Written only a few years apart, Frankenstein and Pride and Prejudice changed the landscape of popular literature.
Instant classics, these beloved novels have been translated, replicated, expounded upon and reproduced in countless books, films, and television programs. Now two hundred years old, these stories continue to inspire current writers including Weymouth Center’s May Writer-in-Residence, John Kessel. His latest novel, Pride and Prometheus, considers a scenario in which Victor Frankenstein, while traveling in England, meets the Bennett family ten years after Austen’s novel ends.
Kessel shares “I became intrigued as much by the differences between Jane Austen’s and Mary Shelley’s writing as by the similarities, and in writing the book thought a lot about the differences between the novel of manners and the gothic, and the odd ways in which they might speak to one another. Also, it was fun, a kind of challenging puzzle, to make them come together in a satisfying way without disrespecting either writer or her work.”
Kessel enters “the psychology of Victor, and the Creature, and of Mary Bennet. In Pride and Prejudice, Mary is a figure of fun, the butt of the joke. I sought to give her an interior life and full humanity. In my story, she is thirteen years older and a little wiser, but she still is unable to see Victor clearly. She recognizes some things about him that others miss, but she misreads him badly in other ways. Plus she is confronting a situation that no heroine in an Austen novel would encounter. Pride and Prometheus starts as an Austenish novel of manners and slides into a gothic. It was very interesting, and at times difficult, for me to merge the two forms, which do not naturally fit together.”
The melding of these two storylines allows the author to take the reader on a journey of discovery.
Kessel explains, “I followed the characters through their reactions as much as made them do what I needed them to do. What would the Creature think upon observing a ball in London society? How might Frankenstein converse with the Bennets at Darcy’s dinner table? My job with Victor and his Creature was to extend what we know of them, to go deeper into their characters, to explain some things that are left out, and imagine why and how they do the things they do. With Mary, I had more freedom, and so I could allow her to change more as the story went on.”
Kessel helped found and directed the MFA program in creative writing at NC State University where he continues to teach. He holds a B.A. in Physics and English and a Ph.D. in American Literature. Pride and Prometheus won both the Nebula Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America and the Shirley Jackson Award. He lives with his wife, Therese Ann Fowler in Raleigh.
The program is free and open to the public. A light reception to meet the author is sponsored by St. Joseph of the Pines.
Books will be available for purchase courtesy of the Country Bookshop.
For more information, call (910) 692-6261 or follow Weymouth Center on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.
Weymouth Center is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) and home of the NC Literary Hall of Fame.