The Father of Frankenstein – Christopher Bram

FOF(Not discussed by the group but written in a personal capacity.)

This is a well-written novel that puts little hints in to signpost where it is going. There are evocative descriptions, particularly of the First World War and of the flashback smells that the main character has as a result of a stroke.

It is based on the true story of James Whale, creator of Frankenstein and other horror movies, who has an out gay man back in the days when it was illegal.

The most moving scene is from the trenches when his best friend is killed.

It’s also funny: an old man indulges people out a sense of his former power and fame. There’s even an element of farce towards the end.

A bit of lust: hair-filled cup of an armpit.

Thinking of ‘home’ after you’ve emigrated: Midlands accents, like head colds that smother their consonants and flatten their speech…..Land of Hope and Glory? Land of smoke and driz­zle. England means nothing to him now. He has escaped and forgotten England.

An old man encountering modern youth: .”Mr. Kay. We’ll talk. You may interview me. But we must take this slowly.”

“Yes. Sorry. Right,” says Kay, grimacing at himself. “It’s just I’m so excited to meet you I can’t control myself. I mean, I wasn’t even sure you were alive until your secretary called.”

There’s no malice in that. There appears to be no guile or ulterior motives at all in the boy, and his dancing on Whale’s toes is nothing more than the headlong rush of youth. Lucky child, Whale thinks. He could never afford to be so thoughtless and carefree. If only he had been born an American.

Of the false memories we create each time we refine the telling of our life story: Inventing this life used to give Whale such strange pleasure. As the lies were refined and repeated over the years, he could almost believe that this was his past. But the lies feel different today. Maybe it is the ease with which Kay swallows them, or the fact that Whale hasn’t repeated this fairy tale in such a long time. Perhaps it’s an effect of the stroke, unplugging his facility for make-believe. But this pretty story, made from the odds and ends of people he’s known and books he’s read, doesn’t feel as convincing as it once did. It hangs upon him like a suit of clothes he’s too thin to wear anymore. The truth stands closer to him now, peering over his shoulder.

An acute observation about retirement: Once you stopped working and were of no use to people, even friends in the industry forgot your existence.

Ruminating upon mortality after seeing the results of his brain scan: The skull he saw on the light board is his prison, a bone box full of confusion and nightmare. Walking past nurses in starched caps and patients in stained bathrobes, Whale sees himself as a healthy-looking gen­tleman in Savile Row clothing, who secretly carries a prison on his shoulders.

Strict sabbatarianism was still around then: people would not an employ their gardener to mow their lawn on a Sunday, largely for fear of what their neighbours might think: He wakes up the next morning as clearheaded as a baby, only to find himself with nothing to do. Between church and blue laws, Sunday is shut up tighter than a rat’s ass.

Above all, the novel shows the barbarity and futility of war.

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