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The Monk (book review) Matthew Gregory Lewis

Updated: Dec 9, 2021

170319: probably the most fun i have ever had with any book over 225 years old. except maybe the windmill guy. but then my idea of ‘fun’ is different, as here i revel in this comic/horrific/sexual text more in reading it through having read so many other books, and thus now understand the ‘rules of the game’. this is fantasy (horror...). i can see why it appealed to the surrealists. this is one of those ur-texts of all descendant romantic/gothic fantasies that no one reads but magically sell so many, that receive critical attention only sometimes much, much later. and mostly by women...

i do not exempt myself from such litcrit prejudice. when young, innocent, naive, first entering the hallowed academic groves of literature, i had thought works would tell me something directly or indirectly about that shared world familiar certainly to most men, such as accounting, rather than the personal emotional worlds celebrated by most women, where poetry reigns over math, where the magic of love takes precedence over the magic of quantum physics... i did not know the rules yet. this work does indirectly reveal emotional worlds which may not, possibly ever, be quantified: in history, impressions, desires of readers who really might just want something diverting and not too disturbing, and the way such (contingent?) wants are maybe satisfied in (contingent?) artwork. maybe not exactly the standard happily-ever-after ending popular readers expect but happy in confirming that ideology of the time...

this is fun. maybe it is history, personal in reading, but i enjoy this because it is fantasy and no one (i think...) asks me to take it seriously. maybe my reading is wrong, and fulminating moral critics of that time and since did/do take it seriously, and so should i. having just read some recent ‘paranormal romances’ i am more sympathetic to the value of fantasy, though my fantasies might continue to be in an avant-garde literary way that tends towards the hellish intellectual philosophical lands... so maybe i will reread some of those gothic stories (i do have bookshelf...) now, and up the ratings...

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