Tuesday, August 08, 2006


Mary Shelley was a wonderful whack job!

I mean she ran away with another woman's husband, lived with him until the wife killed herself and then married him! The couple kept having children but they had the tendency to die real young. They lived with Mary's sister, Claire, who ended up having the illegitimate child of their neighbor Byron (the poet). Somewhere along the line there were rumours that Mary's hubby and Claire had an affair as well, had a baby and that her husband swept the child away and took it to a foundling hospital. But somehow Mary Shelley was never sure about that. Oh, and then her husband goes and up and drowns suddenly.

But that ain't why I like her so much. Back to that in a minute.

One of my favorite movies is Young Frankenstein. After I first saw that movie (elementary school) I walked around for several weeks dragging my foot and calling myself "I"gore. I was much to old to be doing this and had several teachers as well as the school nurse try to make me stop. Everyone else just ignored me or made fun of me. Nothing new there.

Now remember one of the very first scenes when Gene Wilder is lecturing a class and one of the students says, "Isn't it true that Darwin preserved a piece of vermicelli in a glass case until, by some extraordinary means, it actually began to move with voluntary motion?"

So last night I started Mary's Frankenstein and was reading her introduction. In it she is trying to explain why she came up with the idea of Frankenstein. At one point she mentions how Byron would come over and he and her husband would have all these deep talks (she listened mostly, she said--not very well, evidentally). One of these conversations was fascinating because it was a discussion about how Darwin (Erasmus) put a piece of vermicelli in a glass case...and well, almost word for word, by some extraordinary means it began to move.

So I'm laying there in bed and I'm thinking, okay, I'm not real smart...but isn't vermicelli a type of pasta? Then I start thinking, that is friggin' amazing! If this guy brought a piece of pasta to life! Hell, that is even more incredible than digging up corpses and running lightening through them until they get up and start to walk around!

Here is some vermicelli.

Here is some vortecellae. It's a microbe. It was what Darwin had preserved in the glass case. Mary got it wrong. Her editors, the publisher, all those dozens of edits that were mentioned in the forward...no one caught it!

So I'm sitting here with even more respect for Mel Brooks because he got it and used it. And I'm feeling like a kinda kindred spirit to Ol' Mary because I do that sort of thing all the time. But also I am so curious to know if she knew it was a microbe and simply mispelled it or if she sat there and actually believed (like I did last night for a few seconds) that a man somehow empowered a stick of mini spaghetti to live. Did she wonder (like me) what Darwin fed it, if he named it, if maybe it creeped around like a worm, or if it wasn't boiled vermicelli did it just sorta roll around and bump into the sides of its glass case?

Now we'll see how she writes...