Saturday, May 27, 2006

New on the iPod - an exploration of Poe

Thanks to Slate's pulp fiction emphasis, I discovered The Poe Shadow in an excellent essay by Christopher Benfey.

It's an attempt to unravel the mystery of Edgar Allen Poe's final and never explained days, and I was quick to get the audiobook version. I have a longtime fascination with Poe.

The imagry I didn't quite understand when my father first read me The Raven was chilling and may have been my earliest exposure to what words could do in the nightmares department. He read me The Gold Bug also from the same Whitman collection. While it's not a true tale of terror, the late night scenes of its depicted treasure quest also invoked scares.

My dad probably didn't know what he was imprinting on my brain way back then.

A sadder side
In high school, coping with adolesence and feelings of alienation at the same time, I came to feel a saddness for Poe's troubled life. We studied him in English classes and I had a teacher, rest her soul, who encouraged some of my short fiction which she said captured some of the same tones as Poe.

I tried writing some poems about his existence but never came up with anything worthwhile, but I've always snatched up Poe fiction.

Marc Olden wrote a novel in which Poe starred as a detective. Poe Must Die was a perfect paperback autum read for me in its day. It paired the purple prose writer with an ex-boxer and pitted them against murder and the supernatural.

Matthew Pearl's Poe fiction is a more realistic effort to solve the writer's missing days. It's "my next listen" as might put it.

Now if someone would just come up with a tale that explains that guy who sneaks out to the Poe grave every year...

Nah, for that it's more fun not knowing.


Charles Gramlich said...

I read "The Dante Club" by Pearl and didn't much care for it. I thought it was very slow. But it was also his first novel so maybe he's taken a step up. I'm a sucker for Poe stuff too so maybe I'll have a look at this.

Sidney said...

That mention of The Dante Club reminds me that I was going to mention I have read The Club Dumas, which the Dante book always makes me think of when it's mentioned. "Dumas," basis for the film The Ninth Gate, is an intricate and interesting book with a few extra layers they had to condense from the film. I want to read more of Perez-Reverte's books but ah so many books so little time, even with audio books that leat me read while driving.

Anonymous said...

You have touched upon two of my favorite literary figures. I am fascinated by Poe and Dante's work is magnificent.

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