It needn’t be October for me to want to read Edgar Allan Poe. I’ll read Poe on a Tuesday afternoon in June. But something about Halloween makes his works just that much creepier. Of course, after reading everything by Poe I could find over three decades, I’m a bit of a groupie. He could have written about dryer lint accumulation and I’d be enrapt.
- “The Casque of Amontillado”
We never know the personal offenses Montresor has suffer from because of Fortunato. Critics and fanatics like to suggest that this exclusion is because Montresor was crazy. I don’t think Poe would purpose such a gaping omission and waste it on insanity. The idea of revenge, even if never acted upon, is a strong sensation in every human.
The omission, to me, is Poe’s way of letting us avenge by proxy any wrongdoings we’ve experienced. We identify with Montresor and excuse that he is about to be a murderer. There was a year in my life when I re-read “Cask” weekly, culminating in a tattoo design of a foot on a blue background crushing a snake whose fangs are embedded in the foot’s heel, with the motto: Nemo me impune lacessit (“No one insults me with impunity”). Oh yes, I am sympathetic, dear Montresor.
- “The Pit and The Pendulum”
Again, Poe does not give us a back story and we excuse that the unnamed narrator is considered a criminal about to pay for transgressions. Instead, the fear of the unknown and the visceral images of terror are deeply felt by us because we are in his mind, hearing his thoughts, experiencing his horror.
- “The Tell Tale Heart”
Another anonymous narrator, no identifying qualities of gender or age or relationship to his elderly victim. The suspense of irrational thought and mounting guilt is an intensity I’ve rarely experienced in any other literary work. I never grow tired of this story. Other readers have told me they do not care for “The Tell Tale Heart” because the narrator is obviously insane. I love this story because the narrator is obviously insane.
This week I’m re-reading
NEVERMORE, A Graphic Anthology of Edgar Allan Poe’s Short Stories.