Favorite Horror Novels: 1–Dracula

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(Cover of 1897 edition)

I have read 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 at Lehigh University and Muhlenberg College, 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 I consider to be the most important horror novels. Certainly, I must begin this series with a book I consider to be of extraordinary literary value, a great horror novel, and a book that has influenced my life.

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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 DraculaThe War of the WorldsFrankensteinDr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and The Haunting of Hill House.  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.

Now, I will focus on Dracula and what its influence on me was and is. This was the first Gothic novel 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.

I was also highly influenced by the Gothic nature of the book, and when I first read this novel as a youngster, I was terrified by it. This book stands as the best and most important vampire novel that has been written. I am not arguing that other excellent books on vampires do not exist; certainly they do. I am saying, though, that Dracula is the best and the cornerstone of all of them.

In addition to being a deeply important book, Dracula is also the foundation for a myriad of movies. In fact, the characters of Dracula and Sherlock Holmes are the two most portrayed in TV, film, and theater.

I leave with this thought: if you enjoy horror, Halloween, and the Gothic, and you have not yet read Dracula, you certainly should. It is excellent.

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Favorite Horror Films: 2–The Phantom Of The Opera

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

The Phantom of the Opera (1925) starring Lon Chaney Sr. is based on Gaston Leroux’s novel and was a huge success. This movie was a Universal Pictures production and was directed by Rupert Julian, although some film historian offer the possibility that Chaney himself was an uncredited director also.

Chaney played the deformed writer who falls in love with a singer and who becomes her kidnapper. This tale of horror and love has been redone numerous times, including the well known stage musical, but none of those productions have reached the sterling height of this extraordinary film.  If you are a fan of any of the more recent productions, you certainly should take the time to view this extraordinary movie. It is a piece of cinema history.

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As with the Hunchback, Chaney created this makeup, and his performance is sublime.  The unmasking sequence, in which the imprisoned singer’s curiosity overtakes her, and she removes the mask covering the Phantom’s face, remains a moment of terror and excellent acting.

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In my opinion, The Phantom Of The Opera Again, is not only an excellent horror film, but also it ranks as one of the best and most important works in American cinematic history. If you have not seen this film,  I recommend it highly.

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What Book Would You Read On A Summer Day

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One of my best memories from summers when I was a child was of those days when I didn’t have to do anything. Work had not yet reared its head, chores were finished, and the weather was just right. It wasn’t too hot, and the humidity was low. The sky was filled with imagination-inducing legions of clouds.  On such days, I remember sitting under a tree, leaning back against it and reading a book—all day, with the exception of going in for lunch and supper. They were perfect days.

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Now, imagine something like that. For one day, you have no responsibilities, the weather is nice—75 degrees, almost no humidity, and a sky of bright blue and cumulus clouds like scattered cotton candy—and you have the time to indulge in reading a book. At your side is a container of coffee, iced tea, or whatever you like. You also have snacks with you.  Remember, for this day, you are free to relax and read, as if you were a child again.

If I were to do this right now, I think I would begin to reread The Lord of the Rings.

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My question is—what book would you read?

Celebrate National Book Lovers Day

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Today is a wonderful day–National Book Lovers Day!

 

Let us all embrace the joy of books!

 

Celebrate by reading a  book today!

What is a favorite book of yours?

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I am a teacher, a writer, and a lover of books. I cannot remember a time when I could not read, and the simple act of reading a book is one of the best pleasures in life.  So, I was thinking today about a book, one of my all time favorites: The Shadow Of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, that I have taught often, both at Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA and Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA. This novel is brilliant, funny, witty, Gothic, romantic, and deeply engaging.  Can you tell I love it?

Here is a quotation from the back cover of the paperback:

“Wondrous . . . masterful . . . The Shadow Of The Wind is ultimately a love letter to literature, intended for readers as passionate about storytelling as its young hero.”

— Entertainment Weekly, Editor’s Choice

So, I ask you: what is one of your favorite books?

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Get The Draft Done! is available here: Amazon.com

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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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Available on Amazon

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Quotations on Bigotry and Taking Action

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“What a sad era when it is easier to smash an atom than a prejudice.”

                                                                     Albert Einstein

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“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

                                                                     Martin Luther King Jr.

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“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”

                                                                     Elie Wiesel

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“Wherever and whenever bigotry and oppression exist, we must oppose it. We must not remain silent–tyrants, fascists, and oppressors count on our not speaking out.”

                                                                     Charles F. French

 

Thoughts From Chaucer and Shakespeare

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Today I will offer a few quotations from writers from earlier eras about creativity, learning, and teaching.

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(illustration from Cassell’s History Of England – Century Edition – published circa 1902)

“And gladly wolde he lerne, and gladly teche”

“And gladly would he learn, and gladly teach.”

These are the Middle English and the Modern English versions of this quotation from “The General Prologue” of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. This idea is of enormous importance to me, because I am both a teacher and a life-long student.  All people should try to continue to learn throughout their lives and to teach someone else the wisdom they have amassed.

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(Portrait of William Shakespeare, attributed to John Taylor
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“Suit the action to the word,

the word to the action, with this special observance,

that you o’erstep not the modesty of of nature. For

anything so over-done is from the purpose of playing,

whose end, both at the first and now, was and is, to

hold, as ’twere, the mirror up to nature, to show virtue

her own feature, scorn her own image, and the very age

and body of the time his form and pressure.”

                                William Shakespeare (Hamlet Act 3. Scene2. lines 16-23)

Shakespeare speaks to the importance of representing life and humanity as it is and to examine the world in its complexities; it can also be an injunction for all creative efforts. I do not mean we should eliminate abstraction, metaphor, or altered forms, but that, at our core, we are creating art about humanity and our world.

Keep learning and keep sharing what you know.

Quotations on Justice

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“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”

                                                                      Elie Wiesel

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“No man is justified in doing evil on the ground of expediency.”

                                                                      Theodore Roosevelt

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“When will our consciences grow so tender that we will act to prevent human misery rather than avenge it?”

                                                                       Eleanor Roosevelt

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“An injustice to one person is a crime against everyone, and we must always try to achieve true justice in the world.”

                                                                     Charles F. French

Quotations on Stories

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“We owe it to each other to tell stories.”

                                                                         Neil Gaiman

 

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“Fiction is the truth inside the lie.”

                                                                         Stephen King

 

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“Stories are for joining the past to the future. Stories are for those last hours in the night when you can’t remember how you got from where you were to where you are. Stories are for eternity, when memory is erased, when there is nothing to remember except the story.”

                                                                         Tim O’Brien      

 

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“In stories, we find the connection of all humanity.” 

                                                                          Charles F. French               

The Bright Side of Darkness by J. E. Pinto

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I want to thank Jo Elizabeth Pinto for her post about her book The Bright Side of Darkness.

I recently came across an intriguing prompt for authors interested in sharing their books. The prompt was, “Write a diary entry from the point of view of a character in your novel.”

As Alice Mills bends over the table in her cheery kitchen with the flowered wallpaper, intent on filling a page in her journal, the early morning sun falls across her graying hair. She wears a faded cotton nightgown, and a neglected cup of coffee has turned cold beside her.

September 8, 1986

This morning began like any other Saturday, except I must have been real tired because I didn’t hear Walter get up and go out to the pool. So he’d already come in from swimming laps and started the coffee before I made it to the kitchen. He was flipping through the local newspaper the way he always does. I was about to get him a lemon bar or two I’d brought home from the ladies’ tea at church yesterday, and then he saw something at the back of the paper that put him on a tear!

I couldn’t piece it all together, but it had to do with Rick Myers, the orphan Walter sent to the reformatory a few weeks ago. He came home awful broken up about it that night. The poor kid’s folks had died in a car wreck a few months back, and then to tragically lose his girlfriend while he was trying his best to keep her safe … it really was too much. But there had been alcohol in his blood, and he’d been driving recklessly, even if his reasons were justified. Sometimes being a judge is a heartbreaking job. Walter can’t bring home all the lost boys who need us, So he did what needed doing.

But something must have gone as wrong as it could go at the reform school, because all at once, my unflappable husband jumped up from the kitchen table like he’d been sitting on a mound of fire ants. He bolted for the bedroom, dialing up the head of the reformatory as he went, and the way he lit into that man, Alvin Kingston, well, I was glad to be safe in my own kitchen and not on the other end of the phone line.

Quick like a bunny, Walter came out of the bedroom in a white shirt and dress slacks instead of his bathrobe, still spitting nails about Alvin Kingston. He told me he was going to the hospital to deal with the Myers boy, so I know something awful must have happened. I made sure to settle him down–he needed to forget about Alvin Kingston and focus his attention where it really mattered.

Speaking of focusing, I better put aside this silly diary and get busy. We’ll probably have a new boy living with us again. The bedroom where my baby Arthur grew up never stays empty too long.

What is a family? For Rick Myers, a despondent seventeen-year-old who has just lost his parents in a car wreck, it’s the four teenage buddies he’s grown up with in a run-down apartment building. Fast with their fists, flip with their mouths, and loyal to a fault, the “crew” is all he has.

At least, he thinks so until he meets Daisy, an intelligent, independent, self-assured blind girl. Her guts in a world where she’s often painfully vulnerable intrigue Rick, and her hopeful outlook inspires him to begin believing in himself.

But when the dark side of Daisy’s past catches up with her, tragedy scatters the crew and severely tests Rick’s resolve to build his promising future. Fortunately, his life is touched by a couple with a pay-it-forward attitude, forged out of their personal struggle with grief and loss. Their support makes all the difference to Rick and eventually, through him, to the ones he holds most dear as they face their own challenges. The Bright Side of Darkness is a story of redemption and the ultimate victory that comes from the determination of the human spirit.

I was among the first blind students to integrate the public schools in the 1970s. In 1992, I received a degree in Human Services from the University of Northern Colorado. While teaching students how to use adaptive technology, I earned a second degree in 2004 from the Metropolitan State College of Denver in Nonprofit Management. These days, I freelance as an editor and a braille proofreader.

As an author, I entertain my readers while giving them food for thought. In my fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, I draw on personal experience to illustrate that hope is always an action away.

I live in Colorado with my husband, my preteen daughter, and our pets.

To find out more about my books and me, please visit my Website at https://www.brightsideauthor.com.

Twitter: @BrightSideAU

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/authorjepinto/

You can purchase her books on Amazon

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Thank you again to Jo Elizabeth Pinto!

If any authors would like to publicize their books on my blog, please reach me by email: frenchc1955@yahoo.com