Tag Archives: Good vs. Evil

#TheGreatAmericanRead, Villains and Monsters, #PBS

This week’s edition of The Great American Read   ( my current TV watching obsession!) was all about VILLAINS AND MONSTERS in books. And the monsters aren’t exactly the kind that appear from under your bed!

This episode was fascinating for me because it made me take a second look at books I typically would never read: dark, tortuous anti-heroes, creepy villains, and tales of obsession. I like to stick to happy, peppy, HEA stories usually. Hee hee

So, the breakdown for the Villains, Monsters, and Evil Forces books on the 100 list are as follows.

OBSESSION. My dictionary defines it thus:an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person’s mind. The books in this category are pretty recognizable. The Picture of Dorian Gray and Moby Dick.

  

Dorian is obsessed with growing old and Ahab is obsessed with the great white whale who bit off his leg.

 Thrillers. As a society we love to be scared. Truly. There’s nothing like being placed in a situation – like a movie theater -where you scream with fright at what’s on the screen, and then take a breath because you know it’s not real. The favorite books in this category are Gone Girl and then classic And Then there were none

 Written decades ago, this book started the genre of crime thriller. 10 people are invited to a secluded island under a false pretense and then systematically, to the words of an old children’s poem, are killed to serve some skewered sense of justice. Brilliant writing. Brilliant ending. No one did it better than Dame Agatha

Our next category is the dark side of human nature. George R.R. Martin has a great quote in this segment. He says, “the villain is just the hero who’s on the other side. ” Love that. Here, we have the classic DuMaurier Rebecca and Game of Thrones.  Has there ever been a creepier housekeeper than Mrs Danvers?

   

Institutional Evil is next on the list. These are the books that turn their attention to societal evil. Books such as The Handmaids Tale and Beloved fall into this category.

We see the United States during two courses of its history real and imagined. First, it’s slavery past in Morrison’s book, and then an imagined future where America is now called Galead and run by a group of men who rule over women. Even though this is a work of fiction, the parallels to what is going on in our society today is pretty terrifying.

The corrupt and all powerful Villain is next. This is where the phrase absolute power corrupts absolutely is a perfect description. The Harry Potter books, The Stand, and Alice in Wonderland fall into this category.

  

Voldemort covets all the power in the universe as his own. Randall Flagg can read people’s minds and souls to get them to believe in him and him alone, and who can ever read about the Queen of Hearts and not see her as a totalitarian nincompoop?

The last category of Evil concerns those characters who choose ambition over ethics. The Watchers and Frankenstein explore this topic in full detail. Everyone always forgets that Frankenstein is not the monster’s name. Victor Frankenstein is the doctor who wants to reanimate a man and create life. He sees himself as a human God above the spiritual one and he, it turns out, is the true monster in this tale.

 

My takeaway from this episode is that evil, monsters – real and imagined, and villains who live on the dark side of society are just as readable and fascinating as the good guys in white hats who combat them.

Watch the Great American Read every Tuesday at 8 pm on PBS and vote for your favorites anytime here.

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“After a hurricane, comes a rainbow”

I put the title in quotes because it’s from the Katy Perry song Firework.    The reason I’m quoting that song today is because I need to say something about what’s been going on in the UK for the past 2 weeks.

While I won’t address the atrocities–they’ve been given enough coverage by the mainstream media–I do want to honor the courage, strength, and fortitude of the British people. A people, so kind, so good hearted, so friendly, that their uniformed police officers don’t even carry guns to police the populous.

I’ve been lucky enough to visit London and the UK several times with my daughter and husband. London itself is a metropolis filled with thousand-year-old English history but is a veritable Babel of languages and cultures all living, working, existing together. And every single Englishman I’ve met on my travels, no matter what their color, religion, or political party affiliation, has been polite, courteous, friendly, and–to use a British euphemism–Brilliant. One of my brothers-in-law is from the UK and he is just as kind, loving, and,  yes (again!) brilliant as his homeland mates.

During World War II when Britain was getting bombed and gassed by its enemies, Winston Churchill told his people “..never flinch, never weary, never despair.” That well known British stiff upper lip and backbone of steel has served the people of the UK well for generations and will continue to do so.

The outpouring of love for the people of Manchester and the victims, families, and citizens of the London attacks, from around the world is an example of what never giving into evil can accomplish; of remembering that love is unbreakable like a diamond whereas evil is like a deadly virus that must be isolated, treated, and eradicated for the good of all.

In a game of rock, paper, scissors, love is always the rock, the winner. Love crushes everything else – every evil, every terror, every atrocity. Love always wins.

Always.

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