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Poe in October

This Halloween week, I'm tempting fate and reading an Edgar Allan Poe story every night, right before bed. (Tempting fate, because when I first read "The Premature Burial" back in college, also right before bed, it freaked me out so much I was awake half the night.) Last night, it was "The Tell-Tale Heart".
It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! yes, it was this! He had the eye of a vulture - a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees - very gradually - I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever.
A warped motive indeed, and yet just a few sentences later the narrator denies he's a madman. This story is so tightly wound, so visceral in its mania, that it's probably my favorite Poe story ever. It's relatively short for a Poe story, with only a minimum of the florid Victorian wordiness that Poe often succumbed to. The conciseness of the prose illustrates the narrator's madness so vividly - more words would have dampened the impact.

"The Tell-Tale Heart" was also the first Poe story I ever encountered. My wonderful fourth-grade teacher, Mr. Murphy, read it aloud to our enraptured class. I don't know many other teachers who would do likewise for a bunch of overstimulated fourth-graders, but he never underestimated us. He even read Shakespeare to us, at length, and Beowulf. He was one of the very best teachers I ever had.

October 29, 2013 in Books | Permalink


I hope you're sleeping well.

Posted by: Paul at Oct 30, 2013 6:54:39 AM

So far, yes. But I will NOT be re-reading The Premature Burial.

Posted by: Pete at Oct 30, 2013 5:27:47 PM