Friday 26 August 2011

Matthew "Monk" Lewis turns it up to 11

Matthew Lewis wrote his classic Gothic novel, The Monk (1796), when he was 19, and you can tell. He also completed the manuscript in a mere ten weeks, and that's obvious too. The book is really quite terrible, but in a good, fun, rollicking, silly, and very enjoyable way. Deep literature it ain't.

The Monk is a novel that glories in all the most horrendous conventions of the Gothicthere is rape, murder, ghosts, incest, torture, kinky sex with a demon, contracts with Lucifer (written in blood no less)but it also makes fun of these common tropes. In addition to hilarious horrors, there are prolonged rants against the hypocrisy of the Catholic church coupled with glaring factual errors with regards to said Church. Lewis aimed to entertain and by no means to instruct, and he succeeded.

I didn't take notes on this novel while I was reading it. As with several of the books mentioned in my previous post, The Monk was integral to my getting through the first week of Life After Caffeine. I needed a romp that wouldn't ask me to think too much and Lewis delivered; it couldn't have been a more perfect choice. And having carried this book around unread for approximately 10 years, it's also been a remarkable relief to realize that sometimes the right time for a book really is full a decade in the making. (FYI: It's almost 2 weeks since my last coffee; I think I'm almost okay now. Maybe.)

Gah, what a boring review. I wouldn't post this if I thought I could do better later. The fact is, for the next little while I'm going to be busier than usual and I'm not sure how much time I'll have for blogging; I'm certainly not going to be reading less, if I can help it! I will try to stay on top of things, by at least indicating when I've read a book. But spending a few hours on each post, and doing several posts per Victorian novel...not sure I can engage that deeply for the next little while.

Next up: a likely very short and unsatisfying review of Anthony Trollope's Autobiography!


sakura said...

I remember reading this when I was 18 or so and going through my gothic lit phase only because it was supposed to be SO scandalous. It wasn't really but I enjoyed reading it too.

Heidenkind said...

This sounds fun!

Richard said...

I read this in March last year and kind of loved it, Colleen. "Terrible" and "very enjoyable" agreed; however, the book lived up to something like a 20-year wait for me and didn't let me down in the end on the entertainment front even though the physical book was falling apart in my hands as I was reading it. One of my blog friends described Lewis as an "amusing weirdo" in her comment on my post, and I still think fondly of the novelist for being just that!

Bookphilia said...

chasingbawa: It's funny how what's considered scandalous is so contextual, isn't it? I enjoyed the book too, but it was very silly.

heidenkind: It is, and that's all it is. :)

Richard: Yes, I think "amusing weirdo" is a perfect way to describe Lewis. And the fact that the book was disintegrating as you read it seems entirely apropos to me.