Happy Birthday to Edgar Allan Poe

Carte de Visite of Edgar Allan Poe

The first author I can ever remember labeling as “one of my favorite authors” was Edgar Allan Poe. I had an enthusiastic 7th grade teacher that loved his worked and her love for him rubbed off on me and as a result I devoured his writings.  It also didn’t hurt that one of my favorite film actors at the time was the delightfully macabre Vincent Price.

I had three favorites among Mr. Price’s numerous film and television credits, House of Wax (1953), House of Usher (1960) and The Pit and the Pendulum (1961), two of which were Poe stories adapted for the screen.

They were so frightening that I can remember having to cover my eyes with my hands and peak through my fingers, while curled up in a ball on my living room sofa….and this was on a sunny Saturday afternoon!

While I read his stories and poems when I was younger, I didn’t learn too much about Poe himself until I was much older. His life was so sad and his death was fittingly mysterious and it breaks my heart that he only attained success after his life had ended.

Today you can find Poe’s work and influence everywhere. His detective C. Auguste Dupin, from “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, inspired future fictional detectives including a pretty famous one, Mr. Sherlock Holmes. Poe is also credited with single-handedly inventing the genres of Science Fiction, Fantasy and Mystery!

So today I think I will reread a few of his short stories and poems to celebrate his birthday, which luckily for all of us are available online in e-book form for free! Check out either Amazon or Project Gutenberg for a free download.

And if you liked to read a great fictionalized book about Mr. Poe may I recommend “The Pale Blue Eye” by Louis Bayard.

 

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Happy Birthday Charles Dickens!

Charles Dickens, a former resident of Lant Street.

You’ve probably already heard that 200 years ago today Charles Dickens was born. Dickens was one of the first authors I read as a teenager so that might be why he holds a special place in my heart. Like most kids I was most familiar with A Christmas Carol in its various forms. I still think the Scrooge McDuck version is my favorite, what sacrilege!

Nicholas Nickelby took me an entire summer to read while I was in high school, Little Dorrit is still my favorite, and I’ve yet to crack open My Mutual Friend. Hey I’ve got to save something for a rainy day! But the whole Victorian atmosphere is what makes me love Dickens. It’s what I think of most when I’ve traveled to London. Even though I love other time periods of English history, it’s Dickens’ London that I think of when I wander through the streets of London. It’s probably his descriptive prose and those spectacular PBS mini-series’ that have seared that time period in my brain.

The 200th anniversary is being celebrated in a variety of ways all across the globe in 2012.  I have a done a little celebrating myself with a couple of fun purchases. I was very excited about the iPad app I found, Dickens Dark Museum,  from the Museum of London.  It’s a series of interactive, graphic novels that takes you through the darker side of Dickens’ London. Actor, Mark Strong, narrates these journeys as Charles Dickens and gives a great description of Victorian London. Very cool app!

I also splurged on a book, Dickens’s Victorian London, again put out by the Museum of London to coincide with their exhibition. It’s a terrific book, chock full of photos taken during the lifetime of Charles Dickens.  It is very cool to see photos of Newgate Prison, Gray’s Inn and Whitehall during the Victorian era. I love this book!

So maybe today, to honor Mr. Dickens, I will finally crack open my copy of Our Mutual Friend.