As Sheck demonstrates, the lyric essay is a kind of Frankenstein's monster, equipped with parts sliced out of others, stitched up with genius and white space:
"If I could see intervals as well as objects. . . ."
"How slowly the time passes here, encompassed as I am by frost and snow!" -- "Frankenstein"
"Architecture of oblivion, its drifts."
"Winter darkness pulls over like a monk's cowl, enclosing us in worlds where strange things take place, where anything can happen, where the mind goes where it's never gone before, and stays." -- Gretel Ehrlich, "The Future of Ice"
I started this review before finishing the book, in the form of notes. I didn't know I was writing the review yet. I have another file just as long.
Fungibility of the notebook mode. Juxtaposition is easy, at times even arbitrary; effects perhaps no less revelatory or pungent.
"As the minuteness of the parts formed a great hindrance to my speed, I resolved, contrary to my first intention, to make the being of a gigantic stature; that is to say, about eight feet in height, and proportionally large. After having formed this determination and having spent some months in successfully collecting and arranging my materials, I began." --"Frankenstein"
Cut and paste.
When am I writing this sentence?
Page 271, in its entirety: "The monks in their patchwork rags . . . and I a patchwork . . . the workings of each mind a patchwork, each self roughly stitched as you stitched me."
The energies of "A Monster's Notes" are not incompatible with those of the Web. Thought for future development: Unruly, genre-leaking books like Theresa Hak Kyung Cha's "Dictee," Ishmael Reed's "Mumbo Jumbo" and David Markson's "Wittgenstein's Mistress" might seem merely reflexive today, when we write in fragments, when our blogs and Twitter feeds and Facebook pages are de facto lyric essays, Frankenstein creations.
The intricacies of Shelley's life (who was Claire?) unclear to me till I went to Wikipedia. Sheck also embeds into her book Wikipedia, Google searches, Unknown Hosts, Redirections. All this webwork.
"The dissecting room and the slaughter-house furnished many of my materials; and often did my human nature turn with loathing from my occupation, whilst, still urged on by an eagerness which perpetually increased, I brought my work near to a conclusion. . . . With an anxiety that almost amounted to agony, I collected the instruments of life around me, that I might infuse a spark of being into the lifeless thing that lay at my feet." --"Frankenstein"
R. e-mails me that our friend J. has to take blood pressure medication because she drinks too much coffee, which makes me laugh. But also that J. "had this horrifying story about recently running into a crime scene near her house where a man had been cut into little pieces in a box." Which makes me think I will never get to sleep. I do, but in the middle of the night a storm centers itself overhead. I am not dreaming and now I understand the term "rolling thunder," the noise caroming like a ball in a roulette wheel, a ball the size of 20 baseball stadiums, a wheel with a diameter the length of Manhattan. Car alarms go off. I silently count the seconds before, or is it after, lightning penetrates the armor of the venetian blinds, to scrape my eyes and shock the bedsheets silver.
Ed Park is a founding editor of the Believer and the author of the novel "Personal Days." Astral Weeks appears monthly at www.latimes.com/books.