Grendel, Thug Notes Style

I don’t know about you, but I was introduced to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein via the movies. As a kid I loved Frankenstein vs. the Wolfman, Abbott and Costello meet Frankenstein, The Bride of Frankenstein and of course, my favorite; Young Frankenstein. In each of these movies, except YF, the doctor’s creation was treated as a monster. Something that garnered little sympathy with the audience.

It wasn’t until I was adult did I finally pick up Shelley’s book. One October a book club I belong to decided to give the book a try. It was only after reading the book did I learn that Shelley wasn’t writing about a monster, she was writing about monstrous behavior of 17th century scientists (at least this is how she saw it). The creature in Shelley’s book deserved sympathy, while those who encountered him did not. The book was a lesson on science gone too far; how man’s quest to conquer nature will lead to disaster. Had I not picked up Shelley’s book and only relied on movies, I would have never considered the creature’s point of view. He would have continued to be stuff of nightmares.

I wonder if Professor John Gardner had this discrepancy in mind when he decided to publish Grendal? The good professor had been teaching the text of Beowulf for years before picking up his pen. Gardner’s twist on the tale is in his choice to narrate the story from the monster’s point of view, transforming a snarling, dreadful creature into a isolated but intelligent outsider who bears a striking resemblance to his human adversaries. In his retelling of the Beowulf story, Gardner comments not only on the Anglo-Saxon civilization and moral code the original poem depicts, but also on the human condition.

But don’t just take my word on it. Listen to Professor

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Sweets as he entertains and explains why we should consider the beast.. You’ll might learn a thing or two!

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Chilling with Lolita

This week I’ve started a new job and a new semester. The timing couldn’t be worse. Along with learning about contracts, I am learning about other cultures and how they view ours based on how we view and shape theirs. In the class we are learning that reality is often subjective.

Speaking of subjective, Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita is one classic I just don’t get. Why is this book a classic? The protagonist, Humbert Humbert, does not seem to have a firm grip on reality and his crimes are unforgivable. In short he is a creep who is driven to share his story as if his confessions will lead to understanding and forgiveness .

Over and over again he tries to manipulate the reader. Humbert wants readers to understand why he breaks social taboos. He wants us to view sexual norms subjectively like he does. When that seems to fail, he tries to win support by “admitting” his crimes. Never have I liked a character less, never have I wanted to take a shower after reading a classic.

I leave it Professor Sweet to explain the deeper meaning of this subjective novel. Let me know what you think.