The Legend of Poe

When you think of Edgar Allan Poe, what exactly comes to mind? A mysterious, cloaked figure walking amidst the gravestones at night? Or that he married his 13-year-old cousin? Well, the latter is correct while the former, not so much. Edgar Allan Poe was famous for his poetically haunting writing style and wrote many dark pieces including “The Raven” and “The Tell-Tale Heart,” but that does not mean he was a morbid individual. Much of what people know about Poe is wrong and that is the unfortunate result of a biography written by one of his enemies in an attempt to defame the author’s name.

The real Poe was born to traveling actors in Boston on January 19, 1809, the second of three children. At the tender age of three Poe’s parents passed away and he was taken in by wealthy tobacco merchant John Allan and his wife in Richmond, Virginia, while his siblings went to live with other families. Poe was raised to be a businessman and a Virginian gentleman but his true aspiration was to be a writer and he experienced tremendous hardships in trying to achieve this. His relationship with Mr. Allan deteriorated due to differences and Poe also suffered from many romantic failures, one being the death of Virginia, his 13-year-old bride, after she was diagnosed with tuberculosis and died at the age of 24.

Amidst writing, Poe also worked for a slew of magazines, one being “The Messenger,” where he established a reputation as a fearless critic who not only attacked the work of author’s but also insulted them and the northern literary establishment. Throughout his writing career Poe suffered through immense poverty in many failed attempts to publish his work to a point where he had to burn his furniture to stay warm. However his fate changed for the better after the publication of “The Raven” in 1845 which made him a household name allowing him to demand higher pay for the myriad of popular lectures he did. Unfortunately, shortly after his newfound fame and success, Virginia had passed away and Poe’s life spiraled into an abyss.

Poe only lived for two more years spending most of his time traveling from city to city giving lectures and finding backers for his latest proposed magazine project, “The Stylus.” During a lecture tour in Baltimore, Poe befriended and fell in love with a married woman named Nancy Richmond. His affection for her inspired him to write many of his famous poems, one being “For Annie.” However, she remained unattainable and Poe was yet again left heartbroken. Poe’s last days were spent amongst strangers in the Washington College Hospital and none of his family members had known what had happened to him until they read about it in the newspapers. Edgar Allan Poe died on October 7, 1849 at the age of forty and the exact cause of his death remains a mystery.

Shortly after his death, Poe’s literary rival Rufus Griswold wrote a memoir about Poe and in it he characterized him as a drunken, womanizing madman with no morals and no friends. Griswold’s intention was to defame Poe in the public eye but the biography had the opposite effect and instead boosted his book sales higher than what he had sold during his lifetime. Now Poe is known as a legend in the literary world, whereas Griswold is remembered (if at all) as his first biographer.

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Top 5 Horror Novels to read during spooky October

It’s that time of year again. The beautiful golden leaves crunch beneath your feet, the once emerald trees stand naked, the air feels cool and crisp on your face but something disturbs this calm. Walking from your class you feel as if someone or something is following you. You begin to walk faster, glancing over your shoulder every couple of seconds. Your chest becomes heavy and your heart pounds with the weight of your backpack inhibiting you from escaping whatever is following you. You finally reach the parking garage. It’s 10:00pm at night and the garage is completely empty. Your car stands alone. Hesitating, you walk towards the car. You begin to hear distorted laughing but there is no other car in the garage except yours. You sit in your car and start the engine. So far so good. Driving away you feel that feeling again, like something is not quite right. You glance in the rear-view mirror. She’s sitting there! The Lady in White everyone on campus was talking about, she’s in your car! She utters one word, “Boo!”

It‘s definitely that time of year again. Scary stories (like the one I attempted above), fake blood, ghoulish masks, cool costumes and most importantly of all CANDY. Since we are no longer 10 year olds with lots of free time and no fillings, how about settle in by a cozy fire on a chilly October night and read a good, scary book instead. These 5 horror novels make for great horror movies but they were great horror novels first. So get spooked this October and pick up one of these books for a little fright in the night!

  1. Dracula by Bram Stoker
  2. Frankenstein by Mary Shelly
  3. Interview with the Vampire by Ann Rice
  4. The Shining by Stephen King
  5. Something Wicked this Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” was published in 1897 and ever since there have been many cinematic renditions of this novel. The novel is about the horrifically foreboding Dracula and his attempt to relocate from Transylvania to England. During his stay in England, Dracula creates wreaks havoc with much bloodshed and battles the heroic Professor Abraham Van Helsing.

Published in 1818, “Frankenstein” was written by the 18 year-old Mary Shelley. Who knew a young girl like herself had such macabre thoughts? Macabre but frightfully brilliant. This novel surrounds the events that occur when a scientist creates a monster during an unorthodox scientific experiment leading to an unexpected escape of the monster and the incidents that followed.

“Interview with the Vampire” by Anne Rice was published in 1976 and is one of the most famous contemporary gothic horror novels. The novel focuses on the story of Louis and his transformation from being human to immortal as a vampire. As he tells his story to a reporter in modern day New Orleans, the reader discovers his relationship with vampires Lestat and Claudia and the struggles he faced wandering the world as an immortal with a thirst for blood.

Published in 1977, “The Shining” is written by the mastermind of horror Stephen King. This novel is about the character of Jack Torrance and his downward spiral into madness during his stay at the Overlook Hotel in the Colorado Rockies with this son Danny and wife Wendy. As soon as the family arrives at the hotel strange events begin to occur leaving Jack the most disturbed leading Danny and Wendy to fight for survival.

“Something Wicked this Way Comes” by Ray Bradbury was published in 1962. This novel focuses on the harrowing secrets of a traveling carnival and its diabolical purpose. Two 13-year old boys learn of this nightmarish carnival when it arrives at their Midwestern town in October. The boys learn of “Mr. Dark” and his cruel intentions and experience terrifying incidents as they try to escape this carnival from hell.

 

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R.L. Stine writes about what now?!

I was recently scouring the books section at my local Fred Meyers and a book caught my eye. The cover was nothing special but the name R.L. Stine grabbed my attention because I had not seen a R.L. Stine book on the shelf ever since the Goosebump series in the early to late 1990s. Those books were my childhood staple and I’m pretty certain I’ve read all of them (and the TV series is not that shabby either).

So anyway, the book is called Temptation. At first I thought, that’s such an odd name for a book by R.L. Stine because his book titles are usually goofy like The Blob that ate Everyone. Confused, I proceeded to read the back just to find out what it was about. This is what I found.

In this collection of three fan-favorite stories, the vampires of Sandy Hollow crave the summer months. Summer means plenty of beach tourists…and plenty of fresh blood after months of deprivation. But this year the Eternal Ones have decided to spice things up with a little bet: The first to seduce a hot date of the human variety, and then turn him into a fellow creature of the night, wins. The catch? In order to successfully turn their prey, they must take only three small sips of blood on three different nights. If they take too much blood on any night, the human will die and the bet will be lost. The setup sounds simple enough, but things quickly get complicated—especially since each vampire is just dying to quench her thirst…

I think I just threw up in my mouth a little. R.L. Stine, who was my favorite childhood author, has gone from writing about kids’ innermost fears and overcoming them to mundane vampire romances. Why oh why did he have to jump on the vampire bandwagon?

I thought about buying the book and reading it so I could write an awful review on it but I didn’t want to diss on R.L. Stine. He is definitely too cool for boring vampire stories. Why not begin another Goosebump series for the newer generation? *sigh* I swear if I see another book about vampires, I will personally write a disgruntled letter to Stephanie Meyer for starting the entire thing. I’m serious.

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Breaking Dawn…was bad (Spoilers).

In lieu of the upcoming release of the last Twilight Saga installment “Breaking Dawn Part 2” I’d like to relive the precious time I lost by reading Breaking Dawn by Stephanie Meyer.

In short, it was just horrible. The book is just shy of 800 pages and yet nothing significant occurs. I could get more of a storyline from 5 pages of the dictionary than this book. I won’t say that I dislike all the Twilight Saga novels because I did enjoy Twilight and New Moon but this one was just bad. It was getting pretty interesting about half way through and then all of a sudden the dialogue begins to get repetitive and the plot is not going anywhere at this point. It’s like they demanded a 800 page book from her and she souped whatever she could manage for that length.

Bilbo Baggins would say that this book is, “Sort of stretched, like… butter scraped over too much bread” and that is exactly how I felt when I read it. All the events in the book seemed blown out of proportion and prolonged just to reach that 800 page mark. So at the end when readers are anticipating an epic fight between the Cullens and the Volturi, nothing happens. Yep, nothing. The Volturi decides to just “let it go.” I was completely frustrated and flung the book, literally. Then I picked up Pride and Prejudice and tried to recreate some of the brain cells I had lost.

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Reminiscing simpler times…

I am currently re-reading Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte and I always seem to forget how simply beautiful the writing of that era was, mid-1800s to be specific. Charlotte Bronte grew up in much simpler times and the details in her writing of the gardens, changing seasons, and mansions are so intricate. I guess I just had an epiphany while reading the book for the second time, that I was reading the writing of an individual who was uncorrupted by the modern thoughts and distractions of today’s life.

The way she pays attention to each minute detail of her surroundings is astounding and this kind of detail is what lacks in a lot of contemporary novels today. The simple romanticism of the human condition that was so prevalent in classic novels is now lost somewhere in fantasies of the supernatural and mundane teenage romances. Jane Eyre is a beautiful work of art and always seems to amaze me, no matter how many times I read it.

So, fellow booksters heed my message and put down Hunger Games for just a minute and pick up a classic, you won’t regret it!

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A Discovery…

I recently visited Vancouver BC for recreational purposes and discovered a few things about Canadians and their relationship with books.

All the coffee shops in the city were filled with hipsters sitting at tables, alone, with a coffee cup and reading a book. I don’t know if they wanted to feel “cool” or wanted others to know that they were “cool” but judging from what I witnessed, reading seemed to be a top priority for Vancouverites.

Another discovery I made is that Canadians have the same fascination with vampire novels as do us Americans. I went to a drugstore named “London Drugs” (I had no clue why it was named such because it did not sell anything British) and I navigated my way to the books section only to find a wall of supernatural novels. Yup, a wall. But not one Fifty Shades of Gray in sight. Seems like Canadians don’t like their erotic romance novels.

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“Independence Day” by Richard Ford

In leu of the recent July 4th celebrations I’m mentioning a novel that is based around the patriotic holiday. Independence Day is the second novel in the Frank Bascombe Trilogy by Richard Ford published in 1995. It is the sequel to Ford’s The Sportswriter and is about a man who faces family drama upon his arrival at 4th of July celebrations. This novel is ripe with heavy emotions and the reader sympathizes, somewhat, with the troubled character who faces awkward encounters with his ex-wife, troubled son, and current lover. The overall theme of the novel is coming-of-age, well kind of since the main character is not an angsty teenager but a middle-aged man who finally finds his place in life and accepts his encroaching selinity. 

Independence Day won the Pulitzer Prize as well as the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction in 1996, and was the first novel to win both awards in the same year. Bravo Ford. Heads up booksters for next year’s Fourth of July celebrations, if you have nothing better to do on the day pick up this novel because nothing says July 4th like family drama and self-enlightenment.

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