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The Man Who Was Thursday

by G.K. Chesterton

In a surreal turn-of-the-century London, Gabriel Syme, a poet, is recruited to a secret counter-terrorist taskforce at Scotland Yard. Syme persuades Lucian Gregory, an anarchist, to lead him to the local terrorist cell, where he is elected as the cell's representative to the worldwide council of anarchists the Central Anarchist Council seven men, each using the name of a day of the week as a code name. His efforts to thwart the council's intentions and oppose all anarchic acts reveal a comical number of unlikely allies. Ultimately, Syme and his fellow champions of order confront the head anarchist, only to find their perception of order and chaos turned completely upside down. The novel's subtitle, "A Nightmare," is a summation of the frightening and increasingly surreal world in which Syme finds himself enmeshed.

Reviewed on 2004.11.29

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

by Robert Louis Stevenson

A lawyer, Charles Utterson, investigates the strange link that the misanthropic man Edward Hyde has to his friend, Dr. Henry Jekyll.

The investigation begins as a matter of curiosity, despite Jekyll's assurances that Hyde is nothing to worry about. That changes when Hyde is seen murdering Member of Parliament. As Utterson assists in the investigation of the crime, Jekyll becomes more and more reclusive and Utterson comes to believe that the doctor is abetting Mr. Hyde...

Reviewed on 2004.09.27


Written in 1749 while Cleland was in debtor's prison in London, it is considered the first "erotic" novel and its publication caused a furor. Immediately upon its release, the Church of England asked the British Secretary of State to "stop the progress of this vile Book, which is an open insult upon Religion and good manners." As a result, Cleland was arrested and charged with "corrupting the King's subjects."

Nonetheless, copies of the book were sold "underground," and the book eventually made its way to the United States where, in 1821, it was banned for obscenity.

In 1963, G. B. Putnam published the book under the title John Cleland's Memoirs of a Woman of Pleasure which also was immediately banned for obscenity. The publisher challenged the ban in court.

In a landmark decision in 1966, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Memoirs v. Massachusetts that the banned novel did not meet the Roth standard for obscenity.

Reviewed on 2004.09.25

The Vampyre, a Tale

by John Polidori

During the snowy summer of 1816, the "Year Without A Summer," the world was locked in in a long cold volcanic winter responsible for the deaths of million, caused by the eruption of Tambora in 1815. In this terrible year, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley and her husband Percy Bysshe Shelley visited Lord Byron in Switzerland. After reading an anthology of German ghost stories, Byron challenged the Shelleys and his personal physician John William Polidori to each compose a story of their own. Of the four, only Polidori completed a story, though Mary conceived an idea, and this was the germ of Frankenstein.

It is worth noting that Byron managed to write a fragment based on the vampire legends he heard while traveling the Balkans. Polidori used this fragment to create the novel The Vampyre (1819), which is the origin of all subsequent vampire literature. Thus, the Frankenstein and vampire themes were created from that single circumstance.

Reviewed on 2004.09.25

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