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NYPL BIBLION: FRANKENSTEIN by The New York Public Library

NYPL BIBLION: FRANKENSTEIN

By The New York Public Library

Pub Date: June 4th, 2012
Publisher: The New York Public Library

A grab bag of Frankenstein-ia, including source documents, essays, interviews, video and more.

This app, produced by the New York Public Library, draws upon its trove of archival resources to explore the creation of Mary Shelley’s classic and its continuing influence. Holding the iPad sideways unveils a handful of essential source documents, most prominently Shelley’s handwritten draft of the novel; a transcript is included, but the resolution is stellar (amendments by her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, are clearly visible). Hold the iPad vertically, and a host of essays, interviews, videos, comics, and dramatic readings emerge. Many address Shelley’s biography, with brief commentaries on her scandalous relationship with Percy, her protofeminist mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, and the Italian manse where, on a dare, she wrote the horror story. (One particularly fussy article parses astronomical and meteorological records to identify the exact moment Shelley was inspired to write.) The best pieces show how the novel has endured: Slideshows present adaptations of the novel for stage and film (along with a Q&A with the daughter of Boris Karloff, the best-known film interpreter of the monster), and essays offer glimpses at how self-declared outsiders—including blind persons, prisoners, racial minorities, LGBT teens—see themselves in the work. The app is something of a victim of attempting to pack in too much. The tenor of the essays ranges widely, from scholarly to frivolous; the four vague organizing groups (like “Creation & Remix” and “Shelley’s Ghost”) feel somewhat arbitrary; comment threads are underused, likely due as much to the airiness of the questions (“Do you speak in code?” “Can legends change our world views?”) as to their relatively hidden placement in the app.

More information than any one person needs on a single novel, but there’s plenty of diversion here for the Shelley scholar and dilettante alike.