Thursday, September 29, 2011

Spooky Book News: Stephen King, Frankenstein’s moon and a gothic-looking recipe.



This post is for all my fellow book lovers. Today I have two bits of slightly quirky, but current book-related news, that seems especially fitting as we enter into the season of ghosts and monsters and things that go bump in-the-night.

I also have an incredibly gorgeous-looking Halloween recipe to share with you because every post about scary books should include some mouth-watering treat, don’t you agree? Especially gothic-looking ones.

So wouldn’t you know? I just had a conversation with Patrick the other night, about his current reading list for his English course, and he tells me that he’s just finished reading Frankenstein. Really, I say. And then I wonder, how have I gone my entire life without reading Mary Shelley’s most famous classic? So I brought it home yesterday and discovered two more reasons why I have to read it.


Mary Shelley and the love of her life, poet Percy Shelley who died tragically at the age of twenty-nine.

First, it seems that Shelley was considered an early feminist of her time; she was a rebellious, progressive social thinker who married the love of her life despite her father’s objections. Throughout her writing career, she suffered the heartbreaking loss of four children, experienced bouts of depression, and endured the drowning death of her husband Percy Shelley, only six years after their marriage.

Secondly, she withstood years of negative reviews for her writing, in fact, she once wrote a dejected journal entry questioning the value of her own work, “What folly is it in me to write trash that nobody will read.” Wow,  poor Mary. She apparently received no respect from critics, who even questioned her mystical inspiration for her most popular novel, Frankenstein.


Photo: Google Images

According to her own words, moonlight was the key to Mary’s inspiration for Victor Frankenstein. It happened on June 1816, when she was staying at the Villa Diodati, overlooking Switzerland's Lake Geneva. Only sixteen years old at the time, Shelley  was reportedly in a late-night conversation with her future husband, poet Percy Shelley, her stepsister Claire Clairmont, Lord Byron and John Polidori. This engrossing conversation about the supernatural aspects of life, went past the witching hour of midnight, until Lord Bryon made a challenge. (Now doesn’t this sound like the titillating beginning of a mystery story?)

Each person was told to come up with their own ghost story. After she went to bed, Shelley  tells of a terrifying “waking dream” in which she saw a man attempted to bring life to a cadaverous figure via the engines of science. She remembers seeing moonlight streaming in through her window, and her story of Frankenstein had been born.

Except for one problem; her version has been attacked over the years. Critics went so far as to suggest she fabricated her entire story.

But today, I read an article in the Huffington Post on this topic and it finally appears that the Mary Shelley bashers have been silenced. That’s because a team of researchers from Texas State traveled to Villa Diodati (yes, it’s still there), and took extensive topographic measurements of the terrain, which helped them complete their astronomical analysis. Their findings have confirmed that indeed, a “bright and gibbous moon would have cleared the hillside to shine into Shelley's bedroom window just before 2 a.m. on June 16.”


Whoa, I know what you’re thinking. But if you need evidence that this meticulous investigation actually occurred, you can check out the November 2011 edition of "Sky and Telescope" magazine.

In the meantime, I'm reading Mary Shelley’s book whether she saw the moonlight or not.

My second bit of book news involves the highly anticipated sequel to “The Shining.” Apparently Stephen King has read an excerpt of this sequel titled, “Doctor Sleep,” during a George Mason University awards ceremony last weekend.


Photo: Google Images; Danny Torrance 

And remember poor, traumatized Danny Torrance, the boy who survived the horrors of Overlook Hotel and his father’s maniacal attempt to kill him? In this sequel, he’s using his psychic abilities to help others, except now there are new dangers in his life. Yes, it seems that a group of traveling vampires called, “The Tribe,” are able to feed off his powers.

King shared a passage from this new book to an enchanted audience. And he concluded with this creepy line.

“The Tribe doesn’t like dogs, but they like certain children. Yes, they like certain children.”

Stephen-King-Dr_-Sleep Photo: Google Image

Boy. I bow down at the feet of a masterful storyteller.

And now, how about a gothic-looking treat ?

I love this picture!!!

It’s courtesy of Matt’s Bites. Matt has a wonderful food blog that’s been recognized by numerous publications, including Martha Stewart Living.

Please visit his website for more wonderful recipes. I’ve included his recipe for this dish below. Thanks Matt.


Red & Black Candy Apples

8-10 medium sized apples
8-10 wooden twigs, trimmed
3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 cup of water
several drops of cinnamon flavored oil
1/4 teaspoon of red food coloring
1/4 teaspoon of black food coloring
Clean and dry the apples. Try to remove as much of the wax as possible. If you purchase them from your local farmer’s market then chances are they have not been treated with the food grade wax that makes then shine. Remove any stems or leaves and insert a twig into the end of each apple. To facilitate easier twig entry you can carefully sharpen the end of the twig or use a candy stick to create a guide hole. Set apples aside.

Heat and stir sugar, corn syrup and water in a saucepan until sugar has dissolved. Boil until the syrup reaches 300 degrees on a candy thermometer. Don’t go over 310 degrees or your candy burns and then you’ll be sad.

Remove from heat and stir in flavored oil and food coloring.

Dip one apple completely in the syrup and swirl it so that it becomes coated with the melted sugar candy. Hold the apple above the saucepan to drain off excess. Place apple, with the stick facing up, onto a baking sheet that’s greased or lined.  Repeat the process with the remaining apples. If your syrup thickens or cools too much, simply reheat briefly before proceeding. Let the apples cool completely before serving.

A note about the black apples: Lighter colored apples (Granny Smith, Golden Delicious) work well in making the red appear bright and glassy; darker apples like red delicious help the black candy appear as dark as possible. Muy spooky!

Also, Adam made one batch with red food coloring and after he had a few red apples he reheated the candy mixture and added black food coloring. Adding black to red will make it darker. He repeated the dipping process. Black food coloring can be found online or at specialty baking stores.


I hope you enjoyed today’s post. What are you reading? Drop me a line and let me know…


*Resources: Mary Shelley; wikepedia; Karen Karbiener’s Notes & Introduction (to Frankenstein) 2003

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