Books That Have Influenced Me: Part Two

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LOR

(Liz French)

 

Among the many books that I have enjoyed or have had a large influence on my life are some that I discovered when I was young.  One of the most important such works is J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings. This magnificent work, which is one novel, divided into three books: The Fellowship Of The Ring, The Two Towers, and The Return Of The King, is not only the most important work of modern fantasy, but it is also the contemporary work of British mythology. It is, in my not so humble opinion, one of the most important novels of the 20th Century.

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(https://mrsflaherty.wikispaces.com)

Released in 3 parts from 1954 to 1955, this work has not only become an extraordinary bestseller, but also it influenced story-telling, writing, and movie making continually to the present day.

I was a young teenager when I read the book, deep in the heart of the Vietnam War era, in a time when everything was being questioned, and corruption was rampant in our society.  Actually, it has not seemed to change all that much, with the exception of the myriad of good and decent people who are trying to make positive contributions to our world.  This book captured my heart and mind immediately, and I have reread the entire book about once every ten years or so. I am due for another rereading soon.

Tolkien was a deeply important linguist, and he developed a new language—Elvish, complete with syntax, vocabulary, and an alphabet.  This work and his academic work would have made him one of the preeminent thinkers of the 20th Century. His writing of this novel puts him in the upper echelon of writers.

Almost any theme that can be considered is included in this work: life and death, good vs. evil, right vs. wrong, the consequences of the industrial age on an agrarian culture, the place of war, the importance of ordinary people as well as leaders, the hero and the quest, and the workings of the human heart are just a few that could be mentioned.  I have been concerned my entire life with the issue of good and evil and when evil must be confronted.  Tolkien, who fought in World War I and saw the horror of World War Two, examines this issue in depth.  For a world that experienced the twin terrors of those wars, Tolkien’s book becomes a place to examine how such fighting impacts people.

No matter how many times I read this magnificent work, I never cease to be astounded by it. It is not a book intended for children, as The Hobbit is, as some have mistakenly thought. It is a work for adults and through the lens of fantasy, deals with extremely important human issues.

I know I will read The Lord Of The Rings throughout the rest of my life.

In my next installment, I will discuss a particular play that has had huge impact on me.

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Books That Have Influenced Me: Part One

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(https://pixabay.com)

I have ready 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 have influenced me the most in my life.

Dracula

(https://en.wikipedia.org)

I do not mean that I want to explore what books are the most meaningful or the most important literature. That is a completely different discussion. Certainly there can be crossover in my choices, because I will not eliminate a text on its literary value, but I am interested now in which books had a part to play in my development as a human being and which ones helped to form me into the person I now am.

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 Dracula, The War of the Worlds, A Tale of Two Cities, Frankenstein, The Lord of the Rings and Fahrenheit 451.  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.

Today, I will focus on Dracula and what its influence on me was and is. This was one of the first Gothic novels 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.

In the next entry in this series, I will discuss a book in which the idea of fellowship is a central theme.

wp-1476386546701-maledicus

Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society Book I by Charles F. French is available for purchase on Amazon either as an ebook or a print book!

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

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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(https://pixabay.com)

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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(https://pixabay.com)

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

What Book Would You Visit?

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(https://pixabay.com)

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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(https://pixabay.com)

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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(https://pixabay.com)

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?

wp-1476386546701-maledicus

 

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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Romantic_Landscape'_by_John_Trumbull,_Dayton_Art_Institute

commons.wikipedia.org

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.

A_Christmas_Carol,_Ignorance_and_Want_by_John_Leech

https://commons.wikipedia.org

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.

Pauline_Implores_Leontes

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.

The_Stand_cover

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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https://pixabay.com

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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https://pixabay.com

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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https://en.wikipedia.org

(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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https://commons.wikimedia.org

(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.

Aragorn300ppx

“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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https://pixabay.com

What questions would you ask these leaders?