This past week New York was full of bright sunlight, clear skies and temperatures that could be best described as a sneak preview of June. Of course it’s still April, so those blue skies could not last through the weekend. April showers are not exactly unexpected, but rain does shift the mood.
Gray and swollen storm clouds, big fat rain drops, the rumble of thunder — imagined or real — combine to create an atmosphere that’s fitting to gothic horror, thrillers and other great rainy day reads.
I was reading Poe in the sunshine on Thursday. The disconnection was fun but the description of the damp pit (in The Pit and the Pendulum) simply feels ‘damper’ in the rain and gloom today. No wonder so many stories begin with a variation of the classic ‘It was a dark and stormy night.’
The relatively sudden shift from early summer back to early spring has left me pondering the impact of weather on stories and storytelling. After all, it was a rainy stay in the country that inspired Mary Shelley to write the first draft of Frankenstein (there was nothing else to do so Byron suggested that his houseguests, including Mary and her husband Percy Shelley, write ghost stories for fun).
When night falls monsters roam, but what about a day of rain and gloom? Is it more conducive to monsters? I think so. Today is a good day to enjoy a little gothic fun. I’m going to read more Poe stories. I’m enjoying his lavish prose. The stories are nothing like the Vincent Price movies. I’m not knocking those movies. I loved them when I was growing up and they were on TV all the time, but they don’t have a whole lot to do with the real thing.
Poe’s stories are rich with atmospheric details and the characters are sometimes hard to pin down. Guilt, innocence, hero, villain, the roles are unclear and so are the motives of his characters. When the wind rustles the figures on a tapestry seem to move. Is the protagonist hallucinating in a semi-conscious drugged state or observing a supernatural phenomenon? You never really know with Poe and the ambivalence is intriguing. With rain outside the window, it’s time to take a Poe ride.