Postmodern Prometheus

The New York Times has a review of The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein, by Peter Ackroyd. It is a new novel that re-imagines and retells Victor’s story in a more authentic context: that is, the one in which the author creates it. So, Percy Shelley shows up in the novel, for example. This sort of ‘postmodern’ version of Frankenstein, stripping away the stereotypes from the film history, is another version of what Shelley Jackson pursues in Patchwork Girl. In both cases, the stories seem to take off from Mary Shelley’s introduction, where she puts her own authorship up front, weaves it into the story: her hideous progeny is the writing, the creation of her novel. As you will see, Shelley Jackson runs with that strand. But she also remediates the novel with digital technology: in the way that all the various strands of story and history that inform or influence her vision of the novel are brought into her version, rather than edited or hidden.

Perhaps it is something like an essay that has been revised many times, but in which the final version contains all the versions in one. Why do this, you might ask?

But it is also worth asking you: have you also, before Patchwork Girl (and even if you have never before read such a text in digital form), read or viewed or played a text that was non-linear, that offered lots of material and options for reading, that had more than one place to go? That, at some level, in some form, invited the reader to become a writer? If so, then you have experienced what can be called “hypertext.”

For more on Shelley Jackson, you can go to her web site, Ineradicable Stain.


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