Australian Society of Authors

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I feel privileged to be joining the Board of The Australian Society of Authors at the AGM on Saturday.
It is the peak body which does great work supporting authors in many ways as well as campaigning on their behalf.

Currently they are asking for support to fight the government’s proposal to allow the parallel importation of books.

You can read about the issues and sign the petition HERE

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Lovely to be a guest at two bookclubs last week and share my enthusiasm about Mary Shelley with such interested and interesting readers!

Thank you Fran and Sharon, organisers of the clubs in Thirroul and Roseville.

I LOVE visiting bookclubs and am always happy to be asked. (Have even participated via Skype!)

I have been thinking of putting together book club questions…Any readers out there have any ideas? I’d love to hear them! Please feel free to post your ideas in the comments section below.

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Have politicians ever got anything right?

alexander-berryMary Shelley wrote to her pioneering relation Alexander Berry in New South Wales (husband of Mary’s cousin nee Elizabeth Wollstonecraft) on June 30th 1848:

Dear Mr. Berry, You are very good to write me such long and really interesting letters. You live, you say, a hermit life – but your writing has all the vivacity of youth – and shows the deep interest you take in your Country and its welfare. A Colony – where one can at once perceive the operation of the social norms – presents a wide field for inquiry and the acquisition of knowledge. At the same time there is melancholy attached to it – the melancholy spectacle of misgovernment. This is particularly mortifying in the cases such men as Sir George Gipps and Lord Grey – for they mean well, while they do so much mischief. We boast of our improved lights – and our books overflow with philosophical principles, yet our public men perpetually make the grossest mistakes, and all they do, had better be left undone.

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Valentine’s Day & Love’s Philosophy

Romanticism was at its height from1800 to 1850 and celebrated emotion, individualism and the wonders of nature. For Shelley love was a philosophy and a spiritual calling. The Romantics gave us some of the best love poems, and Shelley wrote this little gem when he was 28 and living in Florence, just after Mary gave birth to their son, Percy Florence. It has often been performed as a song, but here it is beautifully presented by Richard Armitage.

Love’s Philosophy

The fountains mingle with the river
And the rivers with the Ocean,
The winds of Heaven mix for ever
With a sweet emotion;
Nothing in the world is single;
All things by a law divine
in one spirit meet and mingle.
Why not I with thine?-

See the mountains kiss high Heaven
And the waves clasp one another;
No sister-flower would be forgiven
If it disdained its brother;
And the sunlight clasps the earth
And the moonbeams kiss the sea:
What is all this sweet work worth
If thou kiss not me?

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Mary Shelley dies at 53 from a brain tumour.

urlMary Shelley died on 1st February 1851 at 53 from a ‘Disease of the Brain Supposed Tumour in left hemisphere.’ She had been suffering from severe headaches for many years. Before her death she had been living with her son, Percy, and daughter in law, Jane, with whom she had a warm and affectionate relationship. Jane wrote to Mary’s cousin in NSW, Australia, Alexander Berry: ‘Heaven knows no words can express what my love for her was.’ That letter started a twenty year correspondence between Jane, Lady Shelley and Alexander Berry, though they never met. Alexander Berry also founded the beautiful town of Berry on the NSW south coast.

Mary was buried on the 8th February with her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft and father, William Godwin in a vault in a churchyard in Bournemouth. Later, Percy and Jane were also buried there. The heart of Mary’s husband Percy Bysshe Shelley which had survived his cremation on an Italian beach and had been cherished by Mary for the past thirty years, was also put into the tomb.

Her step sister Claire, however, always the biggest thorn in Mary’s side throughout her life, continued her self absorbed narrative after Mary’s death.’It was most unkind in you never to let me know she was ill. Most unkind. Now I can never see her more’ she wrote to Percy (read the full letter here)

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Frankenstein’s monster reimagined?

2nd chance

Reference to Frankenstein’s monster has become code for bringing someone back from the dead. There is a new Fox drama called Second Chance starting next week, which plays fast and loose with Mary Shelley’s famous concept.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle (January 8, 2016) ‘it is Frankenstein’s monster meets … Cinderella? Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” is repurposed for contemporary times as an elderly man is murdered, but, thanks to some weird science by a pair of billionaire twins, he comes back as a much younger version of himself and sets out to avenge his own death.’

They even have a Mary character. One of the twins is called Mary Goodwin. (Nearly right, Mary Godwin being Mary Shelley’s maiden name). Tolerant as Mary was of the reimagining of her story, (see blog What Would Mary Shelley Think) I’m not sure how she would have felt about being a protagonist. Dilshad Vadsaria, who plays the Mary character, says she is a strong woman, intelligent, caring and compassionate.
Well, that’s OK then.

But really, reanimation misses the point of Frankenstein. The book is subtitled ‘The Modern Prometheus’, which is a clue that Mary was writing about man creating a whole new living being rather than regurgitating an existing one, even if he does come out forty years younger. Prometheus was the Greek deity tasked with creating man out of mud.

Mary had certainly been inspired by the possibility of reanimation. From 1803, Giovanni Aldini had a gruesome roadshow in which he took the corpses of executed felons and made parts of their body twitch by the new magical use of electricity. Mary, though, extended the debate. Dr. Frankenstein’s monster was morally and intellectually unformed and the novel is about the moral responsibility of a creator. Not sure how ‘Mary Goodwin’ handles the moral issues in Second Chance!

Footnote: In Greek mythology, Prometheus was tasked with creating man, and Epimetheus, his brother, with creating the animals. Epimetheus was given a wife by Zeus who was called Pandora – she of Pandora’s Box, who was too curious and let suffering out into the world. Coincidentally, I have written a poem with Epimetheus and Pandora as characters that you can read here if you are interested.

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Why is Good News Rarely in the Headlines? Lord Byron Contemplates:

byron percy

We often complain that death and disaster dominates the news. Why is good news rarely in the headlines?

I am working on a book about Byron and am fascinated that, 200 years ago, he had the same complaint. Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose!

“Mankind have so many blessings in their lives that they never make their Calendars from them, being too common. For instance, you see ‘the great drought’, ‘the Thames frozen over,’ ‘the Seven years war broke out,’ the E. or F. or S. ‘Revolution commenced,’ ‘The Lisbon Earthquake,’ ‘the Lima Earthquake,’ ‘The earthquake of Calabria,’ plague of London, ditto of Constantinople,’ ‘the Sweating Sickness, ‘The yellow fever of Philadelphia,’ etc., etc., etc.; but you don’t see ‘the abundant harvest,’ ‘the fine Summer,’ ‘the long peace,’ ‘the wealthy speculation,’ ‘the wreckless voyage,’recorded so emphatically?

By the way, there has been thirty years war, and a Seventy years war: was there ever a Seventy or a thirty years Peace? Or was there ever even a day’s Universal peace,? And all this, because Nature is niggard or savage? or Mankind ungrateful? Let philosophers decide. I am none.”

From: The Ravenna Journal, 51, by George Gordon Byron, 6th Lord Byron.
Compiled in 1822, Published by The First Edition Club 27 Bedford Square, London 1928.

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FRANKENSTEIN: Mary Shelley’s Inspiration

english countryside

Writing on her inspiration for Frankenstein, Mary Shelley wrote, in an introduction to her book…

It proved a wet, ungenial summer, and incessant rain often confined us for days to the house. Some volumes of ghost stories, translated from the German into French, fell into our hands. There was the History of the Inconstant Lover, who, when he thought to clasp the bride to whom he had pledged his vows, found himself in the arms of the pale ghost of her whom he had deserted. There was the tale of the sinful founder of his race, whose miserable doom it was to bestow the kiss of death on all the younger sons of his fated house, just when they reached the age of promise. His gigantic, shadowy form, clothed like the ghost in Hamlet, in complete armour, but with the beaver up, was seen at midnight, by the moon’s fitful beams, to advance slowly along the gloomy avenue. The shape was lost beneath the shadow of the castle walls; but soon a gate swung back, a step was heard, the door of the chamber opened, and he advanced to the couch of the blooming youths, cradled in healthy sleep. Eternal sorrow sat upon his face as he bent down and kissed the forehead of the boys, who from that hour withered like flowers snapt upon the stalk. I have not seen these stories since then; but their incidents are as fresh in my mind as if I had read them yesterday.

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LISTEN – Suzanne’s Interview on Radio Northern Beaches

I’ve recently had the good fortune to be invited as a guest speaker on Radio Northern Beaches new broadcast show ‘The Northern Beaches Book Club” Listen in to the podcast where we chat about my inspiration for the novel ‘Almost Invincible’ and the unorthodox and eternally interesting life of Frankenstein author Mary Shelley

listen now

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Frankenstein Author Mary Shelley Loved Ghost Stories


In August 1816, a week before they left Geneva where Frankenstein was concieved in a summer of bad weather and ghost stories, the Shelleys and Byron were visited by Matthew Gregory Lewis. He was author of a gothic supernatural novel called The Monk, a favourite of the young people staying by the lake. Percy Shelley writes in their joint journal, that Lewis told them ghost stories in the evening, of which this is one…..

“This lady, Minna, had been exceedingly attached to her husband, and they had made a vow that the one who died first, should return after death to visit the other as a ghost. She was sitting one day alone in her chamber, when she heard an unusual sound of footsteps on the stairs. The door opened, and her husband’s spectre, gashed with a deep wound across the forehead, and in military habiliments, entered. She appeared startled at the apparition; and the ghost told her, that when he should visit her in future, she would hear a passing bell toll, and these words distinctly uttered close to her ear, “Minna, I am here.” On inquiry, it was found that her husband had fallen in battle on the very day she was visited by the vision. The intercourse between the ghost and the woman continued for some time, until the latter laid aside all terror, and indulged herself in the affection which she had felt for him while living. One evening she went to a ball, and permitted her thoughts to be alienated by the attentions of a Florentine gentleman, more witty, more graceful, and more gentle, as it appeared to her, than any person she had ever seen. As he was conducting her through the dance, a death bell tolled. Minna, lost in the fascination of the Florentine’s attentions, disregarded, or did not hear the sound. A second peal, louder and more deep, startled the whole company, when Minna heard the ghost’s accustomed whisper, and raising her eyes, saw in an opposite mirror the reflexion of the ghost, standing over her. She is said to have died of terror.”


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