Summer reading: Edgar Allan Poe

 
I kicked off this year’s summer reading with Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849), just because I stumbled upon the story about his rivalry with Rufus Griswold (1815–1857), and I wanted to know more. All I knew about Poe was that he wrote horror tales and was the man behind “The Raven.” The dive into his writing and the history of his life turned out to be a highly entertaining one, with the great Christopher Lee’s recitation of “The Raven” as the highlight — see video at the end of this post.

Among Poe’s horror stories, The Tell-Tale Heart became one of my favorites. The narrator/killer hides his victim under the floorboards, while at the same time he tries to convince the readers of his sanity: “If still you think me mad, you will think so no longer when I describe the wise precautions I took for the concealment of the body. The night waned, and I worked hastily, but in silence. First of all I dismemb…” Then he starts hearing the dead man’s beating heart from under the floor, louder and Louder and LOUDER. Thump! Thump! Thump!

Another favorite is The Murders in the Rue Morgue, introducing us to C. Auguste Dupin who thanks to his deductive skills cleverly solves the murders. His friend narrates the story. Holmes and Watson, right? Poirot and Hastings. Before Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot there was C. Auguste Dupin.

library_poe
Well equipped for a Poe session at the library: a baguette with roast beef, a bottle of orange juice, two chocolates, and a Danish to go with the coffee

 
Poe and Griswold
The infamous Rufus Griswold, literary critic and editor, and Poe’s arch-nemesis. The feud between the two is almost like a Poe story, and one is hardly mentioned without the other.

 
While Griswold was putting together the anthology that would become The Poems and Poetry of America, Poe submitted several of his poems, of which three were included in the collection. Griswold paid Poe to write a review of the book but didn’t get the praise he had expected. Poe questioned Griswold’s choice of poets, and the rivalry was on. The already strained relationship didn’t improve when Griswold not only succeeded Poe as the editor of Grahams Magazine but was paid more. AND WHAT DID POE DO? He openly attacked Griswold in a series of lectures.

Fast-forward a few years. Poe dies, and Griswold writes a less than flattering obituary, signed Ludwig. It starts like this: “Edgar Allan Poe is dead. He died in Baltimore the day before yesterday. This announcement will startle many, but few will be grieved by it.”

The story doesn’t end there. Griswold somehow became Poe’s literary executor. AND WHAT DID HE DO? He attempted a character assassination of his bitter rival by writing a biographical article in which he depicted Poe in a very negative light, based on lies and half-truths. Luckily, this distorted view has since been rectified.

This is a clip from The Poe Museum: “Griswold’s distorted image of Poe created the Poe legend that lives to this day while Griswold is only remembered (if at all) as Poe’s first biographer.”

As I said, a highly entertaining experience. Who says research is boring?

 
Comedy Central’s Drunk History team dramatized the feud between Poe and Griswold in their own way, with a narrator telling the story in an inebriated state and actors re-enacting it:

 
And finally, “The Raven,” read by Christopher Lee. Enjoy!

 

What are you reading this summer?

 

Putting on my reading socks

 
It’s not like the word flow is stifled or anything ― I checked ― it’s just another lazy blogging day, better suited for reading.

readingsocks
I bought a pair of reading socks from a bookstore, maybe a little bit too big. My feet look like hobbit feet. The book is “Norse Mythology” by Neil Gaiman. I love the dedication to his grandson: “For Everett. Old stories for a new boy.” 

 
WordPress Daily Prompt: Stifle

10 short-short stories

Brighten your horizon with a short story, “a perfect companion to a cup of coffee,” to quote myself from another post. Here are ten short stories to take you into the weekend, and maybe give you the inspiration to write your own stories and submit them to the many short story sites out there:

Bed Hole Syndrome, by Carla Lancken: “The day I was fired I came home, undressed, and went to bed for five years.”

First Flight, by Bobby Warner: “Folks called her Old Witch, and she was Timmy’s friend. … ‘Would you like to fly?’ she asked.”

The Postcard, by Arleane Ralph: “Contractors discovered the postcard upon pulling out the kitchen cabinetry.”

Painting the Sea, by Conor Kelly: “My father paints the sea. That is how I remember him.”

I’m With the Band, by David Cook: “The drummer battered away at his kit with venomous incompetence…”

The Painter’s Wife, by Brian Castleberry: “The poet had been sleeping with the painter’s wife for three months…”

A Royal Feast (aka Eat Your Vegetables), by Iain Kelly: “Gefjun brought the feast to the table. Her husband, Skjöldr, son of Odin, sat silently in his anger.”

Sky Love, by Emily Manno: “What a magnificent thing, to fly in the clouds.”

That Girl, by Heather Beecher Hawk: “My first real boyfriend, Alan … he asked me to meet his family…”

Required Summer Reading, by Kimberly Tolson: “My grandma kept her pocket paperback romance novels in the scary spare room…”

 
WordPress Daily Prompt: Horizon

 
Photo: ismagilov/iStock.com

A giant leap: Cracking the reading code

Do you remember the moment when you cracked the reading code? I do.

I was five when I finally figured out what the words in the books said. I remember how frustrated I had been because I knew all the letters but I couldn’t combine them into words.

One day I made an extra effort and read each letter in a story slowly, pronouncing them and trying to put them together: a-a-a l-l-l… Then, all the sudden, the door flung open, letters formed into words, words formed into stories. You know how it is when the fog lifts and you suddenly see the vast landscape around you, or when you draw back the curtains in the morning to have a first look over a new city you arrived at only the night before… that’s how it felt, looking back.

It was a life-changing moment. I became literate from one second to the next, literally. One instant I was just an ordinary earthly child, the next an explorer in a new world that opened up before me. I know exactly what Neil Armstrong must have felt the moment he put his foot on the lunar surface. A giant leap. Nothing less.

Not that I reflected on it at the time. I did not cheer, I did not even bother to tell anyone about my new-found skills. I just felt a silent satisfaction and thought, “Finally. About time.”

The first thing I read was a Donald Duck magazine. I lay flat on my back.

The sheer joy of reading! Every child has the right to experience that sensation.
— Zol H.