The Pleasure of Reading! Revisited!

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I have spent the majority of my time on this blog writing about writing, so I thought I would address the most fundamental and most important part of this experience with books: reading.

I have been reading my entire life; in fact, I cannot remember a time when I did not read. And reading has informed my life in many ways, not only in terms of career but also in the joys of life itself.

I read books, I teach them, and I write about them, but mostly, I enjoy them. I remember my mother telling me when I was very little that you can go many places that you might not ever have a chance to visit, real and made up, if you read. And I have visited and continue to journey to real and fantastic lands.

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I am not a reading snob. While I teach college English Literature, I read in a very wide range, from adventure and horror to drama and so-called high literature, although I am not so certain that this distinction is accurate. Both Shakespeare and Dickens were considered popular writers in their time. Hemingway straddled the mythical fence of literature and genre writing. Today, I happily read authors in a multitude of genres, including Stephen King and John Connolly, among many others. So, I read whatever I choose, in any area. And I get great pleasure from the reading.

I hope that all people can experience this pleasure. I realize not everyone will, but I can keep hoping they do.

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GallowsHillFinalCoverEbook

Gallows Hill can be found here in ebook.

Gallows Hill in paperback can be found here.

An interview about Gallows Hill can be found here.

32570160

Please follow the following links to find my novel:

ebook

Print book

Thank you!

The book trailer:

Maledicus:Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

My radio interview:

interview

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Available on Amazon

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Who Are Some of Your Favorite Victorian Writers?

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In the next entry in my series on favorite writers, I want to consider Victorian authors, with a time period defined as the time of Queen Victoria’s reign–1837-1901. This period has been filled with many excellent writers, and I will focus on only a few as my choices. I could, however, easily expand my list.

Without further discussion, here are three of my favorite Victorian writers:

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Charles Dickens

Dickens was an extraordinary success, both as a popular writer and with critics. His work is part of the body of literature, and he has touched much of the population of the world. Among his most important and well-known pieces are A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities, and Great Expectations.

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Thomas Hardy

He achieved much in fewer novels than Dickens. Among his novels are Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Jude the Obscure, and Far From The Madding Crowd.

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Emily Bronte

While writing only one novel, her extraordinary Gothic piece, Wuthering Heights, places her among the great Gothic writers.

 

So, I ask all of you, who are some of your favorite Victorian writers?

Dining With Characters, Part 4–Revisited

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(John Trumball)

I chose this painting for the mood of calm it suggests, perhaps after a storm.  It seems like an ideal piece to suggest that redemption is possible.

For this particular culinary and fictional interlude, I want to speak with a few characters who have achieved redemption at the end of the work in which they appear: Ebeneezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Leontes from William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale and Larry Underwood from Stephen King’s The Stand. Some characters are heroic from the beginning of the story through to the end, but some, if not the complete antagonist of the tale, are deeply flawed. In the cases of these three characters they are all deeply damaged, if not morally defective, when we see them much earlier in their respective works.

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https://commons.wikipedia.org

I thought, given the nature of these men, an afternoon of a few glasses of ale might be the perfect way to discuss what they have learned or how they came to an understanding of what they needed to change in their lives. Scrooge, of course, had to learn not to focus his life on the acquisition and hoarding of material goods, and that people and their welfare should be his concern.

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Leontes, in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, allows baseless and unprovoked jealousy to overtake him, and he becomes a vicious tyrant who casts out his loving wife and infant daughter.  He also loses his son to death as a consequence of his terrible actions. It is only at the end of the play when he sees a “statue” of his wife Hermione come to life that he is able to understand the enormous errors he has made and their horrible consequences.  He has to face knowing that his actions cause deep and almost unimaginable pain to other people.  At the end of the play, he is a changed man, one who seemingly has grown as a result of his wife’s extraordinary act of mercy.  His redemption can come only through the forgiveness of another.

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(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Stand)

At the beginning of Stephen King’s epic The Stand, Larry Underwood is a dissolute rock and roll emerging star, who has fallen prey to temptation, drugs, and a very dangerous crowd. He comes back east to visit his mother just in time for the outbreak of Captain Trips. If you have not read this book, I will go no further with the plot, but I do recommend it highly.  King acknowledged that this book was his homage to Lord Of The Rings, by J.R.R. Tolkien and the same level of epic sweep and individual morality and action occurs here.  For Larry Underwood, his most powerful moment is that of personal sacrifice.

As a writer, a reader, and a teacher, I am very interested in how characters change within the arc of a story.  I would want to ask these three how it felt to achieve their most powerful changes at or near the climax of the pieces.

Are there any characters, who have achieved redemption, whom you would like to speak with about their journey within their tale?

 

GallowsHillFinalCoverEbook

Gallows Hill can be found here in ebook.

Gallows Hill in paperback can be found here.

An interview about Gallows Hill can be found here.

32570160

Please follow the following links to find my novel:

ebook

Print book

Thank you!

The book trailer:

Maledicus:Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

My radio interview:

interview

FOE_Cover_French

 

Available on Amazon

Doc Chuck’s Recommended Readings: Revisited

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In my classes at Lehigh University and the Wescoe School of Muhlenberg College, I sometimes do something I call — Doc Chuck’s recommended readings.  I suggest a book for the students to read at another point in the future. I ask the students to write the title and author and then tell them that what they do with that information is entirely up to them.  Some of these works I consider to be among the best and most important books ever written, and some I simply found to be wonderful and entertaining.

Now, the list:

Doc Chuck’s Recommended Readings:

Agee, James and Walker Evans. Let Us Now Praise Famous Men.

Allende, Isabel. The House of the Spirits.

Bradbury, Ray. Fahrenheit 451.

Brown, Larry. Fay.

Cervantes, Miguel De. Don Quixote.

Delaney, Frank. Ireland.

Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities.

Doyle, Roddy. A Star Called Henry.

Eco, Umberto. The Name of the Rose.

Gaiman, Neil. American Gods.

Grass, Günter. The Tin Drum.

Helprin, Mark. A Soldier of the Great War.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . The Pacific and Other Stories.

Hemingway, Ernest. For Whom The Bell Tolls.

Homer. The Iliad.

. . . . . . . The Odyssey.

King, Stephen. Hearts In Atlantis.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . The Stand.

Lee, Harper.  To Kill A Mockingbird.

Poe, Edgar Allan.  Complete Works.

Rice, Anne. Interview With the Vampire.

Rowling, J. K. The entire Harry Potter series.

Shakespeare, William. The Collected Works.

Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein.

Steinbeck, John. The Grapes of Wrath.

Stoker, Bram. Dracula.

Tolkien, J. R. R. The Lord of the Rings.

Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

Zafon, Carlos Ruiz. The Shadow of the Wind.

Zusak, Markus. The Book Thief.

I am certain there are many books I have forgotten to mention.  This is neither intended to be all-inclusive, nor is it meant to be authoritarian.  I hope that someone may find a book or books from this list, read them, and enjoy them.

What books would you add to this kind of list?

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GallowsHillFinalCoverEbook

Gallows Hill can be found here in ebook.

Gallows Hill in paperback can be found here.

An interview about Gallows Hill can be found here.

32570160

Please follow the following links to find my novel:

ebook

Print book

Thank you!

The book trailer:

Maledicus:Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

My radio interview:

interview

FOE_Cover_French

 

Available on Amazon

What Is A Sentence From a Book (or two) You Love?

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I was thinking recently of a variety of aspects of books that I love, including plot, theme, and character. As I was considering these elements, I realized that some books have extraordinary sentences. These lines might not encapsulate the entirety of those books, but they are beautiful and powerful.

I will offer two such quotations:

The first is the closing sentence from Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, one of the most important novels ever written:

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done; it is a far, far better rest that I go to than I have ever known” (307).

The second offering is from A Soldier Of The Great War by Mark Helprin. This novel is, in my not too modest opinion, one of the absolute best novels ever written. With this book, Helprin takes his place among the pantheon of literary giants such as Shakespeare, Dickens, Cervantes, and Tolstoy.

“As a way to arrive at the truth, exactitude and methodology are, in the end, far inferior to vision and apotheosis” (30)

I am sure I will continue this idea as a series, but this little post will serve as a beginning.

So, now I ask everyone who reads this: what are some of the most beautiful and important sentences you have read in books?

Works Cited

Dickens, Charles. A Tale of Two Cities. Wordworth Classics. 1993.

Helprin, Mark. A Soldier Of The Great War. Perennial. 2001.

Quotations from A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

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“Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, benevolence, were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”(62)

 

“This boy is Ignorance. This girl is Want. Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom, unless the writing be erased.” (108)

 

“There are some upon this earth of yours,” returned the Spirit, “who lay claim to know us, and who do their deeds of passion, pride, ill-will, hatred, envy, bigotry, and selfishness in our name, who are as strange to us and all our kith and kin, as if they had never lived. Remember that, and charge their doings on themselves, not us.” (92)

“‘God bless us every one!’ said Tiny Tim, the last of all.” (97)

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Works Cited

Dickens, Charles. A Christmas Carol. Charles Dickens: The Christmas Books Volume I.

Penguin Classics. New York. 1985.

Favorite Christmas Movies: A New Addition–The Man Who Invented Christmas

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I have several Christmas movies that carry great meaning to me and that I have loved over many years. I have written about them before in this blog, and I will continue to do so. Now, however, I want to make a new entry into my list of favorite Christmas movies.

The Man Who Invented Christmas is an extraordinary film that was released last year. It is a wonderful movie  that explores the creative process of Charles Dickens as he wrote the classic novel, A Christmas Carol. The director is Bharat Nalluri, and this work is marvelous! We get a direct entrance into Dickens’ mind as he struggles with his writing. His characters appear and talk to him, which is an excellent touch.

The film is based on the book by Les Standiford, and the stars are Dan Stevens, Christopher Plummer, and Jonathan Pryce. The entire cast, without exception, give extraordinary performances. Christopher Plummer as Scrooge is especially brilliant. Dan Stevens should be recognized as one of the finest actors today.

This film delivers the message of Dickens’ masterpiece, that humanity should be the business of everyone, that money should not be the focus of our lives, and that we should all try to help each other. It will capture your heart and soul, and it is a film I recommend completely! On a system of 5 stars, I give it five!

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Please, do yourself a favor, and watch this movie!