When Someone Asks If You’re a God, You Say Yes! My Reaction to the 1921 Play ‘Six Characters in Search of An Author’

I just listened to this dramatic reading from a cast of Librivox volunteers of the play ‘Six Characters in Search of an Author’ by Luigi Pirandello. Written and first performed in 1921. I want to get down some initial thoughts and reactions.

Six ‘characters’ show up at a playhouse while a troupe is rehearsing and attempt to relate that they are characters, in the flesh, sprung from a creative mind but abandoned before their play was finished. Thus they are seeking a stage, an author, led by a father figure whose version of their existence and the situation inherent in their being which is to be staged, is presented most authorially. The father comes leading a pack of characters, which is a mixed up family. Though their writer is absent, he is the most ‘authorial’. Thusly many of the literary terms are complicated by their meanings in other realms, throughout the play. It is a somber, complex tale they tell, a situation about an estranged father reunited with his ex- and his daughter in the most discomfiting of circumstances, when the father visits a brothel and makes an appointment with a young madame, who turns out to be the daughter.

What version will be told, is best to get at the ‘truth’, or even will be permitted by social mores to be staged? Where the mother arrives to discover them just in time?

THE FATHER. She, the Mother arrived just then . . . 

THE STEP-DAUGHTER (treacherously). Almost in time!

THE FATHER (crying out)No, in time! in time! Fortunately I recognized her. . . in time.

For you see, whose story?-, whose feelings?- are most important? Authorial? Authorized? Or, if acknowledged that each character, however minor, has their own internal pains and stories, what version is best to get at the truth of the story?

To gloss over, or to generalize, or to not give light to secret pains, what is THE TRUTH?

THE STEP-DAUGHTER. But it’s the truth! 

THE MANAGER. What does that matter? Acting is our business here. Truth up to a certain point, but no further.

But if this is the pivot on which the play turns, a character’s envelopment in the whole curtain thread…

Then the stage lights are hot with a desire to shine and reflect on how the existence of characters says something about ourselves, in our ‘real’ world, and how truth, once told- repeatable as stone-clad in artistic text, eternal, says something about ourselves who are fleeting, changing, and never so chiseled out as ‘characters’. It is an existentialist point, that our essence is in this light of shining and reflecting and never as much as we’d like in being wholly a solid thing.

Actors mock those who living the thing as they enact it so the troupe may see their drama and later represent it, mock the real life versions. The daughter, dressed in mourning for her adopted father, protests when the actress steps in to her tragic scene. She herself is eternally in black dress, her adopted father just recently dead. The actress steps in.

THE STEP-DAUGHTER. But she isn’t dressed in black. 

LEADING LADY. But I shall be, and much more effectively than you.

The son refuses to speak, after the daughter and mother return home to him and his father. The implications of what has happened to bring about their return are too apparent and too full of meaning for him to consider without retreating. He hides in his room, refuses to speak to his father. His father, the man how progressive moral rationality who let the mother go with her lover in the first place so that they might have a happier, more reasonable existence.

At some point, reason becomes…

Anyway, the father was pining for his ex- , wandering their old home together, thinking of whether she was now happy, while the mother was in mourning and without money so that she and her daughter were forced into dire circumstance.

THE FATHER. That is exactly your mistake, never to have guessed any of my sentiments. 

THE MOTHER. After so many years apart, and all that had happened . . . 

THE FATHER. Was it my fault if that fellow carried you away? It happened quite sud- denly; for after he had obtained some job or other, I could find no trace of them; and so, not unnaturally, my interest in them dwindled. But the drama culminated unforeseen and violent on their return, when I was impelled by my miserable flesh that still lives . . . Ah! what misery, what wretchedness is that of the man who is alone and disdains debasing liaisons! Not old enough to do without women, and not young enough to go and look for one without shame. Misery? It’s worse than misery; it’s a horror; for no woman can any longer give him love; and when a man feels this . . . One ought to do without, you say? Yes, yes, I know. Each of us when he appears before his fellows is clothed in a certain dignity. But every man knows what unconfessable things pass within the secrecy of his own heart. One gives way to the temptation, only to rise from it again, afterwards, with a great eagerness to reestablish one’s dignity, as if it were a tombstone to place on the grave of one’s shame, and a monument to hide and sign the memory of our weaknesses. Everybody’s in the same case. Some folks haven’t the courage to say certain things, that’s all! 

THE STEP-DAUGHTER All appear to have the courage to do them though.

So, the father’s reason was a silence that wished to be understood.

THE FATHER. Yes, but in secret. Therefore, you want more courage to say these things. Let a man but speak these things out, and folks at once label him a cynic. But it isn’t true. He is like all the others, better indeed, because he isn’t afraid to reveal with the light of the intelligence the red shame of human bes- tiality on which most men close their eyes so as not to see it. Woman —for example, look at her case! She turns tantalizing inviting glances on you. You seize her. No sooner does she feel herself in your grasp than she closes her eyes. It is the sign of her mission, the sign by which she says to man: “Blind yourself, for I am blind.” 

THE STEP-DAUGHTER. Sometimes she can close them no more: when she no longer feels the need of hiding her shame to herself, but dry-eyed and dispassionately, sees only that of the man who has blinded himself without love. Oh, all these intellectual complications make me sick, disgust me—all this philosophy that uncovers the beast in man, and then seeks to save him, excuse him . . . I can’t stand it, sir. When a man seeks to “simplify” life bestially, throwing aside every relic of humanity, every chaste aspiration, every pure feeling, all sense of ide- ality, duty, modesty, shame . . . then nothing is more revolting and nauseous than a certain kind of remorse—crocodiles’ tears, that’s what it is. 

THE MANAGER. Let’s come to the point. This is only discussion. 

THE FATHER. Very good, sir! But a fact is like a sack which won’t stand up when it is empty. In order that it may stand up, one has to put into it the reason and sentiment which have caused it to exist. I couldn’t possibly know that after the death of that man, they had decided to return here, that they were in misery, and that she (pointing to the Mother) had gone to work as a modiste, and at a shop of the type of that of Madame Pace.

Blindness? Truth? Meta-Narrative tricks in a play from the 1920s having to do with psychological ablutions of character and authorship?

THE FATHER. He disappears soon, you know. And the baby too. She is the first to vanish from the scene. The drama consists finally in this: when that mother reenters my house, her family born outside of it, and shall we say superimposed on the original, ends with the death of the little girl, the tragedy of the boy and the flight of the elder daughter. It cannot go on, because it is foreign to its surroundings. So after much torment, we three remain: I, the mother, that son. Then, owing to the disappearance of that extraneous family, we too find ourselves strange to one another. We find we are living in an atmosphere of mortal desolation which is the revenge, as he (indicating Son) scornfully said of the Demon of Experiment, that unfortunately hides in me. Thus, sir, you see when faith is lacking, it becomes impossible to create certain states of happiness, for we lack the necessary humility. Vaingloriously, we try to substitute ourselves for this faith, creating thus for the rest or the world a reality which we believe after their fashion, while, actually, it doesn’t exist. For each one of us has his own reality to be respected before God, even when it is harmful to one’s very self.

If this is a play about seeking an ‘author’, in the sense of an ‘authority’, the lesson seems to be, be careful what character you choose to make the Father of your collective situation.

THE FATHER: We act that role for which we have been cast, that role which we are given in life. And in my own case, passion itself, as usually happens, becomes a trifle theatrical when it is exalted.

But in the end, it is just another play, a trifle, a diversion, which the MANAGER has reason to lament even being made aware of. And so, the art we divert ourselves with, the entertainment that we choose to center us, apart from our lives, is like the mother who wants the best but cannot provide what we ourselves must deliver into the story.

THE MANAGER (shaking his shoulders after a brief pause)Ah yes: the second act! Leave it to me, leave it all to me as we arranged, and you’ll see! It’ll go fine! 

THE STEP-DAUGHTER. Our entry into his house (indicates Father) in spite of him (indicates the Son. . . 

THE MANAGER (out of patience)Leave it to me, I tell you!

THE STEP-DAUGHTER. Do let it be clear, at any rate, that it is in spite of my wishes.

THE MOTHER (from her corner, shaking her head)For all the good that’s come of it . . . 

THE STEP-DAUGHTER (turning towards her quickly)It doesn’t matter. The more harm done us, the more remorse for him. 

THE MANAGER (impatiently)I understand! Good Heavens! I understand! I’m taking it into account. 

THE MOTHER (supplicatingly)I beg you, sir, to let it appear quite plain that for con- science sake I did try in every way . . . 

THE STEP-DAUGHTER (interrupting indignantly and continuing for the Mother)… to pacify me, to dissuade me from spiting him. (To Manager: ) Do as she wants: satisfy her, because it is true! I enjoy it immensely. Anyhow, as you can see, the meeker she is, the more she tries to get at his heart, the more distant and aloof does he become. 

THE MANAGER. Are we going to begin this second act or not?

And so, this strange family commences. Made of characters and actors. All of us, seeking our authority.

THE SON (half to himself, meaning the Mother to hear, however)And they want to put it on the stage! If there was at least a reason for it! He thinks he has got at the meaning of it all. Just as if each one of us in every circumstance of life couldn’t find his own explanation of it! (Pauses.) He complains he was discovered in a place where he ought not to have been seen, in a moment of his life which ought to have remained hidden and kept out of the reach of that convention which he has to maintain for other people. And what about my case? Haven’t I had to reveal what no son ought ever to reveal: how father and mother live and are man and wife for themselves quite apart from that idea of father and mother which we give them? When this idea is revealed, our life is then linked at one point only to that man and that woman; and as such it should shame them, shouldn’t it?

Enough. The show must go on!

THE MANAGER. Will you oblige me by going away? We haven’t time to waste with mad people. 

THE FATHER (mellifluously)Oh, sir, you know well that life is full of infinite absurdities, which, strangely enough, do not even need to appear plausible, since they are true. 

THE MANAGER. What the devil is he talking about?

THE FATHER. I say that to reverse the ordinary process may well be considered a madness-: that is, to create credible situations, in order that they may appear true. But permit me to observe that if this be madness, it is the sole raison d’être of your profession, gentlemen. 

(THE ACTORS look hurt and perplexed.

THE MANAGER (getting up and looking at him)So our profession seems to you one worthy of madmen then? 

THE FATHER. Well, to make seem true that which isn’t true . . . without any need . . . for a joke as it were . . . Isn’t that your mission, gentlemen: to give life to fan- tastic characters on the stage? 

THE MANAGER (interpreting the rising anger of the Company)But I would beg you to believe, my dear sir, that the profession of the comedian is a noble one. If today, as things go, the playwrights give us stupid comedies to play and puppets to represent instead of men, remember we are proud to have given life to immortal works here on these very boards! (THE ACTORS, satisfied, applaud their Manager.) 

THE FATHER (interrupting furiously)Exactly, perfectly, to living beings more alive than those who breathe and wear clothes: beings less real perhaps, but truer! I agree with you entirely. (The actors look at one another in amazement.) 

THE MANAGER. But what do you mean? Before, you said . . . 

THE FATHER. No, excuse me, I meant it for you, sir, who were crying out that you had no time to lose with madmen, while no one better than yourself knows that nature uses the instrument of human fantasy in order to pursue her high creative purpose. 

THE MANAGER. Very well,—but where does all this take us?

THE FATHER. Nowhere! It is merely to show you that one is born to life in many forms, in many shapes, as tree, or as stone, as water, as butterfly, or as woman. So one may also be born a character in a play.

APRIL 2021 Writing Feature Focus: A CHARACTER In Search Of…

Each month The Monarch Writers, here on our .com and also on our Discord, will focus on a specific theme. This month it is CHARACTER. And specifically how to make strong characters.

First, to sum up the issue:

So what is the issue of character?

A character must have DESIRE. And a character, in the course of a story, must CHANGE.

That clip is from the incredible film ‘Adaptation’ (2002) of course, written by Charlie Kaufman. He specializes in kind of meta- self-dissecting arthouse turmoil, rainbeaten soil of the frustrated honest soul, everyday absurdity, the transcendent beauty of… mundane revelation-avenging angel of humanity kind of thing. Not your typical writer, perhaps, but he goes to a screenwriting workshop in his own film, as himself, and listens to one of the master teachers, Robert McKee, played by Brian Cox.

Here’s the real Robert McKee’s thoughts on signing on for a script that was written quoting him, using his name, which he had his own conflicts with the screenwriter about before their individual characters came to terms on a workable resolution that became the film, incidentally changing the ending to the script of said film!

This month I plan to look into and discuss a few pieces of art related in an interesting way to character and its specific relationship to the author, to tease out some interesting themes that might spark something in your process as you build up your own characters.

I’ll look at Six Characters in Search of an Author, an Italian play by Luigi Pirandello.

And would like to start the discussion of finding that strange-attractor relationship to your characters, by getting soon to a discussion of the far-out twilight zone episode, Five Characters in Search of an Exit

What does your character want?

Well, as McKee said, he doesn’t want to be loved, on principle. He wants a redemption scene. Perhaps as writers we have to go from wanting to be loved by the reader to wanting something similar… To find that redemption through the connection.

After McKee yells at Charlie in the seminar scene, Charlie, wanting redemption and daring to change, sticks around after the show and hassles McKee, says ‘remember me, I’m the guy you yelled at’ and asks him to get a drink with him in the bar. This is the ensuing scene.

So, I’ll leave you with the advice of Robert McKee, a writer, about adapting a book about flowers ‘The Orchid Thief‘ by Susan Orlean (“that sprawling New Yorker shit”) into the enigmatic and blissful film ‘Adaptation’. Robert McKee telling it like it.. when life hands you orchids… or, doesn’t. Again, McKee being played by an actor, as a character in a movie about a writer playing the writer who wrote the film about adapting a book that he has trouble writing into the movie script he needs help making into the movie he’s in…

And it’s really just as simple as that.

Young Adult Geared Cyberpunk Series ‘Little Brother’ From Cory Doctorow Gets To Complicated Questions on Tech and Responsibility

His Writing Radicalized Young Hackers. Now He Wants to Redeem Them

Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother series has been a young-adult sci-fi bible for teen hacktivists. But with the latest and darkest book in the trilogy, it’s all grown up.

ANDY GREENBERG BACKCHANNEL10.12.2020 07:00 AM

FROM WIRED MAGAZINE

SET THE FIRST and last books in Cory Doctorow’s epic, three-book Little Brother cypherpunk saga side by side, and they read a bit like a creative writing master class on telling two starkly opposite stories from the same prompt. The common premise: Islamist terrorists bomb the Bay Bridge. Thousands die. The Department of Homeland responds by turning San Francisco into a fascist, total-surveillance police state. The protagonist, a digitally gifted, troublemaking teen, must decide how to respond.

In the first Little Brother installment, which Doctorow published in 2008, the answer seemed righteously inevitable: The hero uses his hacker skills to fight back. Specifically, he and his plucky hacker friends figure out how to jailbreak their Xboxes and channel the video game consoles’ encrypted comms over the Tor network to create Xnet, a cheap, anonymous, surveillance-proof system for organizing protest and foiling the panopticon cops by injecting false data into their totalitarian schemes.

In Doctorow’s third work in the series, publishing this week and titled Attack Surface, the protagonist takes an altogether different path. And while that path threads through the same alternate-world timeline of events, it’s tinted with all the shades of gray that the world has accumulated in the dozen long years since the series’ first, wide-eyed story.

This time the hero—or antihero, more like—instead chooses to go work for the DHS. After all, she’s angry, itching to use her prowess in digital exploitation, and someone needs to help hunt these terrorists who actually knows what she’s doing. To get the job, she breaks into her friends’ Xnet system—it was riddled with hackable bugs, of course—and uses information cascade modeling to identify all of the resistance’s leaders, then serves up the map to the authorities. Not long after, she swaps her DHS job for a contract position in Iraq, where she uses those same tricks to identify insurgent leaders, hack their devices, find them, and target them for killing.

The money is very good, and it keeps getting better. She’s transferred to Mexico City, switches contractors, and becomes accustomed to flying first-class, room service in Japanese-themed hotels, and aged scotch on the corporate account. Eventually she finds her employer is offering her exploitation skills to a kleptocratic Eastern European government that’s using them to suppress a “color revolution”-style movement. To assuage her guilt, she starts helping the dissidents, too, building surveillance systems by day and advising idealistic young rebels on how to defeat them by night—even while knowing that they’re almost certainly doomed, that the technological terrain has put them at an impossible disadvantage.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE

AT WIRED.com

Writing a Punchy Author Bio or Blurb for Yourself to Pitch Your Work as a Writer

“Sadly for books in the current times there are more writers than readers, so it seems.”
― B.S. Murthy

“I’m not so arrogant to think I’m the only guide someone needs … but I might be the guide that someone needs.”
― Laura Anne Gilman

In this piece I will gather some good advice from a few web resources on Writing A Compelling Author Bio or Short Blurb to help you Pitch Your Work, to include with cover letters and such. Many publications ask for a brief bio, or a paragraph or two, and often with specific info they want included. We’ll go over what you should generally include to get the point across about what you’re all about as a writer, and include a couple of templates of varying lengths.

THE BINDERY has good advice on writing author bios.

WRITING A COMPELLING AUTHOR BIO

ALEXANDER FIELD – BOOK PROPOSALSPUBLISHINGQUERY LETTERWRITING TIPS

If you, my friend, are ready to present yourself to the world as an author, one of the first things you will have to do is write an Author Biography or author bio. Oftentimes, this is the first part of your proposal or pitch that an editor reads, so it must be gripping and cover the most important aspects of your credentials, writing experience, and platform.

It can be vulnerable and weird, and even kind of agonizing, to write about yourself and talk up your achievements or abilities. Authors have told me that it feels like they’re bragging. But you must do it. Your bio is an important part of your publishing career that you need to consider carefully.

When you start to think about your writing as a business as well as a craft, your author biography (in short and long forms) will help you establish your brand, your focus, and your voice as an author. Your bio will tell the world who you are, and more importantly, reveal the why behind your work.

In simple terms, your author bio is a paragraph or two of text that will eventually appear along with your book’s description and your photo on online product pages, the back cover of your book, or the inside back flap of the dust jacket.

However, long before you get to that point, you will have to create an author biography for your book proposal and/or pitch letter. If you or your agent are sharing it with editors and publishers, the bio in your proposal can be short, perhaps around 250 words or a bit longer if there is relevant experience or platform data to include. For query letters to literary agents, however, your bio should probably only be a couple sentences, at most.

As I mentioned above, these days the author bio is often one of the first pieces of information a book editor will review, especially for nonfiction projects. Why?

Due to the increased competition for attention and the sheer number of books published each year, editors need to make a strong case to their publishing teams for each book they acquire. Therefore, they will want to know what other writing you’ve done in the past, and also what experience or education gives you the credibility to write this particular book. Also, editors want to know how you’re already reaching people with your writing. This is often referred to as your author platform and can include social media followers, a podcast or blog, appearances or hosting duties on a popular radio or TV show, speaking at live events, a large email list, publishing articles through major outlets, leading an organization, and a number of other things.

Knowing how critical your author bio can be, here are 10 elements you should consider adding to your biography:

  1. Your Name and Current Job – List your name at the top and write about what you do for work, especially if it’s relevant to your writing career or the book you’re currently pitching.
  2. Education – If you have a degree or certification that is relevant to the book you’re writing, make sure and include it. If you’re writing a crime thriller, and you have a degree in criminology, add that information! Alternatively, if you’re writing a crafting book about basket weaving and you have a degree in history, it’s not as important to list.
  3. Experience and Credibility – Include any professional experiences or work history that may apply to either your ability to reach readers, or your credibility as the author of this particular book.
  4. Previous Writing – If you’ve published books before, include a list of them in your bio. Or if you’ve written published articles, columns, or essays, consider including them in your bio as well along with the magazine or publication where they appeared. The most recent books or articles are going to be much more relevant, so if your published works are more than ten years old, they may not warrant a mention.
  5. Awards or Honors – Feel free to include any relevant awards or honors you’ve received in your writing career thus far.
  6. Author Website and Platform Details – These days, it’s critical to have a home base online where potential readers can connect with you. Unlike social media profiles, you are the sole owner of your author website and therefore, it can evolve as your writing career develops. In addition, it indicates to publishers that you are serious about becoming a published author. Publishers and editors will also want to know how you’re reaching potential readers now, so include followers counts and engagement metrics from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and any other relevant social media platforms. If you have a dedicated email list, be sure and include those numbers as well.
  7. Personal Information – While it’s not absolutely necessary, many authors include a few details about their family, personal hobbies, and hometown in their author bios. For example: “John Smith lives on a farm in rural Iowa with his wife Jane, and sons Mike and Ike.” Don’t go overboard and don’t share details you’d be uncomfortable making public.
  8. Endorsers and Associations – Do you know any influential friends who might help you promote your book? This could include other authors, professors, journalists, colleagues, actors, podcast hosts, leaders, or others who’ve built large audiences. If so, consider including a brief list of these people who will help support your book launch. Also, think about including any associations, networks, groups, or organizations you’re a part of that are relevant to your book or will lend credibility for future promotional efforts.
  9. Social Media Links – If you’ve grown your followers on a particular social media channel to more than 20,000 or so, you should consider including your handle or profile name in your bio.
  10. Interesting Details – If you were attacked by a shark and lived to tell about it, and the book you’re writing is a memoir of that experience—then yes, you should mention it in your bio. But try to keep it focused and relevant.

READ MORE AT THE BINDERY

DEEP RIVER BOOKS Makes Some Great Arguments About the Finer Points of Writing an Author Blurb or Bio

Tone Matters

Before you even write the first word (and after you’ve decided on perspective), take a moment to consider tone. If you’ve written an academic appraisal of a current issue, you’ll want your bio to reflect that. If you’ve written a humorous short story collection, let that shine through. This is especially true for fiction authors, whose books may not have a specific “message” per say. Find a small tidbit that speaks to your personality or hobbies, but don’t run wild. A quick phrase is enough, often mixed together with professional accomplishments, as we see in this biography by Kevan Lee.

It’s Not Actually “About You”

Oddly enough, your “about you” blurb is not about “you” at all. It is entirely about your reader. What is important to your target audience? What might they connect with? This is your chance to tell them about your qualifications, why they should trust you, or pick up your work. Establish your credibility. If you’ve written a book about children, don’t hide the fact that you’re a child psychologist. If you’ve written a fiction novel about a character going through rough circumstances, mention what first-hand experience you bring.

Accentuate the Positive

Yes, we know that writers are a humble bunch. But your own bio is no time to be demure! If you published before, include the titles. If you received a pertinent award or recognized by a group that would appeal to your readers, let the world know. Obviously, don’t go over overboard. People probably don’t care that you got first place in a clarinet competition in college (unless, of course, your book concerns clarinets), but they probably would care if the Wounded Warrior Project endorsed your book concerning veterans issues.

Call to Action!

The last sentence in your biography, especially for social media platforms, should include a “call to action” or “CTA.” Try  something like “Follow me on Twitter @yourhandle.” Or relate your CTA to your view of life like “spread God’s love.” This is a wonderful moment to connect with you reader on a “mission” level, or to get them engaged with you. Depending on the venue, this may be a good time to mention that your book is on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, especially if whatever article you’ve written doesn’t directly mention that you are an author beforehand.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE ON DEEP RIVER BOOKS

TEMPLATES

  • REPLACE EACH CONTENT PROMPT WITH A SENTENCE UNTIL YOU HAVE A PARAGRAPH THAT DESCRIBES YOU AND YOUR WRITING CURRENTLY, WHICH YOU CAN PRESENT AS AN ENCAPSULATION
  • Name and Current Job___________________________________________________________
    Education__________________________________________________________________
    Experience and Credibility________________________________________________________
    Previous Writing_________________________________________________________________
    Awards or Honors________________________________________________________________
    Author Website and Platform Details_____________________________________________
    Personal Information____________________________________________________________
    Endorsers and Associations______________________________________________________
    Social Media Links_______________________________________________________________
    Interesting Details________________________________________________________________

TRY TO CREATE A COUPLE VERSIONS OF THIS FORMULA OF DIFFERING LENGTHS

MOST BIOS ARE UNDER 300 WORDS

  • OFTEN WHEN YOU GET PUBLISHED, EDITORS WILL ASK FOR A PARAGRAPH TO ACCOMPANY YOUR PIECE THAT TELLS READERS WHAT YOU ARE ALL ABOUT. THIS USUALLY INCLUDES
  • Name ____________________________________________________________________________
  • Previous Writing_________________________________________________________________
    Awards or Honors________________________________________________________________
    Author Website and Platform Details_____________________________________________
  • Social Media Links_______________________________________________________________
    And may be heavy on the  – 
  • Interesting Details________________________________________________________________

How LIBRARIANS Under the Nazi Occupation of France, Fought Back!

Getting Lost in the Libraries of Paris Researching WWII

Janet Skeslien Charles Finds Her Way to Her New Book 

By Janet Skeslien Charles


February 19, 2021

from LITHUB.com

The American Library in Paris sits in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. Its collection of 100,000 books is spread over three stories. Members from 60 countries can work at long tables or whisper at the coffee machine. As the programs manager, I oversaw the ALP’s weekly Evening with an Author series, hosting journalists, debut novelists, and National Book Award winners. At events, I stood in the back of the reading room, one eye on the crowd, the other on my journal as I jotted down the writers’ words. During the day, at my desk in the bustling back office, I also took note of what colleagues said and was particularly captivated by the World War II story of the courageous librarians who defied the Nazi “Library Protector” in order to hand-deliver books to Jewish readers. 

During the Nazi occupation of France, Dorothy Reeder, the Directress of the Library, stood up to the Bibliotheksschütz, Dr. Hermann Fuchs, who had full authority over intellectual activity in the country at the time. Before the war, these two book lovers had chatted at international library conferences; later, they would find themselves on opposing sides. I longed to learn more about them, and began searching for answers to my questions: What had brought the Directress to France? What became of her? Who was the Bibliotheksschütz before the war? Was he eventually arrested for his role? 

Worried that nothing would come of my research, I was reticent to tell coworkers about the project. But I wasn’t shy about reaching out to strangers and sent dozens of emails to various libraries where the Directress and her staff had worked. I contacted people with the last names of Reeder, Netchaeff, or Oustinoff in hopes that they were related to the ALP librarians. I read through hundreds of pages of scanned documents from the American Library Association archives, including Dorothy Reeder’s correspondence. I interviewed French women who’d lived through the Occupation.

To learn more about the day-to-day life of Parisians during the war, I turned to the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF). This modern library is made up of four buildings in a configuration that resembles four open books; however, the public resources are less accessible than this design would suggest, with the tomes for the general public on the basement level and the research library in the sub-basement.

In keeping with the infamous French bureaucracy, to access the research level, you must have a letter from a professor or an employer and go through an interview. I wasn’t a student, and since I’d recently dedicated all my time to research, I no longer had an employer. An Ivy-League acquaintance was rejected after her interview, and I became nervous that I wouldn’t pass the test.The American Library in Paris sits in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower. Its collection of 100,000 books is spread over three stories.

In preparation for my appointment, I carried a list of books to consult as well as a copy of my first novel, physical proof that I was an author. The reference librarian conducting the interview was cordial; we discussed my project for 20 minutes. She hadn’t heard of the librarians who’d resisted during the war, which made me want to write the book even more.

With a stamp of approval on my application, I moved to the cashier’s desk. A researcher’s pass costs 50 euros, or $70, for a year.

“What’s your profession?” the cashier asked.

“I’m an author.”

She glanced at the paperwork. Not finding the appropriate box to check, she said, “We’ll just write that you’re unemployed.”

Library card in hand, I passed through immense metal doors and down two narrow escalators, to a last set of doors that older researchers have trouble opening without assistance. With 40 million documents, the BNF houses the national memory and much of the international memory. All precautions against fire are taken. It feels like a bunker.

READ THE FULL PIECE AT LITHUB

New Article! I’m Featured at Cyberpunks.com With A Review of Philip K Dick Novel

The Haunted Typewriter

Three StigmataAsks all the Cyberpunk Questions in Another Classic Philip K Dick Novel

‘You were wrong,’ Eldritch said. ‘I did not find God in the Prox system. But I found something better.’THE THREE STIGMATA OF PALMER ELDRITCH BY PHILIP K DICK

Philip K Dickis one of the heavies of cyberpunk history. His work remains an open treasure chest of fulfilling novels,old interviewsand a number ofdocumentariesthat display the man’s genius and prophetic insight. Thankfully, due to our present culture’s in-the-woodwork- paranoiacs and psychopaths willing to bear witness to not just their pain but also their forebears and history, Dick remains a vibrant part of the culture.

He is represented not just in the multiple blockbuster adaptations of his fiction works into films such asBlade Runner,Total Recall,Paycheck,Next, andMinority Reportand of course one of my top five

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Teaching Classic Lit Helps Game Designers Make Better Stories – From Wired Magazine

The Haunted Typewriter

Are you game? See How Homer, Faulkner, and Ibsen can help.

CINDY FRENKELCULTURE 02.25.2021 07:00 AM

“THE LANGUAGE I’VE invented is pronounced with the same phonetics as Latin,” explained Justin Harlan, my 21-year-old student. He was doing a presentation on his video game Ordenai, which was so outstanding that it left my boisterous class speechless. 

This was in the fall of 2019, my first semester teachingCreative Writing for Video Gamers at Lawrence Technological University(LTU) in Southfield, Michigan. This was a class I created, with the help of other faculty, and a prerequisite for those majoring in video game design. Awestruck at the scope of Harlan’s game, I noticed several elements readily found in classic literature that were intimately woven into his story. This helped me realize that appreciating classic literature and art could enhance not only the creation of video games but the player’s experience as well.

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