Tag Archives: Moby Dick

#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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#SaturdaySeven #LASreviews


I’m that girl who picks up a book in bookstore and turns to the first page, not the back blurb, first. If the book gets me with the first line, I’m sold. Here are my 7 favorite opening lines in books. ( I really have about 1,000 but this is Saturday Seven not  Saturday 1,000, so…heehee)

The seven best opening lines in books.

  1. Call me Ishmael – Moby Dick by Hermann Melville

2. “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.”

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

3. “It was a bright, cold day in April. And the clocks were striking thirteen.” 1984 ~George Orwell

4. “It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electricuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York.” The Bell Jar ~ Sylvia Plath

 

5. “In my younger and more vulnerable years my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since. ‘Whenever you feel like criticizing any one,’ he told me, ‘just remember that all the people in this world haven’t had the advantages that you’ve had.'”

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

6. “We slept in what had once been the gymnasium.”

The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood

7. “It was a dark and stormy night” Snoopy via Peanuts & Charles Shultz

 

Since this is a progressive blog hop, let’s see what some of the other authors’ seven favs for the week are: SaturdaySeven

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The Pressure of Opening Lines.

Recently, during a weekly on-line author chat with the publisher and editors of The Wild Rose Press, the topic up for discussion was how to hook a reader from the very first line/page of your book. It’s important to establish this hook because the reader spends on average 3 seconds deciding whether or not to buy the book. If you’ve only got 3 seconds – or less (Egads!) – you need something that’s got WOW FACTOR all over it – be it a great opening line or paragraph. You must engage the reader and compel them by doing so to purchase the book. I know for myself I have picked books up at the bookstore, read the back blurb and been intrigued enough to read the first few lines. Many times I have not purchased the book because the hype in the back didn’t translate to the story on the page. The hook was more a jab ( heehee) and didn’t land well with me.

Can you tell I watched Rocky last night? Sheesh!

Anyway…this got me to thinking: what are some of the most memorable lines in books?

Google and Wikipedia are quick, fun tools that have lists compiled for every conceivable thing. So I typed into a search, Best Opening Lines in Books and was virtually assaulted (get it?!) with book lines.

Here are some I recognized:

  • “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.”—Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina 
  • “It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” – Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice
  • Call me Ishmael – Herman Melville, Moby-Dick 1851
  • It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen – George Orwell, 1984 ( 1949)
  • Mrs. Dalloway said she would buy the flowers herself. – Virginia Woolf, Mrs. Dalloway ( 1925)
  • It was a queer, sultry summer, the summer they electrocuted the Rosenbergs, and I didn’t know what I was doing in New York. – Sylvia Plath, the Bell Jar ( 1963)
  • In the town, there were two mutes and they were always together, – Carson McCullers, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter ( 1940)
  • As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a monstrous verminous bug. – Franz Kafka, Metamorphosis ( 1915)

Everyone of these opening sentences immediately draws the reader into the story by giving them something to think about and a question or two to ask.

In the case of Moby-Dick, Call me Ishmael are three of the most recognized words in literature. Who is Ishmael? Why are we to call him that – does he really have another name but just wants to use Ishmael? Who is he talking to? These natural queries make you want to get answers to satisfy your curiosity. And the way to satisfy that curiosity is to…read the book!

In the 1984 line…. the clocks were striking thirteen… the reader immediately knows something is off because clocks DON’T ( as a rule) strike thirteen. Why are they doing so in this story? And what is the significance of them striking thirteen times? Is something going to happen? Or did it already and the thirteen is the announcement of it? Inquiring minds want to know.

Thinking back on the first lines I’ve written, I know in my heart some of them haven’t been filled with the wow factor – something I will work on arduously in 2015. With the plethora of books to choose from on-line, in bookstores and the library, a writer has to stake their claim on the reader’s attention IMMEDIATELY. No small task, but a worthwhile endeavor. And the payoff is a memorable book ( and a sale!)

Here’s the first line of my new release THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME, available right now!!

 

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