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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Doc Chuck’s Recommended Readings: Revisited

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In my classes at Lehigh University and the Wescoe School of Muhlenberg College, I sometimes do something I call — Doc Chuck’s recommended readings.  I suggest a book for the students to read at another point in the future. 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.  Some of these works I consider to be 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.

What books would you add to this kind of list?

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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

Magic in Stories: Revisited

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There is magic in stories; there is magic in writing. 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. 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.

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 than we had before. 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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More Quotations on Reading

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“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”

                                                                                Dr. Seuss

 

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“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”

                                                                                 Ray Bradbury

 

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“I don’t believe in the kind of magic in my books. But I do believe something very magical can happen when you read a good book.”

                                                                                 J. K. Rowling

 

Quotations on Reading

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“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”

                                                                   Frederick Douglass

 

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“Feelings, too, are facts. Emotion is a fact. Human experience is a fact. It is often possible to gain more real insight into human beings and their motivation by reading great fiction than by personal acquaintance.”

                                                                  Eleanor Roosevelt

 

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“You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.”

                                                                  Ray Bradbury

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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