Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Castle of Otranto

This reviewer would first like to apologize for her woefully tardy first literary analysis. Seeing as she is in fact the sixth and only female member of an organization with the tagline “Five guys. One book club,” it would seem that she is already barely holding on to her position as a contributor to this blog. After receiving texts, late night phone calls, internet threats, and a rat carcass in the mail from as certain impatient Mr. Darcy, she has decided to finally get her act together, buckle down, and write something.

This review concerns a short novel called The Castle of Otranto, by Horace Walpole. You most likely have not heard of this great novel, or the ingenious man who was its creator. That is because this book kind of blows. Hailed as the first truly “Gothic” novel, it started a genre of literature that depended on ghosts and bad suspense to carry on a plotline. When Walpole first had his short novel published, he claimed that it was actually a recently uncovered Italian manuscript from the early 1500’s. After his novel was shockingly well-received by the public, however, he decided that he might as well go ahead and actually take credit for it, revealing that it was really written in the mid-18th century, and that there was in fact no excuse for the novel's bad writing and convoluted plot.

One thing The Castle of Otranto cannot be denied the is its incredibly fast-paced albeit ridiculous story line. Within the first few pages, Conrad, the son of Prince Manfred of the Castle of Otranto, is literally squished to death when a huge metal helmet falls on him from the sky. I kid you not. Not only is he killed in this ridiculously hilarious manner, but the day he is smushed by a helmet also happens to be both his wedding day and birthday.

So Conrad’s dead. Naturally his father, like any good Dad suffering through an emotional mourning period, decides that since his son is dead, it’s time to make a move on the girl Conrad was supposed to marry. Shockingly enough, Isabella, the girl in question, is slightly opposed to the idea of marrying the father of her dead almost-husband, and ends up running away from him through the castle, and hiding out in the gloomy basement. Meanwhile, Prince Manfred scurries around the castle in a blind rage, and sends his guards to find her. While all of this is happening, Hippolita, Manfred’s current wife, is busy crying her eyes out for her lost son, and the servants are scampering around shrieking about seeing giant body parts, people moving in their portraits, and grisly ghosts.

Although The Castle of Otranto definitely doesn’t qualify as a great or even classic novel, there is something to be said for the fact that it’s the first of a totally new genre, which gives it some scrap of importance in its own right. If you’re looking for a convoluted story, pedophilia, ghosts, and damsels in distress, then this could just be the book for you. If not..steer clear.


Anonymous said...

you go girl!

Langerhans said...

$50 says that Prometheus posted that anonymous comment.

Maj. Major Major Major said...

my bet is on Oprah.... its a very Oprah thing to say

Prometheus said...

haha I'll collect that $50 Langerhans cause it in fact was not me. I'd be willing to go 60 40 and split the money with whoever actually did post...the prospect of knowing the identity of one of our countless fans is rather enticing

Anonymous said...

That person is amazing at doing book reports...SERIOUSLY!!!! (this is not Oprah) I am brittish!