Banned Books Week September 26-October 2, 2021

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This week, from September 26 through October 2 of 2021 is National Banned Books Week. Book banning and censorship is a crucial issue that should unite readers and writers. Throughout the world and humanity’s history, governments, churches, and other institutions have banned or attempted to ban and censor books.

Most of us are familiar with the images from Nazi Germany in which thousands of books were burned by the Fascists. All banning, however, is not so explicit. Sometimes in the United States of America, books are challenged, especially in the context of not being allowed to be taught in the classroom.

I oppose all such censorship. As a writer, it is an obscenity; as a teacher, it is an imposition of chosen ignorance; as a reader, it is an intolerable abomination. We must unite and oppose book banning, in all of its forms.

Fight for your freedom to choose what to read.

Here are several important links about this issue:

Banned Books Week

American Library Association

I will later, this week, in honor of this important cause put out another call for readers to become part of my unofficial group that opposes censorship–The Underground Library Society, The U. L. S.

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In the meantime, I ask all of you this question: what is a book that has been banned or challenged that you love?

I choose To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee.

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Another Call To Join the U.L.S., The Underground Library Society

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I am again asking for those who would like to join the U.L.S., the Underground Library Society, to join and write a guest post. I put this request out several times over the course of a year, because I hope to have more people join in the cause.

In an earlier First Year Class at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA, The U.L.S. — The Underground Library Society — was created. It is in the spirit of the Book People from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. In that novel, all books have been banned, and a few people “become” books by memorizing them, in the hope that, one day, books will be permitted to exist again.

In that spirit, I am putting out the call once more for like-minded people to join The U.L.S. All that is needed is to choose a book you would memorize if the need ever arose. The type or genre of the chosen piece does not matter.  There is no restriction on what you would become. You do not, however, actually have to memorize  the book now. If you wish to join, simply write a guest post in which you say what book you would “become” and why.

I have had several other bloggers join the U. L. S. Join the movement!

I hope many of you choose to join.

If you are a member and wish to add another book that you might become, you are welcome to do another post!

In the past, I have mentioned that I would become one of the following books: The Lord Of The Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien, Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, or Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

If you do wish to do a post, please email me at frenchc1955@yahoo.com  and write a guest post as a Word doc. Thank you.

Charles F. French

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I am looking forward to hearing from new members!

Please, come and join in the fun!

A New Addition To The U.L.S., The Underground Library Society: Ashley Clayton and her book of choice, Jane Eyre

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I want to welcome Ashley Clayton as the newest member of the U. L. S., The Underground Library Society. This is an unofficial organization dedicated to the preservation of books, and it was created in one of my First Year College Composition Classes at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA.  It is based on the Book People from Ray Bradbury’s classic novel Fahrentheit 451.  To join, a writer creates a post about a book he/she would become if they needed to in order to save it. They do not actually have to memorize it though.

When I first watched Jane Eyre[1] by Charlotte Brontë several years ago, I felt I had stumbled upon a pearl necklace left on a tree branch. I had never heard of the novel before, surprisingly—and I still wonder why it wasn’t included on my school reading lists, alongside The Scarlet Letter and Crime and Punishment. Jane is a protagonist I closely relate to, while still finding her differences complex and intriguing. We’re both introverts and artists, we tend to observe humans from afar and would prefer our own company over most people. Jane is also compassionate and does not let her circumstances overcome her fortitude—qualities I greatly admire in other people.

Jane is orphaned as an infant and grows up in an emotionally (and sometimes physically) abusive home. Her Aunt Reed is jealous of the girl and tends to overlook her plights while doting on her three spoiled and vindictive children. After Jane is struck by her older cousin John and she defends herself, she is sent to the red-room in the mansion—a scene which introduces the supernatural theme found throughout the novel. This is the room reportedly haunted by Jane’s dead uncle, and she begs to be released. Abandoned and injured, she falls ill and faints from her panic.

An apothecary is called to the home to see to Jane. Actual physicians, you see, were reserved only for the immediate family—Jane and the servants only saw the apothecary. The man recommends Mrs. Reed to send Jane away to Lowood Institute—an act disguised as charity while tidily securing the girl’s education and ongoing care, and thus eventual livelihood. This is the turning point of Jane’s young life.

Lowood was a harsh and cold place, the food poor and scant, but here Jane is given a chance to learn and develop her talents and abilities. Jane would adapt well and excel in her studies, while learning to survive within the austere school. Jane was already a resilient child from living with her aunt and cousins, and this trait became sharper at Lowood. After her classmate (and only friend) Helen dies, Jane is left alone to navigate the rest of her years at the school.

After Jane finishes her education and teaches at Lowood, she advertises for outside employment and is accepted to work at Thornfield Hall as a governess— “a fine old hall, rather neglected of late years perhaps” as Jane is told. Here she meets the estate’s proprietor, her master—a Mr. Edward Rochester. His life parallels in some ways to Jane’s: he lost a parent (his mother) early in life, his now deceased father was distant and neglectful, and he only inherited the estate after his elder brother’s untimely death. He is also the ward of a Ms. Adèle, a young French child who becomes Jane’s pupil—the third central orphan of the story.[2]

Jane Eyre is a story of injustices, sorrows and resiliency—a story filled with complex moral decisions and vulnerabilities. It is a story of characters struggling along in unfortunate circumstances, trying to find an existence where some sliver of hope and light might be found. Mr. Rochester and Jane find this hope in each other, but only after fire, tragic death and mutual forgiveness. The ending of Jane Eyre is not perfect—the author does not allow for a perfect ending. But the reader is left with a glimpse of a hopeful future and a sense of redemption for mostly everyone involved. And Jane considers herself “supremely blest” at the close of her story.

Jane Eyre is often categorized as a romance novel. While romance is a central theme of the story, I do not believe that is all Jane Eyre should be considered as. And perhaps that is why the novel was not included on my school reading lists. No, Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece is, I believe, one story about what it means to be human and to find yourself in imprisoning circumstances, and ultimately how to live through continued suffering, albeit imperfectly. Charlotte knew these things well herself—her mother, too, died when she was a child and two of her elder sisters died from tuberculosis contracted at school, just as Helen did at Lowood. Jane Eyre is a story of one woman’s strength as she discovers what love, grace and forgiveness truly entail. It is a novel I want alongside me in my life, preserved always for future generations. It is, by no exaggeration, one of the greatest works of literature ever written, and greatly appreciated by myself.

Thank you for reading.

[1] Specifically, the 2006 BBC miniseries starring Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens.

[2] It is unclear who Adèle’s father is and whether he may still be alive. Her father may be Mr. Rochester, or more likely, another man who Adèle’s mother was involved with during (or shortly after) she was Mr. Rochester’s mistress. Either way, I still consider Adèle an orphan, if not legally, then spiritually.

Thank you to Ashley Clayton for joining the U. L. S.

Please be sure to visit her website A. R. Clayton.

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A New Addition to the U.L.S., The Underground Library Society: Andrew McDowell and Dickens’ A Christmas Carol

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I am delighted to welcome Andrew McDowell to the U. L. S., The Underground Library Society! This is an unofficial organization dedicated to the preservation of books, and it was created in one of my First Year College Composition Classes at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA.  It is based on the Book People from Ray Bradbury’s classic novel Fahrentheit 451.  To join, a writer creates a post about a book he/she would become if they needed to in order to save it. They do not actually have to memorize it though. 

Here is Andrew McDowell’s post:

Christmas is my favorite holiday, and one Christmas story I’ve always enjoyed is Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, written and published in 1843. I’ve seen many movie adaptations, from the Muppet version starring Michael Caine to the 1951 and 1991 versions starring Alastair Sim and Patrick Stewart, respectively. My favorite is indisputably the 1984 version starring George C. Scott. I even starred as a Cratchit kid in a theater production in high school (though I really wanted to play Jacob Marley). Throughout it all, the story has struck a chord with me.

Ebenezer Scrooge cares for no one and nothing beyond advancing business and hoarding money. He dismisses the poor, his own nephew, and his clerk Bob Cratchit, whom he lets have Christmas Day off with the greatest possible reluctance. But on Christmas Eve, the ghost of his deceased business partner, Marley, who is suffering and carrying a ponderous chain in death for having lived the same life of greed and selfishness, comes to tell him he has a chance to escape the same fate.

The Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Yet to Come respectively show Scrooge how he came to reject the world and his own heart, how those around him—including Bob and his sickly yet beloved son Tiny Tim—are sharing love and affection through Christmas, and what will happen to them—and himself—if he does not change. Finally Scrooge proclaims he is not the man he was, and that he will honor Christmas in his heart and remember the lessons he has learned.

Simply put, A Christmas Carol is about redemption. Scrooge acknowledges men’s courses will result in certain ends, but those ends will change if their courses do. This story shows us no matter how far we have fallen, if we choose to change, we can still be redeemed. Scrooge rebuilds his relationships with his nephew and Bob Cratchit, and he becomes a second father to Tiny Tim, who is really the heart and soul of the book. Scrooge is described as thereafter knowing how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.

A Christmas Carol may not have Santa Claus, Christmas trees, cards, or presents, but it does have many essential blessings that are essential to Christmas: home, food, family, love, and charity. This book has been credited as redefining Christmas for the modern world. It is said that an American businessman, after hearing Dickens read it, decided to give his employees Christmas Day off. A Christmas Carol teaches hope and faith. It shows the best in humanity, what humanity is capable of, and reminds readers that the well-being of all is everyone’s business.

Thank you to Andrew McDowell for this post! Please visit his website: Andrew McDowell An Author of Many Parts

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Welcome Alexis Cunningham to the U. L. S. The Underground Library Society

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I want to welcome the newest member of the U. L. S. — the Underground Library Society — Alexis Cunningham!

The U. L. S. is an unofficial organization dedicated to preserving books and to opposing censorship.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge called poetry “the best words in the best order” or so the blurb on the inner cover of Best Words poetry anthology tells me. Issued to my English literature class as we prepared for our G.C.S.E exams (the equivalent to High School leavers exams) many years ago, I could not have imagined how big an impact one single poem inside could have on me.

Thing is, I’m not generally a fan of poetry. I’m staunchly a prose kind of girl. I think it. I write it. I want to expound at length, not distil language into something symbolic, or constrain it with iambic pentameter, or any of those other fiercely rigid structures that transform the written word into a composition and not an essay.

But when I thought about what book I’d want to become for the Underground Library Society my mind went blank…until they came. Snatches of words, rising from the conquered regions of my mind.

“Belfast. Beirut. Phnom Penh. All flesh is grass.”

These words form the final line of the first stanza of Carol Ann Duffy’s poem the War Photographer, a work of literature I’ve never been able to forget.

When I was sixteen I didn’t know where Beirut was. I’d never heard of Phnom Penh. Yet it didn’t matter. The specific conflicts didn’t matter –I understood. In war, all flesh is grass.

In four unpretentious stanzas, Duffy asks her reader to consider not just war, and the privilege of peace, but also the culpability of a world where the safe can witness horrors from a TV or PC screen, a smartphone video, or, as she puts it “the Sunday supplement” where “reader’s eyeballs prick with tears between the bath and pre-lunch beers.”

This was heavy stuff for a sixteen year old who could barely stay awake when asked to wander lonely as a cloud, or compare thee to a summer’s day, and it’s heavy stuff now –and I suppose I must like that, because poor old Keats and Browning, Byron and Billy Shakespeare have never done a thing for me.

Like the eponymous war photography himself, who “stares impassively at where he earns his living and they do not care” reading the War Photography left me feeling bereft and guilty, shaken out of my complacency and introduced to a new world of vivid imagery that made me look at the everyday through a different lens.

There is one place that links me, Duffy and her War Photography. England. The place I call home and Duffy describes as a land of “ordinary pain which simple weather can dispel”.

Yet England is irrevocably connected to foreign fields that explode “beneath the feet of running children in a nightmare heat,” through the War Photography himself. Forever jaded by all he has seen, he brings the war home to sleepy England with its baths and Sunday luncheons.

That juxtaposition of ordinary pain and nightmare heat, and of grass and flesh, is one that has captivated my imagination ever since.

It’s no real surprise that in my first published work, The Innocent Have Nothing to Fear, I chose to write ten short stories of an England where monsters roam in plain clothes and innocents live with their eyes wide-shut, creating a suburban world where horror lives hand-in-hand with absurdity.

Sometimes, we don’t choose to become our words, they choose us, and there are ideas that are much bigger than the pages that contain them.

About me: I am a fantasy fiction writer and life-long n00b working on a book series –The Seraphim Chronicles–focused on a group of dysfunction gods and their human avatars, set in the world of Aldlis where souls fuel magic and the dead can’t pass on.  I am also learning to run my blog Aldlis Chronicles, while knowing nothing and doing it all backwards. It’s going great!

My first published work, The Innocent Have Nothing to Fear and Other Stories of Chilling Modern Horror Fantasy is available on Amazon and a follow up, The Innocent Need Not Apply is in development.

Links to me:

Book:
The Innocent Have Nothing to Fear: and Other Stories of Chilling
Modern Horror Fantasy eBook: Cunningham, Alexis: Available: Amazon
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Once again, thanks to Alexis Cunningham for joining the U. L. S.!

The Continuing Call To Join The U.L.S. — The Underground Library Society

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I am again asking for those who would like to join the U.L.S., the Underground Library Society, to join and write a guest post. I put this request out several times over the course of a year, because I hope to have more people join in the cause.

In an earlier First Year Class at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA, The U.L.S. — The Underground Library Society — was created. It is in the spirit of the Book People from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. In that novel, all books have been banned, and a few people “become” books by memorizing them, in the hope that, one day, books will be permitted to exist again.

In that spirit, I am putting out the call once more for like-minded people to join The U.L.S. All that is needed is to choose a book you would memorize if the need ever arose. The type or genre of the chosen piece does not matter.  There is no restriction on what you would become. You do not, however, actually have to memorize  the book now. If you wish to join, simply write a guest post in which you say what book you would “become” and why.

I have had several other bloggers join the U. L. S. Join the movement!

I hope many of you choose to join.

If you are a member and wish to add another book that you might become, you are welcome to do another post!

In the past, I have mentioned that I would become one of the following books: The Lord Of The Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien, Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, or Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

If you do wish to do a post, please email me at frenchc1955@yahoo.com  and write a guest post as a Word doc. Thank you.

Charles F. French

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I am looking forward to hearing from new members!

Please, come and join in the fun!

Welcome To A New Member of the U. L. S., The Underground Library Society!

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I want to welcome a new member of the U. L. S., the Underground Library Society, Michelle Saul, an excellent writer, a former student of mine, and someone I am proud to call friend. This is her choice of book to become and to save, if we lived in a world as in Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 in which books are forbidden.
Michelle’s post:
I have always though that the preservation of the written word is one of the most important things in the world. As a lover of books for as long as I can remember, some of my earliest and fondest memories are of my mother, my Aunt Mary, and my nana reading books to me. Blue Bug and Word Bird were just the start of a life long love of books. As I’ve gotten older and have discovered more books and authors, my love for books has only grown stronger with each passing year. So the thought of a world without books and reading is a horrifies me!
I’ve given a lot of thought as to what book I would memorize should the need ever arise and I’m sure for anyone who knows me, they would be surprised to find that my choice isn’t Harry Potter. Though I have loved Harry Potter for over half of my life and have learned many lessons from it over my lifetime, the book I’m choosing I feel embodies the true spirit of memorizing stories and telling them.
That book would be Ireland by Frank Delaney.
The first time I read Ireland was in my Irish Literature class during my undergraduate degree and it was literary love at first read. This is a book that comes off the page and immerses you in the world Frank Delaney created. For those who have never read this novel, it’s about a storyteller who visits the home of the main character Ronan when he is nine-years-old. The three nights that the storyteller is there changes Ronan’s life forever. From there, we see Ronan grow and have only one true goal- To find the
storyteller that changed his life forever.
It is a beautifully written story with a rich history of Ireland. This novel shows how one good story can change a person’s life and set them on the path of who they’re meant to become. It shows how important the written and spoken are. So this novel, with its theme of storytelling and the life-changing magic that comes with them, makes it feel like an appropriate and very fitting choice for The Underground Library Society.
Please visit Michelle at mythoughtsonwritingandreading
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A Renewed Call To Join The Underground Library Society!

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I am again asking for those who would like to join the U.L.S.,the Underground Library Society, to join and write a guest post. I put this request out several times over the course of a year, because I hope to have more people join in the cause.

In an earlier First Year Class at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA, The U.L.S. — The Underground Library Society — was created. It is in the spirit of the Book People from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. In that novel, all books have been banned, and a few people “become” books by memorizing them, in the hope that, one day, books will be permitted to exist again.

In that spirit, I am putting out the call once more for like-minded people to join The U.L.S. All that is needed is to choose a book you would memorize if the need ever arose. The type or genre of the chosen piece does not matter.  There is no restriction on what you would become. You do not, however, actually have to memorize  the book now. If you wish to join, simply write a guest post in which you say what book you would “become” and why.

I have had several other bloggers join the U. L. S. Join the movement!

I hope many of you choose to join.

In the past, I have mentioned that I would become one of the following books: The Lord Of The Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien, Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, or Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

If you do wish to do a post, please email me at frenchc1955@yahoo.com  and write a guest post as a Word doc. Thank you.

Charles F. French

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I am looking forward to hearing from new members!

Please, come and join in the fun!

Another Member Of The U.L.S. — Robbie Cheadle Writes On The Red Badge of Courage

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I want to welcome Robbie Cheadle to the U. L. S., The Underground Library Society! This group is an unofficial collection of people who deeply value books. It is based on the idea of The Book People from Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.  Robbie is the newest member of this group of book lovers!

Robbie has excellent blogs: Robbie Cheadle books/poems/reviews and   Robbie’s inspiration. Both are wonderful; please be sure to visit them.

The Red Badge of Courage

Background

The Red Badge of Courage is a novel about the American Civil War, written by American author, Stephen Crane. Although the author was born after the war and had not ever participated in a battle when he wrote the book, The Red Badge of Courage is cited for its realism and naturalism.

The book depicts several very vivid and intense battle scenes which are graphically depicted from the perspective of the young protagonist, Henry Fleming, a private in the Union Army. The book explores the themes of maturism, heroism and cowardice with regards to Fleming’s regiment which comprises mainly of inexperienced first-time soldiers who have conscripted for various reasons and the indifference of nature to the follies of man.

The red badge of courage referred to in the title of the book is a wound incurred during battle.

My review of this book

The Red Badge of Courage was a fascinating insight into the psychology of warfare for young recruits who have never experienced battle before. I read the author’s biography and was astonished that he had never experienced war before he wrote this startling descriptive and vivid account of the fictional 304th New York Infantry Regiment during the American Civil War.

The main character is 18-year old man from a farming background called Henry Fleming. Henry is tired of the monotony of his life helping his mother on the farm and enlists because he has romanticized battle as a result of reading several accounts of war. He is attracted by his perceived glamour of battle and enlists against the advice of his mother. When she attempts to give him some practical advice before he leaves to join his new regiment, he resents her words which belie and detract from his romantic notions.

Henry’s main ambition is to prove that he is man enough to be a soldier, and he suffers endless anxiety about how he will react when his regiment eventually sees some action on the front. He becomes friendly with a number of his compatriots, including a young man named Jim Conklin, who confesses that he would run from battle if all his peers did so.

Henry’s regiment finally faces the enemy and is successful during their first session of combat. After a short reprieve, the regiment faces the enemy again and this time Henry is convinced that his regiment will lose and he runs away from the battle. He retreats into a nearby wood and comes across a dead body. In his fear and fright at coming across this grim sight, he joins up with a group of injured soldiers, one of whom is is friend, Jim Conklin. Henry is deeply ashamed of his cowardly behavior and does his best to hide the fact that he is not injured but has fled the battle. He manages to get away with it, but his disgust at his own behavior and fear of discovery results in later behaviour that is almost reckless and lacking in reasonable self-care in his attempt to redeem himself in his own mind.

I loved the characterisation of Henry as a thinker and a person who is sensitive to his own potential failings and fears. I am sure that many young men must feel like this when faced with the real possibility of their own imminent death. The effect of peer pressure and the comradery or brotherhood of soldiers when in a group is also intriguing and believable.

Once again, thank you to Robbie Cheadle, and welcome to the U. L. S., The Underground Library Society!

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An Invitation To Join The U.L.S. — The Underground Library Society

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I am again asking for those who would like to join the U.L.S.,the Underground Library Society, to join and write a guest post. I put this request out several times over the course of a year, because I hope to have more people join in the cause.

In an earlier First Year Class at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA, The U.L.S. — The Underground Library Society — was created. It is in the spirit of the Book People from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. In that novel, all books have been banned, and a few people “become” books by memorizing them, in the hope that, one day, books will be permitted to exist again.

I am again teaching the subject of banned books and censorship, and my students will take part in this organization, and I hope that many of you do also. My students will create posters about the book they choose, put them up at various places on campus, do a blog post on the project, memorize one paragraph form their chosen books, and then give a short presentation about the work at the end of the semester.

In that spirit, I am putting out the call once more for like-minded people to join The U.L.S. All that is needed is to choose a book you would memorize if the need ever arose. The type or genre of the chosen piece does not matter.  There is no restriction on what you would become. You do not, however, actually have to memorize  the book now. You do not need to create a poster, although if you do, I ask only that you use the logo of the U.L.S. on this page. If you wish to join, simply write a guest post in which you say what book you would “become” and why.

I hope many of you choose to join.

In the past, I have mentioned that I would become one of the following books: The Lord Of The Rings, by J. R. R. Tolkien, Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, or Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury.

If you do wish to do a post, please email me at frenchc1955@yahoo.com  and write a guest post as a Word doc. Thank you.

Charles F. French

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I am looking forward to hearing from new members!

Please, come and join in the fun!