“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
― Percy Bysshe Shelley, Ozymandias

Spirit of the Centennial, Woman’s Building, Fair Park, Dallas, Texas

Oblique Strategy: Is it finished?

The sky was unusually obscured, the sun had sunk beneath the western mountain, and its departing ray tinged the heavy clouds with a red glare.–The rising blast sighed through the towering pines, which rose loftily above Matilda’s head: the distant thunder, hoarse as the murmurs of the grove, in indistinct echoes mingled with the hollow breeze; the scintillating lightning flashed incessantly across her path, as Matilda, heeding not the storm, advanced along the trackless forest.

The crashing thunder now rattled madly above, the lightnings flashed a larger curve, and at intervals, through the surrounding gloom, showed a scathed larch, which, blasted by frequent storms, reared its bare head on a height above.

Matilda sat upon a fragment of jutting granite, and contemplated the storm which raged around her. The portentous calm, which at intervals occurred amid the reverberating thunder, portentous of a more violent tempest, resembled the serenity which spread itself over Matilda’s mind–a serenity only to be succeeded by a fiercer paroxysm of passion.
—-Percy Bysshe Shelley, Zastrozzi

Two down, ninety-eight to go.

A few days ago, while working on my goals for 2018 I decided to set a goal of reading a hundred books in the year. Thinking about it, I decided the only way to pull this off was to read short books. I made a list of 66 short novels and wrote about it. Thinking more about it, I was excited enough to jump the gun and start the 100 books immediately. The first one I read was Shirley Jackson’s We Have Always Lived in the Castle.

How I chose this one, I have no idea. While I have nothing against real books, I knew that to read a hundred books I’ll have to put a lot of them onto my Kindle. So I started perusing the various sources of free ebooks online (especially Project Gutenberg) and downloaded Percy Bysshe Shelley’s first novel, Zastrozzi, from Project Gutenberg Australia.

It is a true Gothic Novel – a revenge tale of overwhelming lust and evil. There is nothing subtle here, but who is in the mood for that? I liked it a lot more than I expected. It is short – about a hundred pages or so, and a quick read.

A wood engraving by Cecil Keeling from the 1955 Golden Cockerel Press edition of Zastrozzi

It is interesting how many similar scenes there are in this book to Frankenstein – written by Shelley’s wife Mary. That reminded me of the terribly wonderful and extremely entertaining (if fatally flawed) over-the-top film of that fateful weekend where Mary Shelley wrote her tale The Modern Prometheus, basically on a dare – Gothic directed by the mad genius Ken Russell. I’d like to watch that thing again.

Looking around, I see that an updated Zastrozzi was also made into a British mimi-series (also from 1986) starring Tilda Swinton as Julia. I’d love to see that, but it’s pretty obscure. Have to keep my eyes out.

10 responses to “Zastrozzi

  1. I’m pretty clueless about Dallas/Ft. Worth, but I recognized that statue at the top immediately. The sculptor, Raoul Josset, is responsible for a number of monuments and memorials around Texas, including a statue of LaSalle down in Indianola and the Fannin Memorial in Goliad. I have photos of both of those works in this post about Indianola. It was this Spirit of the Centennial, his first commission in Texas, that led to the others.

    • Cool – I’ll check that out. Fair Park has a wonderful collection of sculpture and murals. Very few people see them – it’s a shame to waste such a wonderful place on the Fair.

  2. Interesting! I’m not familiar with a lot of this, so learning something new! That’s a great goal of 100 books for 2018. I usually just chose what I read based on a whim and read all over the place. I picked 12 for sure that I want to read for the Back to Classics Challenge, but other than that, I always have so many stacks going at once. Do you read one at a time, or dip in and out of more then one?

    • I’ve never had a reading goal before.

      Traditionally, I usually have at least a fiction and a non-fiction going at the same time – but sometimes more. One of the reasons for such a large goal was to force me to be more disciplined in my reading – and go one at a time.

      The big thing is that to meet my 2018 goals, I’ll have to give up television almost completely.

  3. Interestingly, I’ve heard theories that Mary Shelley actually wrote under her husband’s name in her early career. Not sure if there’s any truth to it.

    • I don’t know – I wasn’t there – but one explanation is that the two undoubtedly engaged in deep conversations about what they were writing. It would be natural that each other’s words ended up in their writing.

      • No doubt. I’ve yet to hear evidence whether the theory is true, but it makes for an interesting movie idea.

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