When I was a kid I used to like scaring myself stiff reading horror stories after everyone else had gone to bed. I would read until I had reached a respectably petrified state, just short of tooth chattering and toe curling, then would slip into bed and promise myself I’d never take things that far again. Curiously, this strategy served me no better then than it did many years later in college when partying too much was the behavior in question—respectably pickled, just short of tooth chattering, ….
Stephen King novels and Edgar Allan Poe stories formed the backbone of these macabre after hours sessions. To this day I have a dream involving a pitfall trap baited with a miniature Snickers bar, and I blame it entirely on Edgar Allan Poe. I think his story The Pit and the Pendulum caused my belly button to go from being an outtie to an innie—no kidding. I still own the book I used to read from, a gigantic volume of his stories and poems given to me by my grandmother. No my grandmother wasn’t sick and twisted for giving me that book—I actually requested it. So leave my grandma alone.
And besides, the older I get, the more I think that maybe Edgar was just misunderstood. Maybe he just needed an outlet to transform his morose energies into something positive. Like what if he had discovered pen turning? He was obviously drawn to the pen. He might have spent his time at the lathe joyously turning pens for friends and family. Or what if he had learned how to tune a hand plane or sharpen a saw? I bet he could have designed one heck of a coffin.
But then what would our American literature be without melancholy Edgar lurking in the shadows? Especially at this time of year when the somber and the dreary are the order of the day? How could there be no Raven? No Telltale Heart? No Fall of the House of Usher? Should you ever be glad that someone didn’t discover a craft as interesting as woodworking? Even if what results are stories and poems as memorable as those written by Edgar Allan Poe? It’s hard to say. The only thing I do know is that I won’t be staying up late tonight to read his stories. I will, however, dip into the candy bowl by the door and treat myself to a miniature Snickers.