The Invisible Man–A New Entry for the U.L.S., The Underground Library Society, by Roberta Eaton Cheadle

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Copy of Roberta Writes - independent pub 2 theme.

 

Thank you so much to Roberta Eaton Cheadle for creating another entry into the U. L. S., the Underground Library Society! The U. L. S. is an unofficial group of people who are dedicated to the preservation of books and in complete opposition to censorship. The idea is based on the Book People from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

The Invisible Man by H.G. Wells

Background

The Invisible Man is a science fiction novel by H.G. Wells that was initially published as a series in 1897.

This book examines human nature and the temptations of immorality to humans. Essentially, the author explores how he believes people would behave if there were no consequences to their actions.

The story starts with a stranger arriving at Iping, a small town in the United Kingdom, and taking lodgings at the Coach and Horses Inn. Mrs. Hall, who runs the inn, is pleased to have the stranger’s unexpected business in the “off” season and gives the stranger, called Griffin, a set of rooms, despite his peculiar attire. Griffin is dressed in a heavy coat, gloves and a hat, and his face is entirely covered by bandages except for his nose. His eyes are hidden by large blue glasses. He doesn’t remove his coat or hat even after Mrs Hall lights a warm fire for him.

Griffin proves to be a rude and selfish guest, but Mrs. Hall tolerates him because of the money he is paying her. He breaks things and demands to be left alone in his rooms while he works with a set of chemicals and laboratory apparatus. He is also never seen without his coat and hat. Mrs Hall decides to ask him to leave as soon as the warmer weather arrives, and other paying guests start arriving.

Griffin continues to live at the Inn for a few months and becomes a topic of speculation by the local people. He is visited by the local doctor, Cuss, who is shocked when Griffin accidentally removes his hand from his pocket and his sleeve is completely empty.

Griffin runs out of money and is unable to settle his bill with Mrs. Hall. They have words and that evening the vicarage is burgled. The following day Griffin pays his bill and Mrs Hall is suspicious.

The villagers confront Griffin about the burglary, and he removes his bandages revealing a black cavity in place of his face. The local police constable attempts to arrest Griffin, but he escapes and starts on a rampage of theft and vengeful behaviour through the countryside. Griffin believes that as he is invisible, he cannot be caught, and he is free to do anything he pleases.

As Griffin descends further into his role as a ‘man on the role’ he becomes more and more aggressive and wild in his behaviour. He also comes to realise that he cannot achieve his dream of dominating other men on his own.

He seeks to gain assistance from firstly, a tramp called Thomas Marvel, and secondly, a doctor and fellow scientist from his days at University College London. Griffin reveals the story of his journey to invisibility to Dr Kemp, as well as his plan to impose a “Reign of Terror and to institute “the Epoch of the Invisible Man.” Dr Kemp is horrified by the level of immorality Griffin has sunk too.

Themes

I have selected a few quotations from the book to demonstrate the themes:

Freedom, Anonymity, and Immorality:

“My mood, I say, was one of exaltation. I felt as a seeing man might do, with padded feet and noiseless clothes, in a city of the blind. I experienced a wild impulse to jest, to startle people, to clap men on the back, fling people’s hats astray, and generally revel in my extraordinary advantage.”

The future versus the past:

“And there it was, on a shabby bed in a tawdry, ill-lighted bedroom, surrounded by a crowd of ignorant and excited people, broken and wounded, betrayed and unpitied, that Griffin, the first of all men to make himself invisible, Griffin, the most gifted physicist the world has ever seen, ended in infinite disaster his strange and terrible career.”

Greed and self-interest:

“He is mad,” said Kemp; “inhuman. He is pure selfishness. He thinks of nothing but his own advantage, his own safety. I have listened to such a story this morning of brutal self-seeking…. He has wounded men. He will kill them unless we can prevent him. He will create a panic. Nothing can stop him. He is going out now — furious!”

Skepticism vs. Belief:

“I wish you’d keep your fingers out of my eye,” said the aerial voice, in a tone of savage expostulation. “The fact is, I’m all here:head, hands, legs, and all the rest of it, but it happens I’m invisible. It’s a confounded nuisance, but I am. That’s no reason why I should be poked to pieces by every stupid bumpkin in Iping, is it?

Humans, Science and Nature:

“I went over the heads of the things a man reckons desirable. No doubt invisibility made it possible to get them, but it made it impossible to enjoy them when they are got.”

Conclusion

The Invisible Man is an important book to preserve because it demonstrates that greed and self-interest become corruptive forces. Griffin goes from being a young and enthusiastic scientist with a scientific interest in the possibility of using light and optics to turn a living thing invisible, to someone who uses his invisibility for personal gain and power.

Given the greed and corruption that still blights humanity and human interaction, this book is useful in understanding the process of corruption and the degeneration of decency.

robbie
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Please be sure to visit Robbie at her wonderful blogs:

Robbie Cheadle Books/Poems/Reviews

Robbie’s inspiration

Thank you again to Robbie Cheadle for this post!

Please Join the U. L. S. in honor of National Banned Books Week

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In honor of National Banned Books Week, 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!

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 Entry For The U. L. S., The Underground Library Society, by Roberta Eaton Cheadle: Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

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Thank you so much to Roberta Eaton Cheadle for creating another entry into the U. L. S., the Underground Library Society! The U. L. S. is an unofficial group of people who are dedicated to the preservation of books and in complete opposition to censorship. The idea is based on the Book People from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

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Copy of Roberta Writes - independent pub 2 theme.

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Overview

A colleague of mine who is a philosopher recommended I read Brave New World, a book written in 1931 by English author Aldous Huxley.

I have read several dystopian novels including 1984 by George Orwell, Anthem by Ayn Rand, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells and Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, but this one disturbed me the most.

In all other dystopian novels I’ve read, compliance with the despotic authoritarian regimes that demand the surrender of knowledge, creativity, and individuality are enforced by strict control over the behaviour and actions of all people and the maintenance of power through force, intimidation, and torture.

In Brave New World, the freedom of choice of individuals is taken away by the removal of the normal human reproductive system, family units, and relationships. Reproduction is replaced with a state-controlled artificial system whereby babies are grown in test tubes and the developing foetuses are ‘interfered with’ so that the babies are suited to their pre-designated status in life.

Once the babies are decanted, they are conditioned by repetitive mantras during their sleeping hours which condition their behaviour towards each other, the different societal castes, and their leisure and consumption behaviour. Everyone is conditioned to accept everyone else and appreciate their contribution to the smooth functioning of society. They are also conditioned to accept death and to not have any strong emotions or feelings. There are no human attachments through love or a sense of belonging.

In this manner, everyone is happy as their physical human needs are met and even exceeded, as they are kept entertained as well as fed, clothed, and employed. All people are also provided with a soothing happiness-maintaining drug called Soma to take the edge off any mild emotional upsets they might experience.

The society in Brave New World is that of a rigid caste system where status, intelligence and worth, all of which are designated from conception through the method of development of the foetuses, is prescribed equally for males and females from almost all population groups on earth.

The Alphas are the intellectuals of the World State and take all academic jobs such as college professors, scientists, and leadership roles. They wear gray and have a lot more freedom provided the do not stray outside of the societal norms of ‘everyone is for everyone’ and they do not try to push the boundaries of the search for freedom, truth, or science. They do not have relationships but engage in numerous sexual encounters with many different people. The maintenance of their status costs them their individual thoughts and ideas. They are dedicated to maintaining the system and thus the happiness of the masses.

The Betas wear mulberry or maroon and are one level below Alphas. They are more ‘regular’ than Alphas as they don’t have the accelerated intelligence or physiques gifted to Alphas during their foetal development.

The Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons are the workers, and their intelligences are artificially impaired. This impairment increases as you go down the castes with Epsilons being mentally incapacitated in their artificial wombs through depriving the developing foetuses of oxygen for limited periods.

The purpose of this intellectual impairment is to ensure the workers are happy in their repetitive and boring jobs and do not become unsettled or dissatisfied due to unfulfilled higher purposes and ambitions by the workers.

The Gammas, Deltas, and Epsilons are the majority and wear green, khaki, and black, respectively. Many of the work groups are grown from the same embryos so they share common features and are in effectively all ‘twins’ and related.

Plot

Lenina Crowne, an Alpha female who works in the hatcheries (baby production factories) is a little unsettled when the book starts. She is looking for a mysterious little something more than what she currently has in life. She is interested in an Alpha male called Bernard Marx who has offered to take her with him to a Savage Reservation in New Mexico. Very few Alphas can travel to the Savage Reservation and observe natural-born people who are not part of the new world order and who have relationships, suffer from aging and diseases, and still have their religion. They also have babies.

At the Savage Reservation, the pair meet Linda, a woman originally from the World State, and her natural born son, John. The story moves on from there drawing parallels between the two worlds and the lifestyles, wants, and desires of the inhabitants.

Why is this book important?

Although some aspects of this book are dated due to modern technology, there is much in the concept of the World State that is applicable and quite possible. The technology for genetic engineering and the creation of designer babies already exists, as does the future elimination of diseases and slowing down of the aging process. It seems likely, given our money-orientated society, that those with greater means would have access to these new technologies.

Controlling people through drugs and consumerism is already a known concept and the idea of a world benefits system has already been posed. The impact of over population is making itself felt and the idea of a set number of life years for people as presented in this book, seems possible. 

It seems a valid theory that the removal of human relationships, together with the satisfaction of all physical needs, would drastically reduce conflict situations in the world. Conflict is driven by strong emotions of want, greed, desire, revenge, and others and it is reasonable to think that these emotions would be less likely to present themselves in such a placid and unchallenging environment.

This is a book that needs to be preserved so that we can be reminded that constant happiness comes at a price and would be likely to diminish, or even destroy, creativity, innovation, and further progress, as well as our freedom of choice. The question to ask ourselves whether constant happiness is worth sacrificing our freedom of choice for, especially as that happiness restrains further human development and restricts knowledge and reading.

We also need to ensure that no single world power gains absolute control over all of humanity thereby allowing it to make all decisions, unopposed, about the welfare and future of all people. Keeping people satisfied in their work by reducing or limiting their brain growth sounds so horribly viable in the author’s context of peace and happiness, but is a gross violation of human rights.

Some interesting quotes

“Social stability. Standard men and women, all exactly the same. The staff for the whole of a small factory from one single bokanovskified egg.” Relates to the mass production of identical twins who all look the same and who all have an artificially generated low IQ.

“Books and loud noises, flowers and electric shocks; already in the minds of the babies these pairs of things were connected, and repeated lessons would make the connection permanent.” Relates to conditioning during baby and toddlerhood.

“”I want to know what passion is,” he said. “I want to feel something strongly. “We are all grown-up intellectually and during working hours,” he went on, but we are infants where feeling and desire are concerned.” Relates to the removal of emotional stimulus.

robbie

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Please be sure to visit Robbie at her wonderful blogs:

Robbie Cheadle Books/Poems/Reviews

Robbie’s inspriation

Thank you again to Robbie Cheadle for this post!

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

ULS logo 1

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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Another Entry Into The U. L. S. , The Underground Library Society from Robbie Cheadle: A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway

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Thank you so much to Roberta Eaton Cheadle for creating another entry into the U. L. S., the Underground Library Society! The U. L. S. is an unofficial group of people who are dedicated to the preservation of books and in complete opposition to censorship. The idea is based on the Book People from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

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Copy of Roberta Writes - independent pub 2 theme.

A Farewell to Arms  

A Farewell to Arms, written by Ernest Hemingway, is a love story set during the Italian campaign of World War 1.  

The story is narrated by the main character, Fredric Henry, an American medic, who joined the Italian Army at the commencement of war in the capacity of a lieutenant in the ambulance corp. The book details the romance between Fredric and an English nurse, Catherine Barkley, but it is equally a story of Fredric’s personal growth from a young man with foolish notions about the purpose and glory of war, misguided notions about manhood, and shallow views on love and romance to a mature man who sees the horror and waste of human life brought about by the war and the value of his relationship with Catherine.  

When we first meet Fredric, he is heavily influenced by the Italian military personnel he is associating with, including his roommate, lieutenant Rinaldi. Many of them spend their free time drinking and visiting brothels and they have a bad reputation among the English nursing fraternity who regard them as womanisers. This is indicated when the head nurse tells Fredric he may visit Catherine after her work shift but not to bring any Italians with him.  

Fredric goes along with the views and attitudes of his peers, in particular, Rinaldi. They are an irreverent crew who mock and ease the Catholic priest who serves with them. Fredric’s better nature is demonstrated early in the book when he is kind and friendly towards the priest and he experiences feelings of guilt for not visiting the priest’s hometown during his leave. Instead, he had spent his time visiting bars and brothels. The reader sees in Fredric the potential for him to develop into a better man.  

Fredric meets Catherine through his friend, Rinaldi, and is attracted to her. Initially, she is a game to him, but as time passes and he gets to know her better, he is influenced by her more mature attitudes and starts becoming steadier and more reliable. When he is seriously injured and is transferred to a hospital in Milan for surgery and treatment, he asks for Catherine to nurse him.  

This is the beginning of the great romance that develops between the two and changes the course of both of their lives. Fredric’s injury and the loss of some of his men during the attack matures him and makes him more aware of the fragility of life and love.  

Themes in A Farewell to Arms  

A Farewell to Arms has a number of themes which I have set out below with an appropriate quote form the book.  

War  

“War is not won by victory. What if we take San Gabriele? What if we take the Carso and Monfalcone and Trieste? Where are we then? Did you see all the far mountains today? Do you think we could take all them too? Only if the Austrians stop fighting. One side must stop fighting. Why don’t we stop fighting? If they come down into Italy they will get tired and go away. They have their own country. But no, instead there is a war.”  

Reality versus Fantasy  

“… I remember having a silly idea he might come to the hospital where I was. With a sabre cut, I suppose, and a bandage around his head. Or shot through the shoulder. Something picturesque.”  

“This is the picturesque front,” I said.  

“Yes,” she said. “People can’t realise what France is like. If they did, it couldn’t all go away. He didn’t have a sabre cut. They blew him all to bits.”  

Love and Loss  

“I’m afraid we have to start to go.”  

“All right, darling.”  

“I hate to leave our fine house.”  

“So do I.”  

“But we have to go.”  

“All right. But we’re never settled in our home very long.”  

“We will be.”  

“I’ll have a fine home for you when you come back.”  

Self versus Duty  

“You saw emptily, lying on your stomach, having been present when one army moved back and another came forward. You had lost your cars and your men as a floorwalker loses the stock of his department in a fire. There was, however, no insurance. You were out of it now. You had no more obligation. If they shot floorwalkers after a fire the in the department store because they spoke with an accent they had always had, then certainly the floorwalkers would not be expected to return when the store opened again for business.”  

Manhood  

“The Italians didn’t want women so near the front. So we’re all on very special behaviour. We don’t go out.”  

And  

“I can’t stand him,” Ferguson said. “He’s done nothing but ruin you with his sneaking Italian tricks. Americans are worse than Italians.”  

Religion  

“The saint hung down on the outside of my uniform and I undid the throat of my tunic, unbuttoned the shirt collar and dropped him in under the shirt.”  

And  

“You understand, but you do not love God.”  

“No.”  

“You do not love Him at all?” he asked.  

“I am afraid of Him in the night sometimes.”  

“You should love Him.”  

“I do not love much.”  

Why should A Farewell to Arms be preserved?  

Hemingway’s purpose with this book was to demonstrate the despite the glamour of war and the perceived honour of dying for your country, war is not a worthwhile undertaking. The war setting with its horror, death, and destruction is a contrasted with the wonder of love.  

There are some flaws with this book. I found Catherine to be a bit unrealistic with some of her comments and behaviour, but Hemingway’s amazing writing still pulled me in, and I loved this story. I dwelled on the ending for a long time after reading the last page.  

robbie

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Please be sure to visit Robbie at her wonderful blogs:

Robbie Cheadle Books/Poems/Reviews

Robbie’s inspriation

Thank you again to Robbie Cheadle for this post!

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!

U.L.S. Post from TA Sullivan: Bag of Bones by Stephen King

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I want to thank TA Sullivan for becoming a member of the U. L. S. The Underground Library Society! TA Sullivan is an author of fiction and nonfiction; TA’s excellent website can be found here: TAS Through the Looking Glass. Please be sure to visit this wonderful site!

TA Sullivan’s post:

If I were to choose a book to memorize, I believe it would be Bag of Bones by Stephen King.

While this book is categorized as horror, to me it is first and foremost a book about relationships and loss. The protagonist is a young author, Mike Noonan, whose wife unexpectedly dies. With no close family, we struggle along with Mr. Noonan as his despair and depression result in his inability to write.

At first, he moves through his days following a sort of hazy routine, but eventually, he recognizes what he’s doing, and he strives to find more purpose to his life that no longer contains the love of his life or his life’s work (writing).

The insight and care with which Mr. King has approached this subject of loss is so complete that you can’t but help hurt along with Mr. Noonan as he works his way through this story of love, loss, and the idea that you never really know anyone, not even the person you’re married to.

It’s this book and Mr. King’s insights that helped me understand just what my father was going through when my mother died. I saw him try to follow the same routines that he and my mom had forged during their long years of being together. But I also saw how hollow those motions were because my mother was no longer there to share the routines with him. Because of Mr. King’s book, I was able to help my father move away from those shared routines and find a new purpose to his life.

It wasn’t easy for my father, but then losing someone you love and have lived with for over 50 years never is. However, letting go of those old patterns of behavior can sometimes make it a little easier, and that’s what Mr. King’s story showed me. Therefore, if I were to choose a book to memorize, it would be Bag of Bones, so that others could also benefit from Mr. King’s insights while enjoying a good spooky story in the bargain.

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Once again, thank you to TA Sullivan for joining this little society!