An U.L.S. — The Underground Library Society– Post by M. C. Tuggle

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I want to thank M. C. Tuggle for joining the Underground Library Society!

I will have another post for the U. L. S. up on Sunday.

Now, here is M. C. Tuggle’s post:

I Am Beowulf

by M. C. Tuggle

I follow the rusting railroad tracks, occasionally veering off to wade through icy streams so the Mechanical Hound cannot follow my scent. When I find Granger and his small band of rebels, he welcomes me with hot coffee, which I greedily drink, then chase down with the bitter fluid Granger assures me will change my scent and confuse the Hound. Then he asks what book I choose to become by committing it to memory.

There is no question which book it will be.

After all, I’ve joined the resistance against a totalitarian government that controls its subjects by keeping them in perpetual ignorance. Numbed by mindless, ever-present mass media, the population exists without a past, either as individuals or as part of a living tradition. Only the present moment exists for them. Independent thought is quickly detected and snuffed out, and anyone with a book is a criminal who can be executed on the spot.

So of course the book I choose to memorize and become must be Beowulf.

After all, the oppressed people of Fahrenheit 451 need a vision that will rouse them out of their apathy. Once they rediscover who they are and what they were meant to be, maybe a fire will grow in their bellies and inspire them to reclaim their humanity.

Also, practical issues aside, I just love Beowulf. It’s the high school classic that made me into a future English major. The gritty details of battle against Grendel, his mother, and the dragon are as vivid and breathtaking as the greatest adventure tales of Robert E. Howard or H. Rider Haggard. And the action in Beowulf is not only entertaining, but significant. The tale is packed with commentary on the human condition as well as eye-opening insights into history, religion, and culture.

In Bradbury’s dystopia, historical amnesia has been weaponized to keep the people alienated and aimless. In Beowulf, on the other hand, one’s history is a vital part of one’s existence. Early in the story, when a Danish watchman challenges Beowulf and his crew, Beowulf identifies himself by telling the watchman about his lineage:

“We belong by birth to the Geat people and owe allegiance to Lord Hygelac. In his day, my father was a famous man, a noble warrior-lord named Ecgtheow.”

And in stark contrast to the soul-crushing conformity and stupor of Fahrenheit 451’s dystopian society, the world of Beowulf celebrates achievement, battle, and nobility. Upon first viewing Beowulf, the Danish watchman remarks, “Nor have I seen a mightier man-at-arms on this earth than the one standing here: unless I am mistaken, he is truly noble.”

Beowulf also gives us an overview of the history of Western civilization. It offers a glimpse of Britain’s transition from a pagan to a Christian culture. My take on this classic is that it is a rewriting of an oral epic from pagan days. What makes it unique is that it mirrors the history of the spread of Christianity, particularly in northern Europe, where the world-weary religion of southern European slaves and the poor reinvented itself to appeal to the more prosperous, more aristocratic, and more worldly north.

In doing so, the new religion embraced much of the pagan worldview of northern Europe, and this update of a pagan classic reflects that.

Consider the book’s undisguised pagan values. The hero sets out to save the Danish king’s mead hall, a place where members of the warrior class drink, feast, and share the spoils of battle. Prized weapons are named, something we do not see in the Iliad or Odyssey. And instead of promoting turning the other cheek, or looking to an eternal reward as life’s ultimate aim, Beowulf glorifies revenge and worldly honor: “It is better for us all to avenge our friends, not mourn them forever. Each of us will come to the end of this life on earth; he who can earn it should fight for the glory of his name; fame after death is the noblest of goals.”

I have four translations, or modernizations, of this epic poem. My favorites are by JRR Tolkien and the Irish poet Seamus Heaney. If forced to pick, I’ll have to go with Heaney’s shimmering retelling. That’s the book I would memorize.

END

M. C. Tuggle writes science fiction, fantasy, and mystery stories, and occasionally gets some published. His observations and rants about the writing craft appear on his blog mctuggle.com

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Thank you again to M. C. Tuggle!

Rest In Peace Rep. John Lewis

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(https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Lewis)

The United States of America lost an heroic figure with the passing of Representative John Lewis on Friday from pancreatic cancer.  (1940-2020)

Mr. Lewis was a major figure in the Civil Rights Movement and worked alongside Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He participated, in the March on Washington, and he led the march, as a young man, across the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma, Alabama on March 7, 1965. This would come to be known as Bloody Sunday because of the violence the marchers encountered, including Mr. Lewis.

He would later be elected to the United States House of Representatives in which he served for 30 years; he was frequently considered  to be the Conscience of America. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in 2011.

Among Mr. Lewis’ quotations are “When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You have to  say something, you have to do something.” and “I’m very hopeful. I am very optimistic about the future.”  and “Get in good trouble, necessary trouble, and help redeem the soul of America.”

Mr. John Lewis was a tireless fighter for justice and against injustice. He will be missed.

Rest In Peace

R. I. P. Elijah E. Cummings

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America lost a great man today with the death of Representative Elijah E. Cummings from Maryland at the age of 68.

Mr. Cummings, a brilliant orator, was a tireless advocate for social justice, and he spoke for the causes of the poor and the left-behind in the United States of America. Among his causes were fights for health care and justice for all Americans, regardless of class, race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation.

He spoke of the need for civility in the government but also the absolute necessity for the government to serve the people’s needs. He battled for justice and against injustice. He advocated for the defense of democracy. He was a tireless American patriot.

He will be missed.

He was a great American.

R. I. P. Elijah E. Cummings

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Who Are Your Favorite Latin American Poets?

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As I continue this series on favorite writers, I am going to try to continue to hone in more specifically on regions as well as eras, although not always in the same post! For today’s question, I would like to learn who are some of your favorite Latin American poets. Unfortunately for me, I do not speak Spanish, so I can only address the writings of the following artists as their work appeared in translation. I am hoping, however, that the translations are accurate.

Here are a few of my most admired Latin American poets:

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

Pablo Neruda

Neruda’s work might be among the best known poetry of any time or place in the world. I find his work to be astounding in its depth and breadth of subject. He was a well known political activist as well as a writer of some of the most beautiful love poetry. Neruda, from Chile, won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1971.

 

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(https://en.wikipedia.org)

Gabriela Mistral

Gabriela Mistral, of Chile, also won the Nobel Prize for Literature (1945), and has produced an enormous body of poetic work. Her work often encompasses a wide range of themes: among them: love, sorrow, bitterness, hope for the world, family, motherhood and the issue of Latin American identity.

 

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(https://en.wikipedia.org–Photograph by Jonn Leffman)

Octavio Paz

Octavio Paz completes this triumvirate of winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature (1990). Paz is one of the most well known Mexican poets, and his work was widely varied and dealt with many themes. A few are love, death, passion, natural beauty, as well as the Modern world and surrealism.

 

So I ask all of you–who are some of your favorite Latin American poets?

Quotations From Shakespeare: Hamlet

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On life and death:

“There is special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, ’tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now; yet it will come. The readiness is all.” (Act 5. Scene 2. Lines 217-220)

 

On Acting:

“Suit the action to the word, the word to the action, with this special observance, that you o’erstep  not the modesty of nature. For anything so o’erdone is from the purpose of playing, whose end, both at the first and now, was and is to hold as’t were the mirror up to nature.” (Act 3. Scene 2. Lines 17-22)

 

On Fate:

“There’s a divinity that shapes our ends,

Rough-hew them how we will–” (Act 5. Scene 2. Lines 10-11)

 

Works Cited:

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. The Collect Works of Shakespeare 4th Edition. David

Bevington, Ed. Longman. New York. 1997.

 

 

I Stand With The Jewish Community

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Today we have seen the commission of a horrible act of terrorism and murder committed in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. A shooter opened fire inside a synagogue and killed 11 and injured 6 others. I am not sure if those horrific numbers will increase–I hope they do not.

It must be said without any doubt that this was an anti-Semitic, racist, bigoted, and fascist act, that also is chillingly reminiscent of acts in Germany during the 1930s. In our current political climate, in which hatred is growing, and in which guns are easily available to anyone, including some people who have no business having them, such horrors occur far too frequently. This was an act of hatred by a racist, an extreme right winger.

People of all political views, at least those who are sane, must oppose these increases in hate. There are no excuses, no justifications, and no political spins that can reduce the culpability of a political culture that has lead to the massive increase of both shootings and attacks on places of worship, especially of people in the minority in the United States. These actions indicate a growing and disturbing trend towards fascism, and it must be opposed. My parents were of the generation that fought against totalitarianism by Japan and Germany and Italy. They did not sacrifice so much so that our country can slide into fascist attitudes. We must never forget the lessons of the horrors of the 20th Century, especially the Holocaust and World War Two.

Freedom and democracy demand that reasonable people, who can certainly disagree with how to fix problems in the United States of America, unite to oppose this disturbing trend.

Again, I am horrified by this shooting, and I feel great sadness for the Jewish people who suffered from this attack–the dead, the wounded, and their families and friends.

It is not enough to offer thoughts and prayers.

This must never happen again.

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Robert F. Kennedy Remembered

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50 years ago today, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. He was a Senator and a candidate for the Democratic nomination for the U. S. Presidency.  The 1960s, and especially 1968, were a time of great turmoil in our country and the world. Robert Kennedy was a man who had grown into a compassionate and powerful liberal figure, one who offered hope to a divided country in despair.

RFK had won the primary in California and seemed poised to win the nomination, which would have made him a powerful candidate to become President.  Then his life was brutally ended, and the country lost possibilities.

Like his brother, President John F. Kennedy and the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., he would be killed, and America would lose great potential for change and decency. I was a young teenager when this happened, and I remember feeling a terrible sense of loss and grief. As I grew older, I would realize just what the country lost.

I end with a quotation from his campaign, which was based on the earlier quotation from George Bernard Shaw. In his speech at the University of Kansas
March 18, 1968  RFK said:

“George Bernard Shaw once wrote,

‘Some people see things as they are and say why? I

dream things that never were and say, why not?'”

                                                               (Robert F. Kennedy)

Senator Ted Kennedy spoke of his brother at his funeral and said,

“My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life; to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.” (Edward Kennedy)

I hope we, as a  nation, can remember Robert F. Kennedy’s sense of optimism and justice and that we move towards a just and inclusive society. We must think of what might be.

 

Works Cited

“Edward M. Kennedy Address at the Public Memorial Service for Robert F. Kennedy.”

American Rhetoric Top 100 Speeches. Online. http://www.americanrhetoric.com

/speeches/ekennedytributetorfk.html.

 

“Robert F. Kennedy Speeches Remarks at the University of Kansas, March 18, 1968.” John

      F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum.  Online.  https://www.jfklibrary.org

/Research/Research-Aids/Ready-Reference/RFK-Speeches/Remarks-of-Robert-

F-Kennedy-at-the-University-of-Kansas-March-18-1968.aspx.

Rest In Peace Adam West

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Actor Adam West, who portrayed The Caped Crusader, in the television series of the 1960s, Batman has died.  This series was campy, but I watched it as a youngster — I will refrain from giving my exact age at the time! -, and I loved it. It ran from 1966-1968, and it was the first live action adaptation of a comic book superhero that I had seen.

The series became extremely popular, and many other well-known actors played a variety of villains, all in good humor. Just a few are: Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt as Catwoman, Vincent Price as Egghead, and Cesar Romero as The Joker.

I was and still am a lover of comic books and superheroes, and I say a fond farewell to the man who played Batman straight up, no matter how silly the script might have been. West played Bruce Wayne and Batman as a hero who fought to help those in need.

R.I.P. Adam West 1928-2017

Favorite Horror Films of the 1940s: Cat People

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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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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?