I have spent the majority of my time on this blog writing about writing, so I thought I would address the most fundamental and most important part of this experience with books: reading.
I have been reading my entire life; in fact, I cannot remember a time when I did not read. And reading has informed my life in many ways, not only in terms of career but also in the joys of life itself.
I read books, I teach them, and I write about them, but mostly, I enjoy them. I remember my mother telling me when I was very little that you can go many places that you might not ever have a chance to visit, real and made up, if you read. And I have visited and continue to journey to real and fantastic lands.
I am not a reading snob. While I teach college English Literature, I read in a very wide range, from adventure and horror to drama and so-called high literature, although I am not so certain that this distinction is accurate. Both Shakespeare and Dickens were considered popular writers in their time. Hemingway straddled the mythical fence of literature and genre writing. Today, I happily read authors in a multitude of genres, including Stephen King and John Connolly, among many others. So, I read whatever I choose, in any area. And I get great pleasure from the reading.
I am currently reading, as I usually do, several books, including A World of Curiosities by Louise Penny, Twilight Of The Gods by Ian W. Toll, and Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare by Stephen Greenblatt.
Today is Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and I would like to offer a few of this extraordinary American’s quotations as a tribute to him. He was one of the finest, most decent, and empathetic people in the history of the United States of America. We should all remember him and honor his teaching, his legacy, and his call for justice for everyone.
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
“There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because conscience tells him it is right.”
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”
“We must live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”
When I first considered doing an examination of my favorite horror movies, I thought that going decade by decade would be sufficient, but I realized that some periods have far more excellent films than others. A simple examination of 2-4 movies from the 1930s will not work, so I am going to look at one film at a time for that decade. I will begin with Dracula, a film I love, and which I have taught in college classes such as Literature and Film and Gothic and Horror at both Lehigh University in Bethlehem, PA and Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA. I also hold the novel to be an excellent and very important book.
Dracula, made in 1931, and released for Valentine’s Day–a nice touch–was a huge success and established Bela Lugosi as a top box office star. This production was itself based on the very successful theatrical play Dracula by Hamilton Deane and James Balderston. Stoker’s novel did not see great success during his life, but after his death and the success of the play, it became one of the best selling novels of the 20th Century–worldwide.
Carl Laemmle Jr, capitalized on the story’s growing popularity and produced the movie. Tod Browning, who had directed Lon Chaney Sr. in several movies, directed this piece. This film is highly atmospheric with a Gothic set and influenced by German Expressionism. Lugosi was brilliant with his authentic Hungarian accent and menacing presence. His performance and voice set the standard for the image of Dracula and vampires for decades to come. Dracula was a sensation and terrified people; today’s audience would probably find it slow and not at all frightening, but that reflects our jaded views that have been glutted with gore as the staple ingredient of contemporary horror. This film depended on story telling, atmosphere, and acting. The film’s success created an era of classic horror films through the 1930s and part of the 1940s with Universal studios leading the way.
Additionally, Dracula is generally accepted by most film critics as one of the best horror films made. I certainly consider it to be one of the best and most important.
It is an interesting and little known detail of film history that in addition to the English language version, Universal also made a Spanish language film at the same time. The two films shared the same sets, and the same basic scripts, but with different actors and a different director: George Melford directed, and Carlos Villarías stared as Dracula. While not as well known, an argument can be made that this is a better film than the more established English language version. If you ever have the opportunity to see it, I recommend that you do.
Today I will offer a few quotations from writers from earlier eras about creativity, learning, and teaching.
(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.
(Portrait of William Shakespeare, attributed to John Taylor NPG London)
“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.
Here is a post to celebrate and promote the work of Cendrine Marrouat and David Ellis!
Rhythm Flourishing: A Collection of Kindku and Sixku Authors: Cendrine Marrouat & David Ellis Genre: Multimedia – Poetry with some photography (non-fiction) Release date: September 3, 2020
‘Rhythm Flourishing: A Collection of Kindku and Sixku’ showcases two unique, brand-new poetry forms created by Cendrine Marrouat and David Ellis, the co-founders of Auroras & Blossoms, a platform celebrating positivity and inspiration in art.
By taking elements of found poetry and Japanese poetry forms, Cendrine and David have developed a style of poetry known as the Kindku. The collection also features a selection of gorgeous images and poems from Cendrine’s own visual poetry form — the Sixku.
Enjoy a divine series of poems inspired by a variety of well-known poets including Elizabeth Bishop, Emily Dickinson, John Keats, Emma Lazarus, William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, William Butler Yeats, Christina Rossetti, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Maya Angelou, Sara Teasdale, Pablo Neruda and many others.
Learn how to write your very own Kindku and Sixku by reading this book and when you are done, consider submitting them to Auroras & Blossoms for publication.”
Seizing the Bygone Light: A Tribute to Early Photography Authors: Cendrine Marrouat, David Ellis & Hadiya Ali Genre: Multimedia – Photography with some poetry (non-fiction) Release date: March 16, 2021
‘Seizing the Bygone Light: A Tribute to Early Photography’ is a unique collection of artistic styles that bring together different innovative concepts of both gripping writing and stunning visual imagery.
In the first part of the book, photographer and painter Ali introduces us to two of her favorite photographers by reimagining and recreating images in the nature of her photographic idols — Irving Penn and Karl Blossfeldt.
In the second part, photographer, poet, and author Marrouat shares a selection of her reminigrams, a digital style that she personally created to honor and pay homage to the early days of photography.
Author and poet Ellis rounds things off with a series of pareiku poems (the poetry form he co-created with Marrouat), offering fresh outlooks for his sincere, heartfelt adoration of photography of the past.
A fascinating and compelling book, ‘Seizing the Bygone Light: A Tribute to Early Photography’ will leave you with a deep sense of appreciation and a greater understanding of photography. PoArtMo Collective is a gathering of inspirational artists, writers and photographers that combine their talents to produce positive, mixed media projects that stimulate the minds of the people who delve into them.”
“As a writer, I have always found writing the first draft of my novel to be a daunting process. I had the novel idea, had some idea of how I wanted it to start, and how I wanted it to end. But after reading this book, I now feel I have the tools and confidence I need to get my first draft done without any obstacles!
I definitely consider this book a must-read for any writer who is struggling with their first draft! And if you’re looking for a good recipe for an omelette, this book has that as well.”
Do you write? Then you have to do drafts and need this book
“Ah, the draft!! Any writer knows good work takes many drafts and edits. This book will help you get it done and done correctly.”
The book is a treasure.
“For five long years, I could not finish the first draft. After reading this book, I finished in three weeks. Great read!”
Yay! I finally finished grading for the second summer session classes I taught at the Muhlenberg College School of Continuing Education in Allentown, PA. I had two courses in the second summer session: Literature and Film and Renaissance Plays In Process, and both courses had a full enrollment.
I had a wonderful time teaching these classes, and of course, I had much to grade at the end. That leads to a question–who is the person who assigns these papers anyway? Hmmm . . .
And now it is time to finish syllabi for the Fall semester which begins in one week!
And I can also return to writing. I had to take a few days off to complete my schoolwork.
I'm glad I learned to express my thoughts clearly and everyone loves to read them. Sometimes it takes a lot of thinking power to think about the surroundings. Someone who likes it, someone who enjoys it, appreciates that he is writing very well. Reading and commenting on the post I wrote would give me a lot of bullshit and I would get new ideas to write new ones.
I'm really glad I got your response.
This is perhaps the least specific blog you will find. A variety of DIY projects, book reviews, health tips, yoga poses, fashion ideas, recipes or something altogether different depending on my current mood. I've never been pigeon-holed into one category so neither is my blog. Strap in and enjoy the ride!