Okay now buddy: stand back. When people start talking about Poe, I get all riled up. So grab a cuppa joe, pull up a chair, and give me some elbow room.
No, I'm not surprised you have a copy. I own several editions, but like you, I have not read everything either. I have tried the satire and humor, but that is not the kind of thing I go for usually, anyhow. I prefer the tales of the arabesque and the grotesque, as they call them.
I like Poe for two major reasons: 1.) His use of language. It is very formal and pedantic, but still very feeling, very emotional, and very HUMAN. (I like Victorian writers, especially ghost stories, for the same reason.) 2.) His tales of terror have to do with psychological terror, fear, or obsession; monomania, paranoia, neurasthenia, etc. There are never any ghosts, witches, vampires, hobgoblins, and such in his stories, and yet the protagonists are often found in the throws of mortal terror.
In stories such as "The Pit and the Pendulum", the threat is very real. Yet, in some cases, such as "The Black Cat", we don't know if the threat is real or imagined. There is also a morbid and sexual fascination with death, as in "The Oblong Box" and "Berenice". But most importantly, the feelings of terror that are evoked by these stories in the reader, and the protagonists, are the all-too-human fear and understanding that there are forces at work in the universe over which we have not control. As in all these mentioned, and in stories such as "The Premature Burial" and "The Fall of the House of Usher", the life of the protagonist is always under immediate (or perceived) threat from malignant forces over which he has no control, and to him (as to all of us) this is unbearable.
To me, this is what makes Poe so important and successful. No one has been able to pull this off as he was. Of course, his life was very much like the protagonists in his stories, and I think Poe was essentially writing about himself. He lost everyone who was important to him to premature death. By the time he died, he was basically alone in the world. Poe was forever shaking his fist at the universe, which we can easily understand.
I think if you reexamine Poe's underlying message, you may appreciate him more.
Yes, the Narrative of AGP is kind of slow, but it gets to be a wild story with one horrible tragedy happening after another. Again, as in most of Poe's stories, the character is lost at sea -- upon a violent and uncaring sea -- and is completely at the mercy of the universe. It's an adventure story, but also a metaphor.
I've read a bit of Lovecraft, but he is not my favorite. I'm not completely wild about his writing style, though his ideas are immense. I think though that he often does not take them far enough. My favorite story he did is "The Hound", which I have read several times. I have also watched about 5 or so adaptations of his work into film this past year, with the most notable and best-done being Dagon.
Back to Poe, I like "The Raven" as well, and have it memorized (because I'm a dork and I do that type of thing). It catapulted him to fame more than anything else he ever did. Here again, the main character is helpless to stop the death of his beloved in the face of an uncaring universe. Birds have often been used to represent the human soul (typically a sparrow), and here the raven represents the black burden of his own soul, and the tragedy and sadness that resides with in it. The poem is a metaphor. I do not think that we are to believe that there is an actual, real raven present in the room with him.
I don't know this "Shortness of Breath" of which you speak. I think you may have it confused with someone else, perhaps?
The "Masque of the Red Death" is an allegorical story on the plague, and the equalizing force of death: "And now was acknowledged the presence of the Red Death. He had come like a thief in the night. And one by one dropped the revellers in the blood-bedewed halls of their revel, and died each in the despairing posture of his fall. And the life of the ebony clock went out with that of the last of the gay. And the flames of the tripods expired. And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all."
Also, I'm not sure Poe was ahead of his time with the "living dead genre". Not to be argumentative, but his dead were not living, which was part of the tragedy to him. The stories were morbid, yes, and perhaps in that respect ahead of their time, but people in his day and age were much more familiar with death than we are. The mortality rates were much higher then, and people often kept the deceased in their home for a week or so, so that distant relatives could make the journey to pay their respects and attend the funeral. There was also some concern over premature burial, too. See the book Buried Alive for more on this topic.
"When people start talking about Poe, I get all riled up"
Boy you weren't kiddin.
I have seen some of Lovecraft's adaptations and was disappointed by all of the but especially Re-Animator. The story wasn't the best but the movie was shit. I did see Dagon and wasn't too impressed especially since The Shadow Over Innsmouth is one of my favorite stories by Lovecraft. No matter how good it was it was never going to live up to my expectations. What's interesting about Lovecraft is he has contemporaries. People have been so inspired by his work they have carried on with it. While they're not all great I have read some pretty good ones... none by Stephen King mind you. I like King and all but he's not very good at writing Lovecraft.
I feel about as passionately about Lovecraft as you do Poe so I guess I can understand.
But I thought The Facts in Case of M Valdemar and Shortness of Breath(I just found out that the story is Loss of Breath: A Tale Neither In Nor Out of Blackwood. I didn't want to but I had to dig out my copy of the EAP Complete Poems and Tales. If you haven't read it I suggest you give it a try I'm sure you'll like it) were both stories about zombies?
I've not seen Re-Animator. Mouth of Madness was awful, too. Dagon was not the worst I've seen, but Lovecraft always leaves me a little wanting. Like I said, his ideas were immense, original, and very interesting, but I'm not sure what to do with them. Does that make sense?
I think as far as the movies go, when you consider what the stories are about, you can understand how incredibly hard it would be to put that on film. It is fairly easy to write words about it, I guess. But much harder to make a visual out of it.
Is "The Shadow of Innsmouth" the story that the movie Dagon was based? Have you read "The Hound" that I mentioned? There is also another one I like, but the title escapes me, about a man who ends up dying when he breaks into a mausoleum and falls through the casket and his foot goes into the corpse's mouth, and he dies of an infection. Do you know that one?
Yes, that is interesting about his contemporaries, and this "cult" that they formed around these ideas. It is amazing how much he inspired others, and how his work is still inspiring people today. He has a real following, moreso than Poe.
I don't like King at all. I think his writing is terrible.
So, "The Loss of Breath" is a Lovecraft story, or a Poe story? I'm confused.
This is certainly a very honest poem, and has a masculine feel to it. I mean, if you just read the poem and didn't know the author, you could easily tell it was a man writing it. I can't say that I'm overwhelmed by his style, though. I think I gravitate to more lyrical and emotional work.
Bukowski has been on my list to explore, but I really know nothing about him other than being able to recognize his name. Was he part of the beat generation? American, right?
I think one of the things that make Blake difficult is that to really appreciate his poems one should read them in a wider (i.e. historical, biographical, literary) context. I'd say that this applies to at least Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, since I'm most familiar with those.
I agree with you on the illustrations and art.
Yes, understanding the historical, political, or cultural context IS SO VERY important to understanding anything. Take for example Picasso. I don't care for his work, but when you examine the context of when and where he lived, and the relationship to the work that came before and after it, you gain an appreciation of his work that could otherwise be missed.
Of the English Romantics, the poet that also interests me is Shelley. Curiously, although Shelley is more rationalistic in world-outlook, I don't think he is as deep as Blake. This is food for thought.
All of Blake requires contextualization, but not all of Blake is equally impenetrable. Poems like the Songs of Innocence and of Experience, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, and many of the notebook poems, for instance, are reasonably self-contained, whereas Blake's prophetic books are saturated with his private mythology which requires the assistance of several decades of scholars to decipher it. Nevertheless, I found many passages intuitively made sense to me though they would be totally perplexing to the average person. However, I am also conscious of the tendency to read one's own interpretation into the author's range of possible intentions. Blake's thought also has an objectionable dimension to it, but it is a tribute to Blake's genius, that in spite of his anti-Enlightenment stance, he appeals to so many atheists.