Tuesday, January 20, 2009

One Scary Man

Last Friday, the U.S. Postal Service commemorated the 200th anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe, one of America’s most extraordinary poets and fiction writers. According to those guys and gals who deliver our mail, English poet laureate Alfred Lord Tennyson dubbed Poe “the literary glory of America,” and Sherlock Holmes's creator, British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, called Poe “the supreme original short story writer of all time.”

High praise, but well-earned. Some of Edgar's short tales are more than stories. They're heart-pounding adventures. Trips into a creative and morbid mind, with images and revelations that make you put down the book and shiver.

One of my favorites is "Berenice," a horror story first published in the Southern Literary Messenger in 1835. The story follows a man named Egaeus who is preparing to marry his cousin Berenice. Gloomy Egaeus has a tendency to fall into periods of intense focus, during which he separates himself from the outside world. Oh, it's worse than creepy. Contemporary readers were horrified by the story's violence, and complained to the Messenger's editor.

You can read Poe's whole story BERENICE by clicking on the headline, ONE SCARY MAN. And don't be put off by the first paragraph. 175 years ago, they liked to wind up.

The stamp portrait of Edgar Allan Poe is by award-winning artist Michael J. Deas, whose research over the years has made him well acquainted with Poe’s appearance. In 1989, Deas published The Portraits and Daguerreotypes of Edgar Allan Poe, a comprehensive collection of images featuring authentic likenesses as well as derivative portraits. Old Edgar looks a bit gloomy, too, doesn't he.

Thanks to The Rap Sheet and Wikipedia.

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