Read A Monster's Notes by Laurie Sheck Online


What if Mary Shelley had not invented Frankenstein’s monster but had met him when she was a girl of eight, sitting by her mother’s grave, and he came to her unbidden? What if their secret bond left her forever changed, obsessed with the strange being whom she had discovered at a time of need? What if he were still alive in the twenty-first century?This bold, genre-defyingWhat if Mary Shelley had not invented Frankenstein’s monster but had met him when she was a girl of eight, sitting by her mother’s grave, and he came to her unbidden? What if their secret bond left her forever changed, obsessed with the strange being whom she had discovered at a time of need? What if he were still alive in the twenty-first century?This bold, genre-defying book brings us the “monster” in his own words. He recalls how he was “made” and how Victor Frankenstein abandoned him. He ponders the tragic tale of the Shelleys and the intertwining of his life with that of Mary (whose fictionalized letters salt the narrative, along with those of her nineteenth-century intimates) in this riveting mix of fact and poetic license. He takes notes on all aspects of human striving—from the music of John Cage to robotics to the Northern explorers whose lonely quest mirrors his own—as he tries to understand the strange race that made yet shuns him, and to find his own freedom of mind.In the course of the monster’s musings, we also see Mary Shelley’s life from her childhood through her elopement with Percy Bysshe Shelley, her writing of Frankenstein, the births and deaths of her children, Shelley’s famous drowning, her widowhood, her subsequent travels and life’s work, and finally her death from a brain tumor at age fifty-four. The monster’s fierce bond with Mary and the tale of how he ended up in her fiction is a haunted, intense love story, a story of two beings who can never forget each other.A Monster’s Notes is Sheck’s most thrilling work to date, a luminous meditation on creativity and technology, on alienation and otherness, on ugliness and beauty, and on our need to be understood....

Title : A Monster's Notes
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780307271051
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 530 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

A Monster's Notes Reviews

  • Meredith
    2018-12-24 10:24

    Wow. I blazed through this (twelve hours or so, from the preface to the source notes on page 521, with some down time for watching a movie). This reimagining of Mary Shelley's life and the Frankenstein story was a brilliant idea--albeit a bit clumsy in execution. What I found particularly intriguing was the emphasis upon Cao Xueqin's classic "Dream of the Red Chamber", a story that constitutes a significant section of the disjointed story. This amplifies my desire to read my [ultra-abridged:] translation.My issues with this book were similar to those mentioned in other reviews. It took me a long time, probably close to 200 pages, to get my bearings. Though Sheck differentiates between her characters' letters with various fonts, it took some time to determine which character represented which font. Moreover, I found it virtually impossible to differentiate between fictional correspondence and excerpts from actual letters and texts (though the source material in the back matter provided some clarification). Still, there is something deeply stirring about the monster's estrangement, a more introspective treatment of his total alienation than provided in "Frankenstein" itself. The story also illuminates the personal tragedies that must have crept into Shelley's work, offering ample fodder for biographical critics. Overall, a solid, well researched effort.

  • Hannah
    2019-01-17 10:22

    Beautiful. Stunning use of language gives an amazingly unique work of fiction a certain feel of poetry. The writing, the use of language gives off a palpable sense of sadness, not in the actual events of the plot, but in the way the characters speak. There is a certain sad, tragic beauty in it. It's understandable, the words of a monster such as this would be sad and mournful, he was built from dead, discarded parts, abandoned, and seemingly unable to die. From the first paragraph, the monster's first interjection of his thoughts and feelings, I knew I was going to love this book. It's not for everyone. It takes a sort of patience, a sort of sadness in oneself to be able to feel the emotion the book puts out. To fall in love with the characters, find yourself feeling for them, feeling with them, you almost need to be able to comprehend the unique brand of tragedy that Sheck creates. I found myself reading slower than normal, drawing it out, savoring the language. It's not often that poetry and prose combine so perfectly. Definitely one of the best books I've read in a really long time.

  • Josh
    2019-01-16 15:39

    there's a lot going on here. big book. considering reading it again just to write commentary. considering buying my own copy to mark up with a pencil. my big problem reading poetry (which it is, don't be fooled by the intermittent letters) is that I'm always trying to "get it" by looking deeper and deeper, and so deep that I wind up staring at type serifs and forget to just enjoy the thing. Some random notes follow:seeing oneself and defining oneself by that sight- and how one sees othershow others see the world more important than how he sees it- multiple perspectives, multiple narratives, from all over the world and different sciences- philosophy, engineering, navigation, exploration… all seem to be unafraid while the monster "he" is nothing but negative perception and emotion, never content or joyous, only perseverance like a badass machine that has no choice but to keep trucking on through hunger, cold and bitter winds and it immortal? can it die?lots of delving in death. death doesn't seem to be the end of perception or communication - lots about the shelleys, and some random others. he has a weird prescience about whatever these special selected characters happen to be writing, touching while they're writing, thinking or feeling while they're reading or writing.he's alive but made out of dead things and walking in dead places but unable to let itself die, and unable to live (in society). it is jealous of human mortality and the personal connections people and even animals make. if he can't die is it truly alive? rational, educated, like it had a consciousness of being before he was put together, like all frosty's magic hat did was open its eyes, like the perception and personality was there from the start- animistic? they're on the fringe of society- educated, moneyed, upper class- but outcast themselves by their own doing. he's outcast by his own doing as well- does he try to make connections or just never over the heartbreak of being rejected by his creator? how was he intelligent enough at that point to know what that meant? how is he content to smell the party from the door? is he just trying to be miserable? yearning for acceptance, to be seen, understood, even touched. watching from afar but never party to experience or participation, always hiding in the wings. he questions everything- is his purpose only to be and not to question itself, but everything else around it? accepts his fate without argument but drinks in all he has… suffering

  • Sue Smith
    2019-01-01 12:22

    Well - that was a complete waste of time and effort. The best part of this book was the cover - which oh so seduced me with it's suggestion of 'the eye of the soul' and 'an unfinished person' and 'a piece of the whole'...and on and on. I couldn't wait to read this book. What a complete disappointment. By the time I realized that it wasn't going to get any better, I'd already invested too much reading to just quit it. Lordy - the pain to finish it. Nearly did me in.So what was this book about? Who cares! It was snippets of letters and disjointed thoughts - all whiny and philosophical about nothing and everything and ....did I mention fragments of ..and why did I bother? and who will care? The writing was thankfully done in the format of letters and disjointed thoughts so the pages weren't full. So I guess that was the second best thing about the book. The third best thing was finally closing the cover. Don't ask me to read another book by Laurie Sheck. I may cry.

  • Nika
    2019-01-20 13:18

    I grabbed this from the library at the last minute because I LOVED the title and cover art, and the copy on the flap sounded fantastic! The premise is that Frankenstein's experiment actually came to life and met Mary Shelley when she was a young girl, inspiring her to write "Frankenstein" as an adult. The monster is real and kept a diary. Sounds great, right? Had I thumbed through a few pages first, I would have discovered that this was not going to be a pleasurable read for me. It is formatted as a messy journal and is so confusing, that I could not tell which were true bits of history in the form of quotations and newspaper excerpts, and which parts were entirely fiction. I never got a sense of what was going on and shut the cover after about ten pages.I still like the premise and would love to see her rewrite this as a straightforward narrative!

  • Adrielle
    2018-12-25 12:28

    I did not find this to be a pleasurable read. For all the lovely language and meticulous research, I'm sorry to say that this beast of a book doesn't have much meat. The reader is continuously and ferociously pounded by same themes. Each section has it's own emotional/philosophical focus and specific imagery which is repeated to the point of inciting eye-rolling and even page skipping. I believe a drastic paring down the the length of this volume could have made it something more meaningful. 520 pages is too much space to use in saying something that could be said in 120.

  • Carly
    2019-01-08 08:10

    I actually quit reading this about half-an-hour in. I was exepcting a re-telling of the classic Frankenstein story, instead the book is a mish-mash of random thoughts categorized by topic. I found it difficult to follow and understand.

  • Carol Peters
    2019-01-15 13:27

    First person protagonist is Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, thinking about & inhabiting Mary, her siblings, her mother, her husband, Marco Polo, an Italian leper, & more. Meditation on the distances between everyone.

  • Taralyn
    2018-12-30 07:28

    worst. book. ever.

  • Angie
    2019-01-05 08:14

    i got 100 pages into this book before I could take it no more. It is almost like reading someone's grocery list.

  • Laura J. W.
    2019-01-08 14:17

    As a lover of books, it is rare that I read one I don't like, I court books before I immerse myself into them...I know what I like. It is my pet-peeve to be a bit skeptical of books that 'take off' from another author's work or playing fast n' loose with the life story of someone real makes me rarely works for me because when I have gone into one, I'm so dang nit-picky that I'd waste more time finding fault with it at every turn of the page because if it happens to be a story that I know by heart or a person I have researched, anything a little bit off would be too irritating, so I rarely read such things, unless there's something special about it that caught my attention...this one is pretty special. This is a gorgeously written book, a lyrical blend of prose and poetry, philosophy and ethics, history and biography, the research that had to be done to write this book is exhausting, damn it's good. I had to re-read Mary Shelley's Frankenstein while I was reading this book...just because I wanted to and thought it would be neat to do it that way (I'm a total book nerd.) Anyway, it was a good excuse to re-read a book that I read so long ago that I only vaguely remember the details, but found it fascinating at the time. (If you never read it and only know Frankenstein from the Hollywood depictions, you'd be hopelessly lost.) I even looked up Percy B. Shelley's poetry to refresh my memory. It took a little longer to read one and then the other side-by-side, but I enjoyed making a project out of it. Honestly, they are interesting companions and harmonize together...taking the narrative from the point of view of the Monster has re-imagined his life, and his sadness, his disconnection from the human race...a misfit, (he'll never fit in!) This deplorable, lonely, pitiful Monster. There's a little bit of the Monster in all of us...

  • Matthew Hittinger
    2019-01-09 12:11

    I finally finished after savoring this over the past month. So much to say, collecting my thoughts which seems the appropriate thing to do for a book where the word "mind" appears at least once on almost every page.It's a brilliant and rewarding book for those with patience and those who like a good challenge. The writing style will take some adapting to: between the Monster's note-taking, how he juxtaposes quotes, notes and snippets of his autobiography and the epistolary mode which presents the narrative and events of Claire, Clerval and Mary, but more importantly their inner monologues and perceptions. But what better way to explore the concept of our minds, how we think, how we trap or free ourselves, all questions vital to the Monster as he tries to make sense of his existence, of his solitude, of his ability to think and read and feel.I need more time to flesh out my thoughts, but I found Sheck's previous book, her poetry collection Captivity a good primer for understanding her preoccupation with the mind, thought, the process of thinking.

  • Tuck
    2018-12-30 15:13

    for !oulipo! fans. very creative fonts, addendas and has the whole gang too, little franky, mary, percy, clair claremont, ol doc victor, and MORE. neat idea too, mary shelley meets frank when she was a little girl of 8, and then the story takes off. frank is the "narrator" and prolific writer on this odd, long, interesting's a recipe for you, for what ails ya:"PRESCRIPTION (from chapter 10)Ginseng .2 ozAtractylis (clay baked) .2 ozPachyma cocos .3 ozPrepared Ti root .4 ozAralia edulis (cooked in wine) .2 ozWhite peony (cooked) .2 ozSzechaun selenium .15 ozSophora tomentosa .3 ozCyperus torundus .2 ozGenetian soaked in vinegar .08 ozDioscorea from theHuai region (cooked) .2 ozGenuine Tung-ngo (prepared with powdered Oyster shell) .2 ozCorydalis ambigua (cookedIn wine) .15 ozDried licorice .08 ozTake with seven Fujian lotus seedsThe pits extracted, and two large red dates."

  • Anthony
    2018-12-31 10:35

    An approach to a story that reflects reality. A mass of simultaneous events, connections, and time along which people careen more in control at some points than others. The hybrid nature of the story is very effective providing an almost kaleidoscopic perspective that allows for multiple voices to speak.The choice of Mary Shelley whose own life often mirrored that of the gothic horrors she envisioned was perfect.Reader Beware: if you want an easy read where the author does everything for you except turning the pages, this book is not for you. If you are unimaginative or not willing to have your view of the reading experience shifted, this book is not for you. Stick with E.L. James.

  • Christine
    2018-12-26 11:21

    I actually didn't finish this book. Couldn't really get into it.

  • Lee (Rocky)
    2018-12-28 09:36

    When I began reading this, I knew nothing about this book other than a 3 sentence summary of the plot. As it turns out, to the extent that there is a plot, it is presented in a piece-meal, impressionist sort of way rather than any sort of straight forward narrative. As the title suggests, the book is composed of the monster's notes, not an actual story as such. Instead the book is made up of a series of notes expressing the monster's thoughts about various things, mixed with letters between various members of the Mary Shelley's family, as well as a long section in the middle where the monster imagines correspondence between an Italian leper with no name and Clerval (a character killed by the monster in Shelley's novel) as Clerval translates the Dream of the Red Chamber. In between the main sections of the book there are various interstitial things such as the monster's thoughts on several 20th century cultural figures or ideas, or the monster's attempt to find information on Mary Shelley on the internet in the present day. It is also full of all sorts of references to literature and history that I didn't always understand. Sometimes I looked them up and at other times I just enjoyed the writing without fully understanding all of it. I don't think that understanding every single word, especially those references, was really the point of this book though.The unconventional way in which this book is structured and composed make it not the easiest read ever, and I could see how it could be a big turn off for a lot of people. However, narrative issues aside, the language is poetic and beautiful. A large focus of the book is the monster's relationships with his creator and with Mary Shelley. It is unsaid, but is sort of implied that those may be the only two relationships he's ever had at all in a couple hundred years of living, but at the very least, those are the two most significant ones. As the monster contemplates what it means to have been created in the way that he was and to have been abandoned by his creator he provides lots of interesting insights into how where he came from defines him and his sense of self worth. As he looks back on Mary Shelley (as well as her step-sister Claire), he reflects on the nature of imperfect friendships, the impossibility of truly knowing someone else's thoughts (or even your own), and the limitations that exists in any relationship. I also thought it was interesting how the monster's thoughts differed between what he thought about his creator, who brought him into the world literally, and what he thought of Mary, who, in fictionalizing him, presented an interpretation of him to the world, in a portrayal that he is not always comfortable with.The section with Clerval and the Dream of the Red Chamber was longer than it needed to be, and probably worse for people who aren't familiar with the Dream of the Red Chamber. I read it in college (though we called it the Story of the Stone in that class) so was familiar with the characters referenced, and remembered just enough about the story to be able to follow what Clerval was saying about it. For anyone reading this who isn't familiar with that story though, that section was probably very difficult to get through, especially as the letters between Clerval and the leper got more and more tiresome.

  • LeeAnn Heringer
    2018-12-24 08:23

    This book started with such promise for me. The opening section with fragments questioning humanity vs machines, the nature of machine intelligence, whether astronauts are still human once they are detached from Earth and then... *sigh* it moved into following the live stories of the original writer of Frankenstein, it moved into talking about the isolation of the Arctic, which was also interesting if less so. And then I hit the section of on the friend of Dr. Frankenstein now living in China exchanging letters with a leper (who's name he never knows, but that's ok because the letters are never sent) and translating an odd Chinese novel he found in the wall of the house he's living in....And wow, I was only halfway through and it was moving slower than dirt.I just lost patience with it. I may eventually go back to it, but nothing happens and interesting thoughts are not entertained.

  • Bookmarks Magazine
    2019-01-04 08:22

    "Comprised of letters, newspaper clippings, journal entries, interviews, dreams, lists, Web pages, and essays, Sheck's demanding, erudite novel eschews a cohesive plot in favor of the monster's growing comprehension of his plight -- an outsider looking in on humanity. Despite the obscure references to long-ago philosophers, poets, and novelists that left the Washington Post ""lurching along about 50 IQ points behind,"" critics were oddly moved by the beauty of Sheck's desolate vision and lyrical language. They grumbled about the interchangeable voices of some of her characters and the belated meeting between the monster and Mary Shelley, which takes place three-quarters of the way through the book despite the surrounding hype. But they were generally impressed by this cerebral meditation on isolation and the hunger for companionship."

  • Gina
    2019-01-13 12:25

    Almost done! This book deeply explores the idea of being an outcast and being shunned by the world through the story of the fictional nameless creature created by Frankenstein and story of the real Mary Shelley. Sometimes the cerebral approach of writing this book in "notes" or inner monologues and the lack of dialogue can make the subject matter overwhelming. However the themes of desperation, loneliness and desire are deftly explored, giving real pause to the reader about human relationships and what it means to truly "live". The best part of this book has proved to be at the end. This is where the reader finds the most compelling scenes between Mary and the creature. Final review pending!

  • Stephanie
    2019-01-12 07:13

    Written from the perspective of Frankenstein, these are his notebooks. The author Laurie Sheck is also a poet and this is a very lyrical novel. You could really open the book up at any point and find a really beautiful passage. This is what I did. I would never be able to read the book all the way through though. It's way too long and very reflective and philosophical. Not that I don't like reflective and philosophical - I do - just not long ones :) It's kind of like picking up Marcel Proust - beautiful and daunting and you wish you were retired so you had the time to read it.

  • Nicole
    2019-01-13 09:28

    I loved the concept of this book but simply couldn't get into it. I wanted more of the backstory. How did Mary and the monster meet, why did she write him as she did, why is he obsessed with Claire? Obviously, some of these questions would have been answered if I could force myself to continue turning the page, but...I couldn't.Fascinating musings and notes taken in small doses but a bit much in novel format. Write a more traditional fiction narrative and I'd be all over it! (Oh jeez, did I really just say that? Blame my atrophying summer brain.)

  • Leslie
    2019-01-02 08:37

    I'm undecided as to how i feel about this book. It is obviously painstakingly researched and thought out. I like the idea that it proposes Frankenstein's monster met p with mary shelley when she was a little girl, b/c that's the kind of speculative shit i can get behind. And frankly, the whole Shelley entourage is fascinating. But the fragments... The lack of a strict narrative... The excessive existential philosophy... Ugh. Too postmodern for me, i'm having flashback to that insane class i took on postmodernism in college. Call me an old softie, i like a classic narrative voice.

  • Amy Smith
    2019-01-10 14:19

    I was prepared to love this book, but it didn't happen. I thought it was going to be a novel about the friendship between Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and the monster and how she betrayed him with her book, Frankenstein. It wasn't. It was a bunch of notes that the monster has made about this, that, and the other, over the past 100+ years. He's apparently still alive, since he googled at some point. And in all honesty, I didn't finish it, but skimmed thru most of it, trying to find the story.

  • Sofia
    2018-12-24 12:12

    I was intrigued by the premise of this book, especially because I've always liked Mary Shelley's "Frankenstein" and I enjoy reading stories from a different point of view. The dust jacket made this sound so promising! Alas, I made it 302 pages into this book and gave up. It's a relatively fast read since most pages aren't filled with text, but I just have too many other books on my shelf that I'd rather try instead.

  • Enka-Candler Library
    2019-01-11 11:32

    I confess, I skimmed this one a bit, but I still liked it. Hard to define, as it's a collection of writings and musings by "The Monster". It would be best if you knew a little about the history of Frankenstein and the life of Mary Shelley, otherwise it could be super confusing. The author has done a TON of research for this and it definitely shows. Lots of references to classical writings so it could be daunting to pretty much everyone.--Leisa

  • Americanogig
    2019-01-18 13:12

    Barely even started before I had to turn it into the library, probably because it seems a little daunting, Frankenstein’s monster…in his own words. Think more Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein existential crisis than the bolt-necked horror classic of yore. Another book that required too much of a commitment at that time, but it wasn’t the book’s fault! I lay the blame at my own doorstep.

  • Elizabeth
    2018-12-30 11:10

    As seen in theNew Yorker .Maybe this book will help me get Frankenstein, which I currently most emphatically do not.

  • Liza Gilbert
    2018-12-30 14:37

    This book was not to my tastes. The story of Frankenstein's monster, as revealed through the monster's own collection of notes, is a little too abstractly conceptual for me. Sheck seems want to stress the social responsibility that comes with creating a monster. To me, this is something better read in an ethics class than just for the sheer enjoyment of it.

  • Angel
    2019-01-04 14:39

    I couldn't get into this book. It's disjointed and random which i suppose is generally teh plot idea, but it's hard to get into a book that goes from a section of random quotations on topics like "fragile" and space then goes to letters about the Shelleys and someone named Clair (that part was actually interesting).

  • Jerry Miller
    2019-01-22 12:25

    I read a review of this book which convinced me to read it. I did not like it on page one and my feelings didn't change. I found the styling tedious and the story was not enjoyable. The premise sounded great, Frankenstein's monster actually existed and was the basis for Mary Shelley's novel. Unfortunately, at least for me, this book did not live up to what could have been.