We are the Hollow Men, We are the Stuffed Men

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Anyone who’s done T.S Eliot in school knows this reference. It’s one of my favourite poems and I quote it regularly. At the end of this I will post a link to the poem. It’s long, but a glorious poem. I’m writing this because of World Literacy Day and what better way to celebrate it than to discuss the kings and queens of the written word? Polls have been conducted over the years to find out the best authors, but I will be looking at the foundation of all these writers. Women like Mary Shelley, Charlotte Bronte, Louise May Alcott and Jane Austen. Men like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Edgar Allan Poe, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Charles Dickens. All these authors, among others, have built the foundation for every writer in the world. Whether you are writing scripts, novels, poems or short stories these men and women will have had an impact on your words.

I can say for a fact that as someone who has been writing and reading classics as long as I have that these authors have not only changed my writing style, but also to some degree my general speech. After reading A Tale of Two Cities, I found myself speaking better, writing better and in general a better person. The thoughts and principles written into these novels were so much more than just words on a page. They were the thoughts, beliefs, hopes and dreams of their authors. They put their souls onto the pages of their works. I think authors nowadays have lost that. We read fast paced books and very seldom do they have any depth. There are quite a few authors that stand out from these modern writers. Writers like Stephen King, Justin Cronin and Patricia Cornwall truly have a passion for their craft and their books are not only well-researched, but also cause us to ask ourselves important questions about who we are as humans. Patricia Cornwall talks to us about the dark side of what men are capable of, while Stephen King shows us the horrors of the mind. All three of these authors, among no doubt others, gave us unique perspective into the hearts and minds of their characters.

All of these writers were inspired by the greats that went before. Frankenstein and Dracula were the pioneers in the field of horror, just like Shakespeare brought plays into the limelight. All these great authors built the foundations we, as writers, stand on. In honor of these masters of literature, I am going to provide a list of 10 classics worth a read.

  1. Mary Shelley. The first woman to write a horror novel, she wrote mostly about her experiences in her life. If you have watched her biographical movie and read Frankenstein, you will see a lot of her own pain and self-loathing in the pages of this classic. If you love horror and classics, read Frankenstein.
  2. Jane Austen. Austen had written many love stories in her life, though herself never ever marrying. She wrote famous classics such as Pride and Prejudice, Sense and Sensibility and Emma. Emma, the last of these was remade into a film last year.
  3. George Orwell. Orwell, known for his famous works, Animal Farm and 1984, wrote on his views concerning politics and his fear of a dystopian future where mankind will be brainwashed and become sheep following what an elite few dictate to them. Both are great reads and I recommend either if you’re up for a satisfying read.
  4. Charles Dickens. Perhaps one of the greatest writers you will ever read. His books are filled with adventure, tragedy, love and redemption. He is a man who causes you to appreciate what you have in life and how to cherish it. He wrote about the suffering of the commoners in his time and emphasized this profusely in all his literature.
  5. Leo Tolstoy. A man who showed the upper class as selfish and morally corrupt. Anna Karenina and War and Peace are perhaps his two most famous works. He writes deeply moralistic, almost religious, novels wherein he shows the differences in the mindset of the classes.
  6. Harper Lee. Only ever publishing one book in her lifetime, she quickly became one of the most famous female authors. Her book To Kill a Mockingbird became a set book in every school and a stark reminder of how, as Atticus puts it, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” This became the cornerstone for the whole novel. She later goes on to write that it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird. “‘Your father’s right,’ she said. ‘Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy.'” In this quote, she demonstrates that bigotry is hurting something that is beautiful and peaceful for no reason.
  7. F. Scott Fitzgerald. We all know him as the man who wrote the famous book The Great Gatsby. Truly a masterpiece. He writes on the tragedy of a man pursuing a life of wealth and fame simply to be with the woman he loved, however later we find her to have married a pig of a man simply for his money. Fitzgerald offers us a cautionary tale on the futility of wealth.
  8. Herbert George (H.G.) Wells. Known as the father of science fiction. If you’ve read my previous post on H.G and Jules, you will know these men were great geniuses in their time. H.G.’s greatest works include The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau and War of the Worlds.
  9. Lewis Carroll. Carroll was the famous author of the two children’s stories Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking Glass. These books are made for the enjoyment of children, but as adults there is plenty we can learn from Alice. At one point or other we’ve lost our ability to dream of the impossible. If you are up for some light reading, Carroll’s works are just for you.
  10. Agatha Christie. Known for her famous Belgian detective, Hercule Poirot, Agatha Christie took the writing world by storm with a flurry of Poirot, Miss Marple and stand alone novels that became instant best-sellers. Her movie Murder on the Orient Express has been release as a movie and now her novel Death on the Nile is due in theaters later this year. Along with the release of these two famous novels have been a volley of mini-series all based on her novels. All her books were released as series with the famous actor David Suchet in the part of Poirot. If you’ve never read any of her novels, I recommend you read one of her stand alone novels, Endless Night.

I’ve given you quite a long list, but I have read or seen the movies for all these novels. I can tell you from personal experience these books are definitely worth a read.

God bless you, all my darling avidReaders. 🙂

H.G. & Jules: Two Men Who Predicted the Future

You may recognize this from the first Thor movie. It takes place during an argument between scientists Jane Foster and Erik Selvig. Despite Selvig’s clear opinion on the topic of science-fiction, there are many cases where he has been found to be flawed in his opinions of science and “magic” as he calls it. I have decided to broach this topic using two of my favourite science fiction authors: H.G Wells and Jules Verne. If you ever watched or read War of the Worlds and/or Journey to the Center of the Earth, you will know who these two famous authors are and the genius they put into their works.

A Brief History of H.G.

H.G Wells; Photograph by George Charles Beresford,

Herbert George Wells, born September 21st 1866, wrote dozens of novels, short stories and poems. He was an English writer and remembered to this day as the “father of science fiction” (a distinction he shared with Jules Verne). H.G. had a tendency to write futuristic, dystopian novels in which he wrote on such ideas as air-crafts and hybridization–this we now know to be possible and are in fact pursuing these same fields of genetic modification. Back in H.G.’s days, such things would be considered impossible, but without Verne and Wells, there’d be no such inventions today. Wells’ earliest training was in biology and his ideas on ethics came from Darwinian influence as well as his standing as a socialist from his early days. He was most notable for his works The Time Machine, The Island of Doctor Moreau, The Invisible Man and War of the Worlds. Sadly, his career was brought to a an end when he died in August 13th of the year 1946.

A Brief History of Jules

Jules Verne; Photograph by Étienne Carjat, c. 1884

Born Jules Gabriel Verne on 8 September 1828, he went on to become a French novelist, poet and playwright. Three of his most famous works came out of a collaboration he did with the publisher Piere-Jules Hetzel–his famous Twenty-Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, Journey to the Center of the Earth and Around the World in Eighty Days. He also shared the title of the “father of science-fiction” with the above mentioned author, H.G. Through a mutual acquaintance, Verne met and became close friends with Alexandre Dumas, famous author of The Three Musketeers and The Count of Monte Cristo. Through all of this, Verne continued his studies in law, despite his clear disdain for society as made evident in his work, 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea. Verne’s career as a writer ended in the year 1905, when he died of diabetes. In honour of this great writer, the street he lived in was named after him (Boulevard Jules-Verne). His works continue to inspire us even after his death. In the year 1994, his great-grandson found Verne’s last manuscript Paris in the Twentieth Century in the attic of his home. Soon after he published the last work his great-grandfather would ever write.

How They Determined our Future

There are definitely many authors who have inspired us for all kinds of reasons, but when it comes to early science and predicting the future only two men stand out for me: Herbert George Wells and Jules Gabriel Verne. Two men who explored the unknown. They stretched their minds and dreamed of a future where men would travel the seas in submarines, travel the air in flying machines and travel to the moon. In the novel The Island of Doctor Moreau, Wells explored a science we, now, are only beginning to comprehend. Namely–cloning and hybridization of living organisms. While Jules questioned what existed in the center of the earth, Wells explored what the future would look like. His predictions were shockingly accurate. Wells foresaw a world where we would exchange the Earth for our own so-called happiness. Verne also knew this and desired to hide away from the rest of the world. Captain Nemo’s views on mankind are what we are only now experiencing. So we see that these men predicted the future in ways they will never know. They have inspired generations of scientists from all over the world and undoubtedly will cause us to question the world around us.

These were bold, questioning minds that challenged the norms of science, just like Verne’s very own Phileas Fogg, who strove for the advancement of science. However, let’s not just look at their grasp on science, but acknowledge their knowledge of man’s base nature. Both these men saw the world as plainly as we see our own reflection.

In Conclusion….

I am going to refer to Jane and Erik’s argument in the beginning of this article. Jane was right. Science fiction will always be a prelude to science fact. If man can imagine it, he will do whatever it takes to accomplish it. We dreamed of the moon and travelling the stars, so we built rockets and explored aeronautics. We wondered what secrets lay in the depths of our seas, so we invented scuba suits and submarines. As I mentioned above there are many brave authors with just as much curiosity as H.G and Jules. These people changed the world. Whether it’s for the good or bad, who can say? I just know, that these men saw possibilities no other human being at the time could’ve.

So listen closely when I say this, my darling avidReaders, question everything. Don’t just accept it because everyone else says it’s true or because science says it’s correct. Look beyond, get your own hands dirty. If you don’t, you may miss out on the chance to cure cancer or pioneer the next generation of robotics. Get digging!

As always, God bless and have a lovely week ahead! 😀