Who are your favorite Russian Writers?

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To continue on my series of favorite writers, I thought I would now deal with Russian writers.  As with the other offerings in this group of posts, there are many excellent authors from which to choose, so I will choose three whom I consider to be extraordinary writers.

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One of the most important Russian novelists was Fyodor Dostoevsky, who wrote many works that dealt with the interior workings of the human mind, including in its darkest states. Dostoevsky helped to usher in modernism and a deep psychological approach to writing. Among his most important and best novels are Crime And Punishment and The Idiot.

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

Anton Checkhov was one of the most important playwrights of the world theater. His work was revolutionary in its approach, incorporating the idea of subtext, or the meaning that exists underneath the spoken words, in his plays. His work challenged both the actors who performed in them and the audience who saw the plays.  His best works are The Three Sisters and The Cherry Orchard.

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The third writer I will offer is Sergei Lukyanenko, the author of the fantasy series that begins with Night Watch and continues with five others novels. His books are innovative and powerful–he creates a complex world, inhabited by supernatural beings on opposing sides.

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

Favorite Horror Films of the 1940s: Cat People: Revisited

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

In 1942, producer Val Lewton and director Jacques Torneur, advanced the making of horror films by expanding the possible topics and boundaries. This extraordinary film is not one that relies on a standard “monster”; instead, Torneur employs psychological suspense and subtle development of terror.

This film offers a sophisticated and understated treatment of sexuality and its impact on people. The main character, Irena, a fashion designer, born in Serbia, and played by Simone Simon combines the modern world of high fashion in New York City with the old world beliefs that she is descended from people who are shape-shifters and who turn into big cats when sexually enticed and aroused. Torneur builds a new variation on the established theme of lycanthropy, in which a male changes into a wolf. Additionally, the film demonstrates the tension between science and superstition, the modern era versus the medieval times, and religion versus secularism.

While to a contemporary audience, this movie might seem dated and subdued, I believe it still carries great impact in its study of horror that is felt rather than seen, slowly created rather than visceral, and suggestive rather overt.

Cat People did very well at the box office, but it received a mixed range of reviews at the time. Since the 1940s, it has come to be seen as one of the more important horror films of the 20th Century.  If you have the opportunity, I recommend watching Cat People.

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

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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:

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My radio interview:

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Available on Amazon

Guest Post for the ULS, the Underground Library Society, by Sue Clancy

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Here is a wonderful guest post by Sue Clancy for the ULS, the Underground Library Society. Please visit her site: sue clancy visual stories: fine art, artist books .

 

The Art of Life

by Sue Clancy

In a world where books were illegal the two books I would memorize, attempt to smuggle out under cover of darkness and then would recite/read from until people rolled their eyes (or killed me) are: “Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” and “The Art of Color And Design” by Maitland Graves.

“Dr. Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” is the collected and illustrated stories of Dr. Bob Hoke a psychiatrist who practiced what is now known as Cognitive Behavior Therapy (CBT) – basically he had the idea, developed in his Emotional Repair Program, that people have the resources and the emotional strength to resolve their own problems and create emotional growth. People do not need to wait for a savior or to wait until they feel better – there are constructive, practical, actions one can take regardless of circumstances or feelings.

When I met Dr. Bob Hoke he had constructed a series of “teaching stories” as he called them that would help people think about their ways of thinking, think about their self-talk vocabulary and the rhythms of the mundane life that they were creating – and he wanted an illustrator to illustrate them for his use during his lectures. Many years later I told him I wanted to collect them into a book. He agreed – on the condition that I make it an ebook and or a very thin small printed book – he didn’t want people to be intimidated by lots of text. So, the book is about half graphic novel style illustrations.

Dr. Bob Hoke wanted cartoon illustrations because he wanted people to laugh while they learned as he believed laughter aided learning.  At that time, I was a professional cartoonist so I took on the project.  And his concepts so revolutionized my own thinking that his concepts became foundational for my own life. Including my way of approaching fine art.

Before I met Dr. Bob Hoke I had taken art classes at my local high school.  Art was taught by Jackie Faulkner who assumed that everyone taking her art class was planning to be either a professional artist or to have art as a hobby so seriously that their art activities would be listed in their obituary.  She taught us from “The Art Of Color And Design” by Maitland Graves. The book had been originally copyrighted in 1941.

The root concept in the book is that the principles of art-making/design are the basic vocabulary of art. The principles are knowable and can be learned and practiced. The principles are not mystical or magical. An art guru is not needed.  Artist’s do not need to wait for “the muse” to strike or to wait until “feeling inspired”. There are concrete steps toward learning and practicing the principles of art that can be done by anyone regardless of circumstance or momentary feelings.   

Maitland Graves writes in his introduction “In the following pages it will be demonstrated that all art, Modern, Primitive, Classical or Oriental is built on a few simple, fundamental principles of structure. This common basis is the key to understanding. It also provides a standard of comparison that makes possible a keener perception and a more intelligent appraisal of design.”

What follows in the book are pictures that illustrate the principle concepts, guided questions and exercises – suggestions of practical, technical, things to do that will help an artist at any skill level help themselves in their own artistic growth.

Later, in college, when I met Dr. Bob Hoke and learned the concept of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy I realized that Maitland Graves was – essentially – teaching Cognitive Behavioral Therapy for artists as applied to the visual arts. And the two books became bound together in my mind as essential tools for living the creative life well.

Dr. Bob Hoke says at the end of the First Aid Kit “This Emotional First Aid Program is something to “do”! It is a practical guide for creating an ongoing practice of thinking about your own thinking and creating your own regular Therapeutic Conversations with yourself! The good news about this “First Aid Kit”: When you consistently practice you will notice changes in your self and in your relationships. Start your practices in small doses and keep up your courage when you fail at first. Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly at first! Just keep practicing.”

As it is with life so it is with art. Which is why I would memorize, smuggle and risk annoying people (or death) for the sake of these two books.

Resources:

Information about “Dr Bob’s Emotional Repair Program First Aid Kit” can be accessed here:

https://store.bookbaby.com//bookshop/book/index.aspx?bookURL=dr-bobs-emotional-repair-program-first-aid-kit
“The Art of Color and Design” by Maitland Graves, copyright 1941, McGraw-Hill Book Company, Inc

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Thank you once again to Sue Clancy for this post!

An Epiphany!

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Solutions to problems that I have been considering sometimes come to me at the oddest of moments. I have found answers to questions about writing or teaching while in the shower, in the bathroom, or just after waking up. I am sure this experience is not unique to me, and I suspect the subconscious mind working on a difficulty and then presenting the answer when it is ready might be the explanation for this phenomenon. What would Dr. Freud have to say about this?

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Recently while on a gallivant with my wife, a drive we take for relaxation with no particular place in mind and hoping to find back roads we haven’t yet explored, a solution to my second novel burst into my consciousness.

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I had written two previous drafts of this book, a Young Adult speculative novel, set extremely far in the future, but I felt unsatisfied with its structure. I have had several people read it and make extremely useful comments on the book. One asked me if there would be a sequel, and I realized that I was thinking in those terms. But I was still not certain about this one. What was it? A single novel? Two books?

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The answer came to me as we were cresting a hill in the beautiful back area of northeastern Pennsylvania. I said to my wife that I needed to tell her this solution so I didn’t lose it. This was one of the few times I went out without pad and pen, something I almost always have with me. She graciously listened, and I explained what burst into my mind.

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I now know the structure: it is a trilogy, and I know where the divisions are for each book. I now understand the arc of the entire trilogy, as well as the narrative arc of each text. I also know the antagonists of each piece as well as the overarching antagonist of the trilogy. As I talked it out, the answers solidified in my mind.

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So I am now working on the draft of the first book of the trilogy. I hope to have this done by the end of May or early June. We will see.

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