Monday, February 24, 2014

Tell-Tale Thoughts: An Introduction

"True! Nervous, very very dreadfully nervous I had been and am, but why will you say that I am mad?"

There are few phrases in the English language that have had the kind of impact on my life that one did.

I was in fourth grade, and while I was a regular reader, most of the stuff that I read wasn't very good -- TV show tie-in novels and the like. While on a trip to visit my aunt and uncle in southern Louisiana, I happened upon a shrink-wrapped package of three classics aimed at young readers. The one that caught my eye was an abridged version of "Moby Dick." Much to my chagrin, I have to admit that, to this day, I have never finished that novel.

It was another book in the package, though, that changed my world. "Tales of Mystery and Terror" by Edgar Allan Poe, a collection of four short stories -- "The Tell-Tale Heart," "The Cask of Amontillado," "The Fall of the House of Usher" and "The Gold Bug."

I didn't know at the time that they had been modified for younger readers, and I'm not sure what the modifications were at this point. I do know that I opened the book on a whim, and at that first line of "The Tell-Tale Heart," Poe had me hook, line and sinker. By the time I returned home, I had my new favorite author, and I devoured everything that I could get my hands on by Poe.

I did countless term and research papers on him throughout my school life, and during American literature classes, could hardly wait until we got to the unit on Poe so that I could show off my knowledge to classmates who were just discovering him and, often, not really getting it.

Though horror -- good horror, that is, which is exceedingly hard to find these days -- has remained a mainstay of my reading, my tastes have changed over the years. Every now and then, though, I think about Poe, and I find that it's been too long since I visited these stories. And that's what this feature is about.

Periodically -- perhaps every week, perhaps more or less frequently -- I'll read a piece by Poe and offer a few thoughts on it. They may be short and sweet thoughts or rambling treatises. It just depends on what comes to mind. Most importantly, it will give me a chance to delve back into these formative works of my life and reflect on them. Look for the first one this week, and I hope you enjoy them.

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