What Is One Of Your Favorite Movies?

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I have posted before about favorite books.  I will come back to that idea again in the not too distant future, but I was thinking about movies, because I am going to teach a hybrid online/traditional in-class course on Literature and Film at Muhlenberg College for The Wescoe School (the adult program) this summer. This will be an early question I will ask my students, so it is only fair that I think about it.

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My answer would be the same as if this question were for books: The Lord of the Rings by director Peter Jackson (all 3 movies considered to be one–the same as with the books.) I think this adaptation is one of the best adaptations of a book to movie that has ever been accomplished. I love the depth of the story, the issues raised of political power and corruption, war and peace, good and evil, life and death, love and hatred, industrialization and the decimation of the natural world, heroes, both large and small, and the connection of all people. I recommend this filmic adaptation to all.   Please also read the books!

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So, I ask everyone: what is one of your favorite films?

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What Book Would You Visit?

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As readers and writers, we create new worlds and engage with places built by other writers. Our imaginations inform our lives and give us gifts of wonder. I have often considered what it would be like if it were possible to enter into the world of a book, if it would be anything like I had imagined as I read it, or if that place would be entirely different. What would it be like if we found a key that allowed us to unlock a sealed door, behind which was the world of a book?

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If I could visit any book, I would choose J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord Of  The Rings. This work has been deeply important to me for most of my life, since I discovered it as a young teenager. I never cease to find the tale compelling, complex, and humanistic. Tolkien’s treatment of mythology and fantasy showed me that the creation of worlds is not an act of mere escapism but a way to shine a light on our world.

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When I ask this question, I do not mean that you would necessarily engage with the characters or situations of the world, but that you would have the option of being an observer of its actualities as they are in the book. So, if you choose to answer, remember that you would not have to place yourself in any kind of danger, and you could have a visit of exploration instead.

So, given that option, I ask: what book would you like to visit?

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Please follow the following links to find my novel:

ebook

Print book

Thank you!

The book trailer:

Maledicus:Investigative Paranormal Society Book I

My radio interview:

interview

Dining With Characters: Part 4

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John Trumball

I chose this painting for the mood of calm it suggests, perhaps after a storm.  It seems like an ideal piece to suggest that redemption is possible.

For this particular culinary and fictional interlude, I want to speak with a few characters who have achieved redemption at the end of the work in which they appear: Ebeneezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, Leontes from William Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale and Larry Underwood from Stephen King’s The Stand. Some characters are heroic from the beginning of the story through to the end, but some, if not the complete antagonist of the tale, are deeply flawed. In the cases of these three characters they are all deeply damaged, if not morally defective when we see them much earlier in their respective works.

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I thought given the nature of these men, an afternoon of a few glasses of ale might be the perfect way to discuss what they have learned or how they came to an understanding of what they needed to change in their lives. Scrooge, of course, had to learn not to focus his life on the acquisition and hoarding of material goods, that people and their welfare should be his concern.

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leontes

Leontes, in Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, allows baseless and unprovoked jealousy to overtake him, and he becomes a vicious tyrant who casts out his loving wife and infant daughter.  He also loses his son to death as a consequence of his terrible actions. It is only at the end of the play when he sees a “statue” of his wife Hermione come to life that he is able to understand the enormous errors he has made and their horrible consequences.  He has to face knowing that his actions cause deep and almost unimaginable pain to other people.  At the end of the play, he is a changed man, one who seemingly has grown as a result of his wife’s extraordinary act of mercy.  His redemption can come only through the forgiveness of another.

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Stand

At the beginning of Stephen King’s epic The Stand, Larry Underwood is a dissolute rock and roll emerging star, who has fallen prey to temptation, drugs, and a very dangerous crowd. He comes back east to visit his mother just in time for the outbreak of Captain Trips. If you have not read this book, I will go no further with the plot, but I do recommend it highly.  King acknowledged that this book was his homage to Lord Of The Rings, and the same level of epic sweep and individual morality and action occurs here.  For Larry Underwood, his most powerful moment is that of personal sacrifice.

As a writer, a reader, and a teacher, I am very interested in how characters change within the arc of a story.  I would want to ask these three how it felt to achieve their most powerful changes at or near the climax of the pieces.

A Wish For The New Year

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I wish hope for the world. It may sound simple, but if it comes with courage, idealism, and vision, then much good can be accomplished. Let us try to improve the world in 2016, even if in very small ways. Each person can make a contribution to the greater good.

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“Aragorn300ppx” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Aragorn300ppx.png#/media/File:Aragorn300ppx.png

As Aragorn says in  The Lord Of The Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien,

“There is always hope.”

Let us have hope for 2016.

Dining With Characters: Part 3

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It has been a while since I have made an entry to this series, so I thought it was definitely a good time to do so. As before, I am imagining what it would be like to invite a few fictional characters to a dinner and have conversation with them.

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(This is the first page of the extant original copy of Beowulf, written in Old English.)

 

Today’s guests are Beowulf, King Arthur, and Aragorn, all kings from British epics: Beowulf, Le Morte d’Arthur, and The Lord of the Rings. These books range from the Dark Ages, circa the mid 800s to the Middle Ages, circa 1485 to the contemporary world in the mid 1900s. These texts are all important to me, both as a reader and as a teacher, because I have used all of these books in different college classes. While covering a very long historical range, they all deal with the difficulties faced by leaders especially when the fate of their kingdoms rests in their decisions and actions.

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(King Arthur and his knights)

For this entry, we would dine again at a traditional British pub, and we would be seated around a fairly large, wooden, round table.  This seems appropriate, given the attendees.

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“Aragorn300ppx” by Source. Licensed under Fair use via Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Aragorn300ppx.png#/media/File:Aragorn300ppx.png

I would like to ask these three kings what it was like to lead soldiers actively into combat. Unlike the leaders of contemporary armies, they faced death directly with their fellow fighters. I would also ask them what they see the main responsibilities of leaders to be. I would also like to ask them if they consider fate to be real, or are they in control of their own destinies?  Given the variation in optimism and pessimism that ranges in their attitudes, their approaches to facing the difficulties of life and death would be fascinating to explore.

I would certainly be curious to see how these three warrior kings spoke with each other. I think a checking of the swords at the door might be a very good idea.

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What questions would you ask these leaders?

Dining With Characters! Part I

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The other day I was thinking about which 2 or 3 fictional characters I would like to sit down with over coffee, tea, or beer and with whom I would like to have a conversation.  When I first thought about it, I believed it would be an easy choice to make, but then I realized that there were so many that I would have to do this in parts.

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For the initial meeting, I thought I would extend an invitation to Merlin from Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte D’Arthur, Gandalf from J.R.R.Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, (not from The Hobbit), and Dumbledore from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series to join me over beer, mead, or even butterbeer, if that were preferable at a nice Public House.  I chose  these characters because they are central figures in three works that are deeply important to me, not only from the perspective of study but also from the enormous pleasure I have had from reading these works. I have taught all of them in different classes, and I love to reread these writings over the years.

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I am fascinated by the connection among the three of them, all wizards in tales of British mythology. Among the questions I would want to ask would be: Do you see a connection among yourselves? Do you approve of your portrayals in the writings? and Are you descended from the Druids?

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I think this would be a lively and enjoyable conversation, although if too much was drunk, I wonder what inebriated and arguing wizards would be like.

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Who would you choose to invite to such an event?  I would love to hear your choices.

Reading List

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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.

Happy reading!bookshelvesmagic