Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Price of Poe

On the 200th anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe's birth, I received notification that someone finally wanted to publish a horror poem that I had written.

My first thought was, "It's about damn time." You can read the poem on Niteblade magazine's website.

But this isn't about me.

To call Poe a trailblazer in phantasmagoria would be the understatement of the century. He took the few stories of strange happenings in strange places and brought them to the readers of his time. Before him, all they had was "Frankenstein."

Poe tackled multiple forms of literature. He was a caustic critic, an accomplished literary analyst, master of the short story form, and macabre poet. The only form he never mastered was the novel. he wrote one, "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym." Imagine a "Moby-Dick" knock-off written by someone who rarely eclipsed 10,000 words at a time.

Not so good.

Thankfully, the rest of his work ruled. My personal favorite is "Never Bet the Devil Your Head." Find it and enjoy.

The best of Poe's work is made to be read. If there is a voice that goes best with Poe's it is the inimitable Vincent Price. (See above.)

Price's voice captures the perversity of Poe's work better than anyone I've heard read. There are few things better for a dark and stormy night than Price reading "The Tell-tale Heart."

Price was the perfect gentleman degenerate to play a number of Poe characters in Roger Corman movies. Sure, they might be hokey by today's standards and often veered widely away from Poe's actual stories, but they are great fun. Might as well start at the top with "The Pit and the Pendulum." Master of horror Richard Matheson wrote the script and Barbara Steele co-stars.

Please, sir, may I have another?

What's really great about Poe is that you can use it to introduce the younger generation to horror. They may not understand the subtext of "The House of Usher," but everyone understands what it means when Roderick Usher breaks down because he believes he buried his sister alive.

Price is in that one, too.

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