The literary world lost an important figure in late February. Frank Delaney, (October 29, 1942-February 21, 2017) the novelist and historian from Ireland, died at the age of 74. Delaney, who loved history and the writings of James Joyce, had a website, Frank Delaney’s site, in which he spoke of both literature and had podcasts, viewed by millions, about Joyce’s novel Ulysses.
Delaney, was also an accomplished novelist with a long list of books to his credit; among them are Ireland, A Novel, Shannon, Tipperary, and The Matchmaker of Kenmare. Delaney’s passing has impact on me because I have used his novel Ireland, A Novel in my Irish Literature class at the Wescoe School of Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA. The students, all of whom are adults, usually enjoy this brilliant work that incorporates both the history of Ireland with a well woven family saga. It is deeply informative and moving; Delaney speaks to the larger historical issues and events that make up Irish history as well as showing the deep connections of family and story-telling within the texts. If anyone has interest in Ireland, I recommend this book with my highest regards.
To Frank Delaney, I hope wherever you are that you have an audience to hear your wonderful tales! And may you Rest In Peace.
Reading is essential for writers. Reading stimulates our imagination and enables us to enter many others worlds without leaving the comfort of our homes. Reading is one of our lifebloods,the source for much of our inspiration and ideas. Without reading, writers cannot be successful.
Reading is also on of the great joys of life, and it is one of the most important activities that everyone can do, regardless of being a writer or not. Reading, for me, is one of the central parts of my life. It is why it is part of the title of my blog: charlesfrenchonwordsreadingandwriting.wordpress.com
So, I am issuing a friendly challenge to anyone reading this post: read at least two books this month, and at the end of the month, let us know what you read. There is no pressure in this little challenge, no competition, and no awards. I hope it simply encourages everyone to read a few books!
Even though it is the beginning of the challenge, I will tell you that I am currently reading: The Graves Are Walking: The Great Famine and the Saga of the Irish People by John Kelly and The Last Mile by David Baldacci. One is an historical look at the Great Irish Famine and the other a thriller.
So, are you up to the challenge? What will you read?
It has been a while since I have written a post in this series, so I thought it was time to revisit it. And because I released my horror novel Maledicus: Investigative Paranormal Society Book I and Gallows Hill: The Investigative Paranormal Society Book 2, I was thinking about previous horror writers and their works.
I would invite three important authors of works of horror fiction to join me in a discussion about their writings, and we would meet at a pub for food and pints of beer or ale–always Guinness for me! I hope that this meeting would create a lively discussion of what they consider the most important aspects of their work.
For this gathering, I would invite Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, who wrote Carmilla (1872), the first novel to feature a female vampire. Le Fanu, from Dublin, Ireland, and who was recognized as a first rate writer of ghost stories introduced a new element into the Gothic Fiction: of both a female vampire and the inclusion of a lesbian element to the story. This novella is a compelling tale, one that is often overlooked today.
My second invitee would be Bram Stoker, author of Dracula (1897), also from Dublin, and the creator of a book, that while not successful during Stoker’s life, became one of the most well-known and best selling books of the 20th and 21st centuries. Stoker’s portrayal of Dracula set the standard for many years for the portrayal of the vampire as a Eastern European nobleman with great power and wealth. I know that Stoker was not the first to feature a vampire of noble birth, but Stoker’s work is the preeminent and superior book to the second-rate, and I am being kind, novel by Rhymer and Prest: Varney The Vampire. I would go so far as to say that unless you have an academic interest in the literature of vampires, don’t bother reading Varney the Vampire–it is terrible.
The third author I would invite is the Scottish writer, Robert Louis Stevenson, typically not known for Gothic or horror novels, but famous, nevertheless, for The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886). In this short novel, Stevenson explores the idea of various elements, such as good and evil, existing simultaneously in the human mind, and his good doctor Jekyll attempts to isolate and remove the evil side, but with terrible consequences.
There are many questions I would like to ask these authors. I would like to know what their concept of evil is–does it exist as part of the universe or part of humanity or both? Where do they think Gothic or horror fiction fits in the world of literature? Did they have other novels they considered writing but never did? And what contemporary themes about society exist in their works?
Are there any questions you would have liked to pose to these writers?
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I need help with a project I am currently working on. In May 2014 I completed my dissertation From the Political to the Personal: Interrogation, Imprisonment, and Sanction In the Prison Drama of Seamus Byrne and Brendan Behan. I found this work to be extremely interesting and satisfying especially because the study of Irish Theatre in the 20th Century has been central to my academic work. One of my immediate discoveries was while an abundance of research has been done on Brendan Behan, very little has been written on Seamus Byrne.
I am currently working on a book focused on Seamus Byrne. In it, I will examine his life and his three plays that were produced. His last play, Innocent Bystander, is presenting itself as the most mysterious. According to the site, PlayographyIreland, it was produced at the Abbey Theatre in November of 1951. Other than some small pieces of information, I have found neither a copy of the play itself nor more specific and detailed accounting of the production.
I was wondering if any of you have any suggestions about places to hunt for this play in Ireland. I have contacted the Irish National Library, which has a manuscript copy, but the fee for them doing the copying is extremely high.
Thank you in advance for any help or suggestions you might have!
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.