Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Monday, April 28, 2014

Frankenstein Sundae: 1

Daniel Dyer

Copyright © 2014 by Daniel Dyer

All rights reserved. This book or any portion thereof may not be reproduced or used in any manner whatsoever without the express written permission of the publisher except for the use of brief quotations in a book review.

For Betty Bennett (1935–2006),
Shelley scholar nonpareil, the generous friend who took my hand and showed me the way.

I pursued him; and for many months this has been my task.  … What his feelings were whom I pursued, I cannot know.

— Victor Frankenstein, in Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley, 1818

I saw a man pursuing the horizon;
Round and round they sped.
I was disturbed at this;
I accosted the man.
“It is futile,” I said,
“You can never—”

“You lie,” he cried,
And ran on.

            — Stephen Crane, Black Riders and Other Lines, 1895

There is a sense in which any journey is absurd.
            — William Golding, An Egyptian Journal, 1985

From the Oxford English Dictionary
sundae, n.
Pronunciation: /ˈsʌndeɪ/
Forms: Also (rarely) sundi.(Show Less)
Etymology: Origin uncertain. There exist a number of differing accounts both of the invention of the dish and of the coinage of its name.
The name is generally explained as an alteration of Sunday, either because the dish originally included leftover ice-cream sold cheaply on Monday, or because it was at first sold only on Sunday, having, according to some accounts, been devised to circumvent Sunday legislation. The alteration of the spelling is sometimes said to be out of deference to religious people’s feelings about the word Sunday. For several accounts see H. L. Mencken, The American Language Suppl. I. (1945), pp. 376–7.
... orig. U.S.
A confection of ice-cream topped or mixed with crushed fruit, nuts, syrup, whipped cream, etc. locally also called college ice.
1897 W. A. Bonham Mod. Guide for Soda Dispensers 126 Peach Sundae. Ice cream, vanilla or peach5 ounces. Crushed or sliced peaches2 ounces. Serve with a spoon. Pear, orange, raspberry and other fruit sundaes are made by adding the syrup or fruit to the ice cream.
1904 N.Y. Evening Post 21 May (Sat. Suppl.) 4/7 The Sundi, so popular at the confectioner’s, can be prepared at home. Make a rich vanilla ice cream and over it pour the juice of your preserved fruits.
1904 Minneapolis Times 15 June 6 In one of the Jersey City churches fans and lemonade are distributed. Some brands of ‘sundae’ might be added with propriety.
1910 Chambers’s Jrnl. July 431/1 A sundae—a mixture of ice-cream, soda-water, and raspberry juice.
1927 A. P. Herbert Plain Jane 88 I’m fizzy and fiery and fruity and tense, So let’s have a sundae and hang the expense!
1951 T. Sterling House without Door ii. 22 Year after yearSchrafft’s had been serving lamb and mint jelly and hot fudge sundaes to others.
1970 Kay & Co. (Worcester) Catal. 1970–71 896 Six Bohemian sundae glasses in the Zorka design. Perfect for all sweets.

I: Prelude

29 April 1999.  Near Darmstadt, Germany.  Around noon.

On a blue, lightly hazy Thursday I am sitting in a little restaurant overlooking the Rhine Valley. I am in a range of low mountains called the Odenwald, near the Bergstrasse (mountain road), a centuries-old north-south trading route paralleling the Rhine, a road of some forty-five miles that links Darmstadt in the north with Wiesloch in the south. Lining this scenic route are castles and ruins, views and panoramas—picturesque food for photographers and tourists.
The Rhine is barely visible from where I sit—nearly thirteen miles below, off to the west, flowing past the riverside town of Gernsheim. But not far away from me, perhaps 150 feet, are the ruins of Castle Frankenstein. Burg Frankenstein, in German. The northernmost castle along the Bergstrasse. Frankensteins started living here in the thirteenth century and stayed for four hundred years. Then, things fell apart. In 1965 a restaurant rose among the ruins.
I am eating a large berry sundae, feeling that rich, piercing mixture of pleasure and disappointment in myself familiar to those who struggle with diets and weight gain. When I left Ohio for Europe more than two weeks ago, I had just purchased pants and shorts with 33-inch waists—a size up from the ever-tighter 32s I’d been wearing. I would lose weight in Europe.  Would slip easily back into my accommodating 32s when I returned after my month abroad. The 33s, I assured my wife, Joyce, were just for the comfort of traveling, that’s all. Not a size I was planning to grow into. No way. Now, as I scrape the bottom of the sundae glass with my spoon to extract the last berry molecules, I realize the 33s are feeling a little tight. (Probably just the way I’m sitting.)
This restaurant, I’ve read, is very crowded on Halloween when people swarm to Burg Frankenstein for the obvious reasons. Probably most of those people know what I do—that this castle does not appear at all in Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, the tale that launched far more vessels than did that famous face of Helen of Troy. But in the old Frankenstein movies (and the parodies) there is generally a castle stormed by torch- and pitchfork-bearing peasants determined to drive out the madman who made the monster who’s terrorizing the countryside. The madman. The scientist. The intellectual. Burn him!
I’m amused with myself, sitting here eating a berry sundae in the Frankenstein castle.  And a bit pleased, too, to tell the truth. For the past couple of weeks I’ve been charging around Europe, visiting sites related to Victor Frankenstein’s creator, Mary Wollstonecraft Godwin Shelley, to her husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley (the middle name—a family name—rhymes with fish and is the name all familiars called him), and to others in their circle: her parents (William Godwin and Mary Wollstonecraft), Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Lord Byron … the usual suspects.  I’ve come to Burg Frankenstein to see for myself if something I’ve read could possibly be true …

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