A New 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.

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. You do not 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.

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!

 

Books That Have Influenced Me: Dracula

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I have ready many books over the course of my life, and books have become a central part of who I am. I read books for pleasure, for study, and for examination. I teach books in my literature classes, I write about them in scholarly work, and I write novels. As I was considering the topic for this post, I started to think about what books have influenced me the most in my life.

I do not mean that I want to explore what books are the most meaningful or the most important literature. That is a completely different discussion. Certainly there can be crossover in my choices, because I will not eliminate a text on its literary value, but I am interested now in which books had a part to play in my development as a human being, which ones helped to form me into the person I now am.

So many come to mind and are possibilities for discussion, especially when I think of some of the books I read as a youngster in high school. Among these novels are Dracula, The War of the Worlds, A Tale of Two Cities, Frankenstein, The Lord of the Rings and Fahrenheit 451.  Certainly, there were many more books that I read at that time, and I have always been a voracious reader, but these books, in a variety of ways help to shape my interests and some of my directions in life.

Today, I will focus on Dracula by Bram Stoker and what its influence on me was and is. This was one of the first Gothic novels I had read, and its power caught me immediately. I was drawn to the images of dark castles, terrible villains, and the supernatural. That I love Gothic is still clear, because not only do I teach Gothic literature, but also I write it.

Dracula, however, had a much deeper impact on me that simply the horror aspect; I was drawn to the idea of the need for good people to oppose evil.  It is a theme that, on the surface, might seem simplistic, but a person need only look at the history of the 20th Century into our contemporary time to see that evil does exist, especially in the form of people who would oppress, torment, exclude, and bully others. Of course, I am not making an argument that the supernatural evil in this novel exists, but that human evil certainly does.  The Nazis demonstrated that human horror in its full capacity.

In this book, a fellowship of human beings is created, and they decide to fight a creature that is far more powerful than anything they could have imagined, and they do so at the risk of their lives.  This act of defending others, even if the people do the battle are put at risk, became a central part of my ethos.  There will always be those who would bully and oppress others, and they must always be opposed.  While in early high school, Dracula helped to form that idea in my mind.

In the next entry in this series, I will discuss a book in which the idea of fellowship is a central theme.

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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.

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Please follow the following links to find my novel:

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Print book

Thank you!

The book trailer:

Maledicus:Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

My radio interview:

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Available on Amazon

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Magic In Stories: Revisited

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There is magic in stories. Magic is the transmutation of objects or the manipulation of the world in ways that move outside the realm of science. Whether or not magic is real in the sense of the here and now world is not the point; magic is a metaphor for fiction. It is an explanation of the way writers create characters and environments and how readers experience these creations.

Stephen King says, “books are a uniquely portable magic” (104). This magic is in the words, in their transmitting from the writer to the reader other worlds and ideas. In writing fiction, writers create a world that was not there; even so-called realistic, literary writers create an alternate world that readers inhabit when they read the book. The writers and the readers, in a mystical incantation, create another reality, one that can be so strong sometimes that readers can be moved to tears or laughter or sadness or joy or grief or sorrow or despair or hope. Readers come to care about the characters and feel empathy as if they were real. That is a kind of magic.

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Neil Gaiman, in his introduction to Ray Bradbury’s  60th Anniversary Edition Fahrenheit 451, speaks to the power of the written word and stories: “Ideas—written ideas—are special. They are the way we our stories and our thoughts from one generation to the next. If we lose them, we lose our shared history. We lose much of what makes us human. And fiction gives us empathy: it puts us inside the minds of other people, gives us the gift of seeing the world through their eyes. Fiction is a lie that tells us true things, over and over” (xvi). It is through the creation of artificial worlds, no matter how speculative or fantastic, that we experience our world in more intensity and with deeper clarity. This act of magic is what we share as writers and readers. I am honored to be a mere apprentice in the magic of writing novels.

Works Cited

Gaiman, Neil. “Introduction.” Ray Bradbury. 60th Anniversary Edition Fahrenheit 451. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2013.

King, Stephen. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft. New York: Scribner, 2000.

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The U.L.S. The Underground Library Society Guest Post by Amanda Cade!

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I want to thank Amanda Cade for her wonderful guest post for the ULS, The Underground Library Society. She has an excellent blog, and I hope you take the time to visit her site: Amanda Cade

Underground Library Society: The Martian Chronicles

Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is, without question, one of the most captivating and disturbing books I’ve ever read. I was an early reader, and by the time I was five or six years old I was spending hours each day lost in the fascinating worlds of fiction. I received books for birthdays and Christmas, made weekly trips to the school and county libraries, and was the only kid I knew who was grounded from reading instead of television when I got in trouble at home. I still read every day, and in any given week I’ll finish between two and six books, depending on how busy my life is. So the picture of a world without books was, and still is, a deeply upsetting image.

When Dr. French extended his invitation to join the Underground Library Society, I knew I had to accept immediately. There was no question that I would, in this scenario, happily memorize and preserve a book. The difficulty was in choosing one of the thousands I have read in my lifetime, one of the hundreds that have played an important part in who am and how I see the world. At first, that decision was almost paralyzing, but when the answer came, it was so obvious I couldn’t believe it hadn’t immediately occurred to me. The book I can’t imagine being lost to the world is another work by Bradbury himself: The Martian Chronicles.

When I was in junior high school, one of my English teachers selected a short story or poem every week to read aloud to the class and form the basis for discussion. Her selections varied widely in tone, content, and genre, and looking back I realize that she must have been deliberately giving us a “tasting menu” of literature, hoping we would discover something that truly captured our interest. One week, her selection was Bradbury’s story “There Will Come Soft Rains”.

I think it’s important to emphasize once more exactly how much I had read at this point in my life. I was the stereotypical bookworm, with some (well, to be honest, a lot) of difficulty on the social scene, so for years I had spent most of my spare time reading. I was already reading on a high school level, and would finish most books in a day. On a weekend, I might read five. My point is that I was very familiar with the power of a good story, and if I had been self-aware enough to wonder if one of my teacher’s stories was going to create the transcendent moment she was hoping for, I would have been skeptical at best.

So I was unprepared for the impact of this particular story. If you haven’t read it, it’s set in Bradbury’s image of a smart house, a concept that is familiar today but was a pure dream when Bradbury wrote the story in 1950. It was still a dream when I heard the story in a 1980s classroom. As my teacher read, the picture of the house, with its cheerful robot voices and pampering machines, gripped my imagination more strongly than anything I had read in a long time. You see, for all of my years of nearly obsessive reading, I had yet to explore science fiction.

Shortly into the tale, my fascination with the setting was overcome with the uneasy realization that this magical house was empty. Now there was a mystery, and as Bradbury continued to describe the house’s routine and weave in clues, the unease gave way to understanding, and then to horror. The final image was so profoundly sad and disturbing that I found myself crying…and desperate to hear the story again.

I’ve searched my memory while writing this post, and while I can recall many times since then that I have had such a profound reaction to a story, I can’t think of one prior to that Friday afternoon class. That was the day that I began to move beyond reading for pleasure and started to read for theme, for understanding, for that so often elusive emotional resonance that Stephen King describe as something that “will recur. And recur. And recur…Until it shines”.

At the end of class, I asked my teacher where I could find the story, and she simply handed me a copy of The Martian Chronicles. I started reading as soon as I got home, and finished the entire collection that same evening. I could speak at length about every story in the book, but let me simply say this: in addition to adding to my newly kindled desire for more science fiction, every story pulsed with deeper meaning. Through stories of technology, telepathy, exploration, and so on Bradbury prompted his readers to think deeply about jealousy, loneliness, relationships, bigotry, fear, perception, and so many other essential elements of the human condition.

I was enthralled. I was confused. I was disturbed, and shattered, and exhilarated, and desperate not only to read more but to understand, because for the first time in my reading experience I also truly grasped that there were messages and ideas here that were still out of my reach…and I wanted them.

The following Monday, my teacher was ready with a copy of The Martian Chronicles and a collection of stories by Edgar Allan Poe, because she had guessed (correctly) that I might want to understand the context of “Usher II”. By Wednesday, I was in the library checking out every Bradbury book they had. They would take me weeks to read, and years to fully understand, but I was ready for the challenge. Within a month, I was pestering librarians to point me to more science fiction, and then to other books, in any genre, that meant something.

For me, that search for meaning and resonance continues to this day, and so The Martian Chronicles is a book that I believe we simply cannot afford to lose.

 

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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.

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. You do not 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 hope many of you choose to join.

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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An Invitation To Join The U.L.S. The Underground Library Society–In Honor of National Banned Books Week

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This week is National Banned Books Week–an important time to focus on the risks of books being banned and challenged.

In an earlier First Year Class at Lehigh University, 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. You do not 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 hope many of you choose to join.

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A Guest Post For the U.L.S. The Underground Library Society by K.D. Dowdall

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I want to thank the wonderful writer and blogger K.D. Dowdall for becoming a member of the U.L.S. The Underground Library Society and for writing this post about the books she would become. Please visit her site Pen and Paper !

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K.D. Dowdall

As a member of Dr. Charles F. French’s Underground Library Society, I have been asked to write about what book or books I would choose to become, should the world, someday, resemble the novel, Fahrenheit 451 in which books are illegal.

Colonial America has always fascinated me. It was the beginning of a new world order, but it wasn’t about democracy, at least in the beginning—far from it. It was about religious freedom and freedom from tyranny. Yet, nothing could have been farther from the truth.

The Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, in 1620, to start a new life—with or without a religion of their choosing. And then came the Puritans, in 1630, who landed at Salem, a band of Calvinists believers. They were refugees, expelled from England, and then also expelled for the Dutch city of Amsterdam for their harsh, cruel, and unorthodox beliefs.

This brings me to my choice of a book or books I would become, based on two young women’s true life stories, which changed the narrative of Colonial America’s journey into becoming a democracy. They are: Caleb’s Crossing by Geraldine Brooks, and Tidewater by Libbie Hawker.

Of course, there were other young women in Colonial America that helped to bring enlightenment, humanism, and the beginning of the scientific movement, like philosophy in which we see Descartes’ famous quotation: “Cogito, Ergo sum – I think, there for I am.”

Two such notable women were Anne Bradstreet and Anne Hutchinson. Anne Bradstreet published the first book written by a woman in Colonial America. Anne Hutchinson was one of the first feminists in Colonial America to advocate equality for women. Their independent thinking, in the days of Puritan tyranny in Colonial America, helped to impact America’s journey into independence, equality, and separation of church and state.

Tidewater by Libby Hawker, set in 1607, Jamestown, Virginia, is the story of Amonute, commonly known as Pocahontas—a nickname given to her by her grandfather. Twelve year old Amonute’s independent, intelligent, inquisitive, and brave nature, allowed her to walk naked to the small settlement of unbathed, filthy, and starving English men. These men, without women, had had no idea how to survive in this new land.

John Smith, with his similar nature, welcomed Amonute’s knowledge and wisdom. She alone, for good or ill, changed the course of history, bringing together, as least temporarily, a truce between two vastly different cultures. Pocahontas married a caucasian Protestant minister and was invited to mingle with Royalty in England. She is still remembered with great fondness, by the English people, and they have dozens of statutes of Pocahontas throughout England.

My second favorite, Caleb’s Crossing, by Geraldine Brooks, is set in 1665, and brings vividly to life the story of the first Native American to graduate from Harvard University. The real heroine of this story, however, is Bethia Mayfield. Despite growing up on a small island, surrounded by strict Puritan theology, Bethia grew up possessed of “a restless spirit and a curious mind.”

Despite her upbringing, Bethia defied the bounds of her rigid Calvinistic father’s ministry. One day, while exploring the forested island, Bethia met Caleb, the son of the Chieftain of Great Harbor, now known as Martha’s Vineyard. They became secret friends. Bethia was impressed with the young Wampanoag Indian’s innate intellect, and she was further impressed by the freedom to speak their minds, given to the males and females in Caleb’s Native American Indian society.

As they grew up, Bethia fought to have Caleb become a learned young man in Puritan Colonialism. She won the fight between the old ways and the new, and Caleb went to study Greek and Latin at Harvard University. Bethia went to Cambridge at the behest of her brother, and she became the voice in a society that required women’s silence.

I would have chosen to become either one of these intuitive, brave, and independent, forward-thinking young women who helped to promote, as it says in our Constitution, “…the general welfare, and to secure the Blessings of Liberty.” 

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Thank you again to K.D. Dowdall for her wonderful post!