The great bad writer


One of my favourite web sites, Arts and Letters Daily has just linked an article by Kevin Jackson about Edgar Allan Poe . Titled The great bad writer, it starts off, “Self-indulgent, vulgar, borderline insane—Edgar Allan Poe was the most influential American author of the 19th century.”  Jackson goes on to say that the historian and critic Owen Dudley noted  that Poe was guilty of “endless self-indulgence, wallowing in atmosphere, incessant lecturing, ruthless discourse on whatever took the writer’s fancy, longueurs, trivialisations, telegraphing of punch-lines, loss of plot in effect, loss of effect in plot… In sum, what Poe lacked above all was a sense of his reader.”

I was relieved to learn that my intense dislike of Poe is shared by many discerning critics. I had the misfortune of having to teach both the short story The Cask of Amontillado and the dramatic monologue The Raven to perplexed  high school students, who missed all of the allusions, were deaf to the “poetry of the language” and were too bored to feel even a frisson of horror.

The article was prompted by the planned release of a feature film, The Raven. (theatrical trailer) Here is part of the plot synopsis from the studio publicity…

In this gritty thriller, Edgar Allan Poe… joins forces with a young Baltimore detective to hunt down a mad serial killer who’s using Poe’s own works as the basis in a string of brutal murders…. When a mother and daughter are found brutally murdered in 19th century Baltimore, Detective Emmett Fields makes a startling discovery: the crime resembles a fictional murder described in gory detail in the local newspaper–part of a collection of stories penned by struggling writer and social pariah Edgar Allan Poe. But even as Poe is questioned by police, another grisly murder occurs, also inspired by a popular Poe story. Realizing a serial killer is on the loose using Poe’s writings as the backdrop for his bloody rampage, Fields enlists the author’s help in stopping the attacks. But when it appears someone close to Poe may become the murderer’s next victim, the stakes become even higher and the inventor of the detective story calls on his own powers of deduction to try to solve the case before it’s too late.

I can’t wait to not see it!

But this morning it was fun to seek out some illustrations and readings ot The Raven. Vincent Price hammed it up admirably, but the video quality is very poor. Christopher Walken’s reading is wonderful with a morbidly haunting image of Poe and  really creepy sound effects! But this one has Christopher Lee reading with the illustrations by Gustave Dore! If you only have time to listen to one version, choose Lee.

Sweet dreams!

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