As I continue this series about favorite writers, I am trying more and more to narrow each grouping. I am not sure this is narrowed enough, but since this is not an academic project, I will go with these groupings.
Here are a few poets, among the many possible, who are some of my favorite European poets:
Shakespeare is not only the greatest playwright, but he is also among the best poets. I have the honor this semester of teaching his poetry, and we are focusing on his sonnets, in my Renaissance Imagination class at the Wescoe School of Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA. If you have not read his sonnets, then I recommend them highly. He deals with intensely personal issues that resonate throughout much poetry, of life and death, aging, time, and love.
Seamus Heaney was a brilliant poet, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature and whose work ranged from the deeply personal to that which dealt with contemporary issues in Ireland, including the Troubles to his extraordinary translation of Beowulf, the one that I use when I teach the ancient English poem.
Dante is someone whom I think all people who consider themselves to be educated, formally or self-educated, should read. His work spans the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, and his extraordinary The Divine Comedy, consisting of Inferno, Hell; Purgatorio, Purgatory; and Paradiso, Paradise is one of the most crucial poems ever written. This narrative poem takes the reader through Dante’s vision of the afterlife, and he is guided by the Roman poet Virgil and then his perfect woman, Beatrice.
I ask all of you–who are some of your favorite European Poets?
It is time to continue this series about favorite writers, and I do not think I am close to finishing it! I have many ideas in mind about writers and questions about which ones you like.
For this post, I am wondering about playwrights. I have been involved with theater and drama since I was very young. I have been an actor, a director, an acting coach, and I teach drama at college, mainly at the Wescoe School of Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA.
The first of my favorite playwrights begins with the one who is the center of literature, William Shakespeare. I have also been involved with Shakespeare most of my life. I have read his plays many times, and it is difficult to choose the ones I think most important, but I will try. My favorite Shakespeare plays are A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Henry V, and Hamlet.
Arthur Miller, a modernist American playwright, worked in the 20th Century. Among his best plays are Death Of A Salesman, All My Sons, and The Crucible. His work is powerful, and he explores major themes of America and the world.
(By Thebogsideartists – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=43934304)
My third choice is Brian Friel, a playwright who lived from 1929-2015. He emerged as an Irish playwright and became one of the most well known and important writers in the world. Among his plays are Translations, Dancing At Lughnasa, and Philadelphia, Here I Come!
My question to all of you then is — who are some of your favorite playwrights?
May the road rise up to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face;
the rains fall soft upon your fields
and until we meet again,
may God hold you in the palm of His hand.
Frank Delaney was a brilliant writer, historian, and journalist who was born and lived in Ireland. As a novelist, he wrote, among other books, Ireland A Novel, Shannon, Tipperary, and The Last Storyteller. Delaney’s work is insightful, lyrical, and beautiful. I have used Ireland A Novel in my Irish Literature class at the Wescoe School of Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA, and the adult students loved it. In this novel, Delaney weaves a double narration of the history of Ireland as told by the last seanchai–the Gaelic word for storyteller– with the family history of Ronan O’Mara, a boy of nine when the book begins.
For those interested in Irish history and culture and for those who love a magnificent family drama, I give this extraordinary novel the highest recommendation!
I offer a few quotations from the novel:
“No, I’ve never separated history from myth,” said the great voice. “I don’t think you can in Ireland.” (151)
“Here in Ireland, we’ve received most of our inner riches from Mother Nature. In olden days, the monks in the abbeys made art from natural matters. They were inspired by the sights they saw every day–a rabbit leaving its burrow; a fox running across a hillside with its red bush of a tail streaming out behind it; a horse standing in a field, its back to the rain; a hawk making its point far up in the sky. And even their painting materials also came from the nonhuman world–bird’s feathers and colors from the earth.
So: all our expression, all our means of saying what’s in our souls, came first from the universe that we see every day around us, out under the air.” (264)
“I cannot satisfactorily explain this widespread individualism, but when I try to grasp it, or discuss it with people who have been listening to my stories, I often feel I come close to a greater understanding of the whole island; this forty thousand square miles of Atlantic land has a vivid fame the world over. What caused it? Do we talk so long and so loud that everyone hears us? Or did it come about because we put the first dent in the might British Empire?
Perhaps our writers did it. I would like to think that they did, because they came from my tradition–poetic, journeyman storytellers who may have twisted and fractured the forms of language along the way but who have always tried to get the flavor across.
Liken it to a stew, a tapestry–anything that draws a final impression from mixed and visible ingredients. The individual counties when melded give me the whole island. We are illogical–the man from Carlow taught me that. And how violent we are; to kill a British soldier matters not a blink to men I have met, no thought of how his eyes closed, where his blood flowed, if he tried to breathe at the last minute and found he couldn’t and panicked.
. . . We are seers too–or so we say. Islands appearing in the oceans of the coast surprise no one; strange birds in farmyards portend death; ghosts stride hillsides. what I mean is–we are infinitely permissive of possibility ; we rule out nothing.” (397-398)
Please do yourselves a favor, and give yourselves a gift, and read this book!
This blogpost was written several years ago, but I thought it was worth revisiting, especially because I love to suggest books for people to read.
I had the good fortune this week of delivering a talk at the Muhlenberg College Board of Associates Meeting on the topic of Great Books. I spoke with the audience for about 20-25 minutes about what I consider to be great books and why they matter. The main argument I made about the importance of books is that they connect us as people. I am an unreserved humanist; I believe that human beings have the power to improve themselves, that education is crucial to develop of an informed society, and that books allow readers to experience the worlds of others.
The audience was one of professionals from many fields but very few English Literature majors; however, their interest in reading and books was heartening for me. They wanted to hear suggestions about what books I would recommend.
In my classes, I sometimes do something I call — Chuck’s recommended readings. 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. Since several of the attendees of this talk asked for further suggestions, I decided to put together a list, very abbreviated I admit, of books I would recommend. Some of them I consider 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.
Please follow the following links to find my novel:
The book trailer:
My radio interview:
Today is the 170th anniversary of Irish writer Bram Stoker’s birthday. As the author of Dracula, a book I consider one of the finest Gothic novels ever written, he has had enormous impact on the worlds of writing, theater, and film.
To commemorate this day, the wonderful librarians at Lehigh University’s Linderman Library organized a showing of the classic film Dracula (1931) and starring Bela Lugosi. I was asked to give a short presentation about the film, which I enjoyed doing. Given the opportunity to talk about this book and film, I always grasp the chance.
So I wish Bram Stoker a happy birthday!
Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society Book I by Charles F. French is available for purchase on Amazon either as an ebook or a print book!
Please follow the following links to find my novel:
The book trailer:
My radio interview: