“Invisible things are the only realities.”
American Horror StoriesStefanie Rocknak, cast by New England Sculpture Service in Chelsea. Are we on the way yet to the right respect?From the beginning, Emerson called Poe the “jingle-man.” Aldous Huxley said his singsong poems reminded him of a man wearing a diamond ring on every finger. And Harold Bloom made no bones about it: he’s a third-rate poet and a second-rate storyteller.Then again, everyone from Walter Benjamin to Joyce Carol Oates adores Poe and his writing. And in a short prolific career, starting in 1833, Poe gave us a lot of what we call “modern” literature — and not just the detective story and ‘speculative’ genres. He modeled a certain dark, ironic, experimental sensibility in time to inspire Baudelaire and John Barth. So we’re looking to place the man and his tales “of the grotesque and arabesque.”What’s your favorite Poe story, poem, or essay? What do you make of the man? Write a comment, or click the microphone to leave us a voice message. For starters, watch this moody James Mason rendering of “The Telltale Heart”, Poe’s most famous story, which we played during the show. But know: that’s just the beginning!Lots of Poe stories and poems were mentioned on our show. Among them are the classics, and then there’s “Hop-Frog”. It’s a late story in which a dwarf from a foreign land takes revenge on a king’s court: he dresses them as orangutans for a party, and then, to quote Wikipedia, “murders them all by setting their costumes on fire.” Classic Poe! You can read all of those here:
- “The Raven” (1845)
- “A Descent Into the Maelström” (1845)
- “Annabel Lee” (1849)
- “The Tell-Tale Heart” (1843)
- “The Cask of Amontillado” (1846)
- “The Black Cat” (1845)
- “The Masque of the Red Death” (1842)
- “The Imp of the Perverse” (1845)
- “Hop-Frog” (1849)
- The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (1838)
- “The Premature Burial” (1844)
- “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” (1841)
A Quaint and Curious Consignment ShopMedium.
Nick Mamatas: Poe the MasterWe also spoke to the very generous, intellectual horror writer Nick Mamatas for our Poe show. Mamatas — a lover of Providence’s H.P. Lovecraft, Poe 2.0 — rates Poe as the greatest writer in the American canon. It’s an amazing proposition, but Mamatas is convincing. Hear his case, and make up your own mind on the matter.
Five Poe Stories Off the Beaten Track
Poe wrote dozens of stories in his life, and lots of those seem to go unread these days. (We didn’t get to some of them, either!) In time for Halloween, here are a few deep cuts from the man’s enormous corpus. The skull rating shows capacity to disturb, out of a possible three. Twists are included — avoid them if you want to read the stories afresh.
1. It was shocking to contemporary readership; Poe responded by apologizing to his editor, saying “that it approaches the very verge of bad–taste — but I will not sin quite so egregiously again.” It’s a good test of scruples.2. Egaeus is seen as one of Poe’s most convincingly insane narrators. Philip Roderick sees Egaeus’s teeth fixation as proof of necrophilia, while another article says the story anticipates the clinical definition of schizophrenia.3. But Egaeus also seems like a view of the intellectual man, and his bizarre fascination and his mental illness seem like an inspired attack on pure reason.
Non-Halloween occasions for reading: Engagement parties; after deep reveries.
Published: Graham’s Magazine, July 1845
1. It’s a deep as Kierkegaard, who wrote a year earlier in The Concept of Anxiety of the twinned fears one feels standing on top of a bridge: the fear of falling, and the fear of jumping in spite of yourself.2. It explains the psychological architecture of “The Tell-Tale Heart”, and may shed light on how Poe felt about his own tendency to get drunk or say the wrong thing at critical junctures throughout his life.Non-Halloween occasions for reading: Atop bridges or tall buildings; in prison.
“‘The Domain of Arnheim’ expresses much of my soul”.
2. Filmmaker Errol Morris likes it, and so did the painter René Magritte.
3. It’s not as scary as the others — you could consider it the Poe story that comes closest to religion, or philosophy of art. It could speak to the power of art to transform the world into something really different and better. Or it might promise some kind of relief to the dead, and the dying Virginia Clemm. But it might possibly — in the Morris reading — also present an irregular version of Hell, a meretricious paradise.4. Since few people read it or write about it, you get to decide what it means!Non-Halloween occasions for reading: When you are going to sleep, Earth Day, anytime (for landscape gardeners).
Published: Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine (December 1840)
The ‘tale’: There is almost no tale to speak of here. A man watches a crowd pass by in London from a café. He see a drunken tramp, and is moved to follow him all night around the city streets at night, through slums and around gin joints, until the tramp returns to the café.Opening line: “It was well said of a certain German book that er lasst sich nicht — it does not permit itself to be read.”Obscurest, often non-English phrase: “αχλυς ος πριν επηεν,” meaning “the mist that was upon them.”The twist: No twist.Why you should read the story: 1. It’s a moment of evolution. It’s thought of as the Poe story that stretches the horror stories in the direction of the detective stories written later. It’s about a bizarre, grotesque social world, and it explains why poets like Baudelaire would have been so moved by Poe’s sensibility. The philosopher Walter Benjamin reminds us that this story reads “something like an X-ray of a detective story. It does away with all the drapery that a crime represents. Only the armature remains: the pursuer, the crowd, and an unknown man who manages to walk through London in such a way that he always remains in the middle of the crowd.”2. Intellectual credibility. The story also inspired Benjamin’s reading of the modern city in his essay, “The Paris of the Second Empire in Baudelaire”. Benjamin described this story as a guide to the urban type of the flaneur, a city stroller, and “above all, someone who does not feel comfortable in his own company.”3. You get a good sense of how Poe’s narrators would have looked at city streets full of people.Non-Halloween occasions for reading: On the train, bus, or light rail.
professor of American literature at Boston College, a long-time scholar of Poe's dark humor and his connections to the city of Boston, and one of the people who led the effort to install Boston's statue of Poe.
award-winning author of The Dante Club, The Poe Shadow, a novel exploring Poe's mysterious death, and most recently, The Technologists
writer, Poe fan, and director of programs at the Providence Athenaeum