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, 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.
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, 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 by Bram Stoker 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.
Please follow the following links to find my novel:
The book trailer:
My radio interview:
Toni Morrison, the great American writer, died today at the age of 88. Morrison wrote many important works, among them Beloved, Sula, and Song Of Solomon.
Ms. Morrison was a writer of brilliance, and she wrote of the experience of African-Americans and of humanity in general. Her work covered historical time spans and incorporated Modernism and Magic Realism.
Ms. Morrison was also an accomplished teacher and mentor. She received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama in 2012. Ms. Morrison also won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1993.
Ms. Morrison was one of our greatest writers, and I am sure she will be remembered in the future of one of the most skilled, talented, and accomplished of American writers.
Please remember her by reading her works.
R.I.P. Toni Morrison
50 years ago, the human race set foot on the moon, the culmination of a journey begun in 1961 with President John F. Kennedy’s call for the U.S.A. to gather around this project, “We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too” (JFK). He made the challenge, and the United States of America accepted it.
The moon landing remains the most extraordinary scientific and technological achievement in the history of the human race. We should celebrate this event, remember its importance, and strive to achieve more. Let us remember the importance of science and its possibilities.
As a very young teenager, I was enchanted and enthralled by this voyage, and I felt optimistic about what we, as humanity, could achieve. The television show Star Trek embraced the humanism that was inherent in this project, and science and was part of this spirit. I remain optimistic about our possibilities, even in the face of science deniers and the horrible rise of right wing fascism. We still can unite, and we still can achieve. I believe that, and I hope for it.
Remember this achievement, let humanity recognize its interconnection, let us understand the crucial importance of science, and let us set our sights on returning to the moon and beyond!
https://er.jsc.nasa.gov/seh/ricetalk.htm TEXT OF PRESIDENT JOHN KENNEDY’S RICE STADIUM MOON SPEECH.
“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”
“Study the past if you would define the future.”
“Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.”
“Remember that all through history, there have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they seem invincible. But in the end, they always fall. Always.”
“Voldemort himself created his worst enemy, just as tyrants everywhere do! Have you any idea how much tyrants fear the people they oppress? All of them realize that, one day, amongst their many victims, there is sure to be one who rises against them and strikes back!”
J.K. Rowling Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince
“The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.”
John F. Kennedy
“I cannot and will not cut my conscience to fit this year’s fashions.”
“Waste no more time arguing about what a good man should be. Be one.”
(By Artur Pawłowski – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=53409432)
“In a room where people unanimously maintain a conspiracy of silence, one word of truth sounds like a pistol shot.”
To continue this series, I wanted to invite major characters from British mythology. As before, I am imagining what it would be like to invite a few fictional characters to a dinner and have conversation with them.
(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 by an unknown poet, Le Morte d’Arthur by Sir Thomas Malory, and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. 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, primarily in the Wescoe School of Muhlenberg College in Allentown, PA. 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.
(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” 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.
What questions would you ask these leaders or other leaders in mythology?
This entry is one of several posts I will write about some of the characters in my first novel. I hope you enjoy it.
The protagonist of my supernatural horror thriller Maledicus: The Investigative Paranormal Society Book I is a retired History professor, living in Bethberg, a small town in northeastern Pennsylvania. He is a deeply complex man, influenced by, among other things, his service in the Vietnam War and the profound and loving marriage with his now deceased wife.
Roosevelt has several deep enjoyments in life—eating, drinking good whisky, especially single malt Scotch, and smoking high level cigars, but his primary passion in life is books. A visitor to his home would notice, more than anything else, the enormous number of bookcases lining many of the walls in his house. Roosevelt’s home is an old Victorian home that he and his wife Sarah had purchased and renovated shortly after their marriage.
While she did have a large room dedicated to being her art studio, an avocation she loved, even while being a surgeon, and Roosevelt had a large room that was his studio, smoking room and library, other rooms also were filled with books of many kinds and conditions. Roosevelt, although a man of financial means, is not a book collector. He believes that books should be read and not simply owned to be put on display. He thinks that the words in a piece are what make the book important, not a fine leather cover or being a first edition. He places worth on the ideas, the stories, the tales, the histories, and the communications in books and not their potential monetary value.
At one point, he tried to make a calculated estimate of how many books he owned, but he decided it was an almost impossible task, so he stopped the tally when he reached 4000. And no matter how many books he owns, he seems to always find more to buy. Again, he is not a snob when it comes to the owning of books. His snobbery emerges when it comes to whiskey and cigars.
More on that later.
Please follow the following links to find my novel:
The book trailer:
My radio interview:
“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
“When we give cheerfully and accept gratefully, everyone is blessed.”
“We must find time to stop and thank the people who make a difference in our lives.”
John F. Kennedy