very personal list.
Frankenstein is my favorite book to discuss.
I know more about Frankenstein and its creation than just about any other text in the world. I know the myths, and I know the truths. I have rolled my eyes in pubs when men have tried to tell me about my topic and I have sparkled inside every time I get to pull in Frankenstein as an example for my classes. I have glossed gory details for my family and delved through the charnel houses for my friends. I have delighted in the minutia of a life lived 200 years ago, and spent hours, days, memorizing a text that has entranced audiences for the same two centuries.
This weekend I was given the gift of travelling to the center of the universe to discuss my research.
I should explain.
If you ask a local, Ballydehob is the center of the universe. If you ask me, west Cork is not a bad choice for the terrestrial center of our celestial plane. It is wild and old, but with new air. Always new air, fresh from the sea. A home to blow-ins, carried on the wind, and to families as old as the hills they inhabit. A place of magic, remnants from a time when the earth was younger and the sun rising across a circle of stones was a true act of mercy.
It is a center that can hold.
It was to this landscaped that I was welcomed for my Frankenstein knowledge. Shipped in all the way from the big city to sit with a circle of half goddesses and whole women to talk to them about a book they decided to read together, as they have read many books before and will read many texts yet.
While a storm sang outside, they asked thoughtful questions and read excerpts aloud. They shared what they thought was beautiful, and what they could not reconcile in the characters. They shared bits of research and conjecture and sympathy, sympathy for a creature that did not ask to be made and for a creator who knew not what he did.
Isn’t that lovely? In a time when I read articles about women feeling the pinch of monetized friendships as pyramid schemes sneak across our Facebook pages. When we seem to post everything for the world to see and hide ourselves behind that fence of what almost-is. When nastiness can be impersonal and easy.
In the midst of all of that, they shared. They shared wine and tea and thoughts on the novel that I have decided to devote my life to. They shared their homes with me and their warmth. They shared honesty.
And I hope that what I shared equaled that warmth. The story of Frankenstein, of its conception, gestation, and birth, is not a happy one. Terrible things happened to the young woman who wrote it. Terrible tragedies that shaped a novel that has shaped my mind. It seemed uneven, to greet their kindnesses with the unhappy truths of a life long past, but I hope I lent honesty and shed light on a dark text.
It is a text that I love.
Not my favorite to read, but always my favorite to share.
My personal, much loved, copy of Frankenstein and the crocodile that guards my desk.