Elliott Engel to speak on Churchhill, Gone with the Wind

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, March 16, 2011

By Brenda Zimmerman
Special to the Salisbury Post
Did you know that Charles Dickens created the concept of cliff hangers, paperbacks, and limited edition novel publications, as well as marketing novels one chapter at time? So far ahead of his time, he was able to sell the same story three times to the same people.
Did you know that Winston Churchill had an incredibly wry sense of humor?
I never thought topics like “The Evolution of the English Language” or “How William Became Shakespeare” would be more than boring diatribes on all the mundane details that were drilled into us in Helen Jenkins’ literature classes. As an adult and follower of Dr. Elliott Engel, I have become genuinely interested in many of those “boring” topics.
Engel is a leading authority on the life, times and publications of Charles Dickens. His research has left him with volumes of information. However, such details and information are anything but boring when delivered by a master storyteller.
I got my first introduction to the work of Engel through a cousin of mine in Pennsylvania. In their years of road trips both for pleasure and business, she and her husband enjoyed listening to his tapes. They were often the topic of dinner conversations even to the point of cuing up a segment with undeniable enthusiasm and “you’ve got to hear this.”
One by one I borrowed them, gradually I purchased a few, got a few as gifts. The side-splitting humor had me hooked in no time. Not only was I being totally entertained, but I found I was learning a great deal about such topics as famous writers, the history of modern theater and political personalities.
For example, do you know why we go to the “box office” to get theater tickets? In early theater, those coming to sit in the audience dropped their coins in a slot on a strongbox.
When it was full, those responsible for its safe keeping would take it to lock it in the office and retrieve an empty box. So the area where the money went to be counted became the box office, and eventually evolved to be the location where tickets were purchased.
Engel can prove that the novel “Gone with the Wind” is actually the autobiography of its author, Margaret Mitchell, even though she was not born until 40 years after the Civil War. You could also say that no matter how uninterested a person might be in “Gone with the Wind,” once they hear Engel’s lecture, frankly, my dear, they will give a damn.
Lutheran Home at Trinity Oaks and Trinity Oaks Retirement Center will have the unique opportunity of presenting Engel to Salisbury on Thursday.
His biographical information found online gives one a great deal of factual information about this presenter and educator. Only in hearing him speak can you truly get an idea of the magic he can work in telling you about some of the world’s greatest literary and political characters.
His lecture on “The Evolution of the English Language” will leave audiences laughing as you learn how the language we speak to day developed.
Engle is an internationally known scholar and speaker. His specialty is Charles Dickens, but when areas of interest increased, the name of his group changed from “Dickens Disciples” to “Author’s Ink.”
Currently living in Raleigh, Engle is originally from Indianapolis. He has taught at Duke, NCSU and UNC-CH. For his 30 years of academic work and service in promoting Charles Dickens, he was recently nominated and inducted into the Royal Society of Arts in England.
Since 1980, Engel has been president of the Dickens Fellowship of North Carolina, the largest branch of this worldwide network of clubs. The sales of Dr. Engel’s books, CDs and DVDs have raised funds for The Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital which Charles Dickens himself helped found in London in 1852.
He will present “Sir Winston Churchill” at 2 p.m. Thursday in the special events room of Trinity Oaks Retirement Community. At 6 p.m. in the main activity room of Lutheran Home, he will present “Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind.”
There is no admission fee, but reservations are required at both performances by calling Diane Hundley at 704-633-1002, ext. 311, or Brenda M. Zimmerman at 704-637-784, ext. 739.
Multiple CDs, DVDs and books on additional topics will be available for purchase following performances.
Brenda Zimmerman is activity director at Lutheran Home at Trinity Oaks.