Friday 17 June 2011

Neglected classics: The Monk by Matthew Lewis

Matthew Lewis
Since it's summer, I was tempted to subtitle this, "Beach reading for nerds."  If the Twilight saga and its offspring have left you wondering what's with teenagers today, get some perspective by reading The Monk by Matthew Lewis.  The Monk (published 1796) is one of the novels alluded to (and satirized) by Jane Austen in Northanger Abbey.  Published when Lewis was only nineteen, this racy novel earned him the nickname “Monk Lewis.”

If you ever have those yearnings to read a trashy novel but fear being caught in the act, then pick up The Monk, and, with a clear conscience, you can boast to everyone that you’re reading a neglected classic.  Ever wondered what really goes on behind the closed doors of monasteries or nunneries?  Well, you won’t after reading this.  Lust, incest, rape and necromancy swirl through the pages like the fantasies of a …well, a nineteen year-old male.  I’ve read reviews that see the novel as addressing the horrors of religious oppression, but to be honest, I feel that Lewis’s ‘exposé’ of the Catholic church is so outrageous that not even a devout Catholic could take it seriously- it certainly had this Anglo-Catholic laughing out loud. 

Recommended for sheer entertainment value with the added bonus of pretending you’re in fact being a literary snob.

P.S. and yes, I do see the irony of posting this next to an ad for Mystic Monk coffee, but I think they're too busy roasting a darn good cup of java to get up to all the things Lewis writes about!

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