I know I’m not the only one who grew up watching Vincent Price in Roger Corman’s B-films on TV. They were great — wonderfully creepy and ghoulish. They just didn’t have all that much in common with the original stories by Edgar Allan Poe. That’s not a negative critique; it’s just a statement of fact. The Poe originals are subtle, secretive and gothic, with layers of language and imagery beckoning the reader into the minds of Poe’s paranoid characters.
It’s apples and oranges and I happen to like fruit salad; so I like both.
I first read Poe’s stories when I was about 12. I went directly from Poe to Lovecraft and then veered into science fiction, fantasy and mystery. Going back to Poe last year was like visiting a foreign country I had not seen since I was a child. The roads were familiar, but everything looked different.
In February I made a Poe pilgrimage down to the Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia. It helped me put his work into a historical context. The sadness of his life hovers in all his stories. It seems like every woman he truly loved, including his mother (a noted actress), died young. His life was about loss, loss, loss and more loss with a heavy dose of literary rejection.
Virtually every writer can identify with the literary rejection. Those letters that say, “This is really well-written, but it won’t fit into our schedule this year” OR “I loved the story, but we published another book about (fill in the blank) last year and it didn’t sell well” OR “Thank you for the opportunity to read your manuscript, but we’ll pass….”
You get the picture. Literary rejection hurts!
Poe got back at many of the literary lights of his time by becoming a critic. He gave scathing reviews. This had an obvious impact on his social popularity. His status was already a bit rocky. He got tossed off the invitation list at one of his favorite New York literary salons when his indiscreet letters to a married woman surfaced. Yes, even pre-Facebook pre-texting/sexting, leaving a trail of words behind could reach out and turn your life into a Roger Corman horror show.
Back to POE… I’m working on the third Candy’s Monster, entitled POED (yes, Poe as a verb in the past tense). I’m delving into that deep well of Poe-ish sadness, fear and paranoia. My book includes updated versions of some of Poe’s tales. This has me wondering about YOUR favorite Poe stories. Care to share? Are you a ‘Buried Alive’ fan? A ‘Pit and the Pendulum’ pal? Do you root for ‘The Black Cat’?
What YOUR Poe story?