Speaking of Poe,

Okay, we weren’t speaking of Poe, but after my last post and my rather self-conscious reference to “the feather light caress of mortality’s scythe,” I have been thinking about him. Like a lot of people, I hit a patch in my tween and teen years when I read a lot of Edgar Allen Poe and other authors who made the macabre an art form. I would probably have been at least a little bit goth, had there been such a thing in those days. I have never fully emerged from that patch; part of me loves the dark side, though I’d rather read it than watch it and prefer suspense to blood and gore. (Side Note: my friend Darlington tells me that in his culture–Rwanda, but in other areas in Africa as well–people love Hollywood movies but cannot comprehend our love of the horror genre. I suspect that if we faced real possibilities of genocide, murderous insurgency, and death by famine and epidemic we would enjoy horror flicks less also.)

So in reflecting how Grandma Marian’s death affected me, I was struck by how my response to death has changed as I’ve aged. Experiencing the loss of my own grandparents as a child, death seemed harsh but unimaginably distant. When one of my schoolmates died of a hidden heart defect we all grieved, but it still seemed the greatest of improbabilities, a one-in-a-million long shot, a lightning strike. Later, I lost a friend to breast cancer and then more and more people, not that much older than me, seemed to be coming out of the woodwork with life-threatening diagnoses and fatal tragedies. I lost my father to a car accident, one friend to an aneurysm and another to a drunk driver, my best friend’s mom and my husband’s mom died of cancer, and my sister and my mom both got cancer. My sister and mother survived, but death, always a possibility on an intellectual level, was becoming undeniable even to my gut. When my husband’s grandmother died, even though she’d lived an abundant life into her nineties, death felt a whisker’s breadth closer. I heard the swoosh of a blade through the air and felt the barest touch of metal to my skin. The scythe, I thought at the time. Now I realize that Poe had it right; it is a pendulum, and it is nearing. My husband’s grandfather confided to him before he passed on some years ago, that he was ready to die. He’d had a good life, he said, and all his friends were already gone. With this most recent funeral, it struck home that perhaps every loss as you age cuts deeper.

Some cope with this reality by chasing sex, things, or inebriation; or by creating a legacy through child-bearing, corporate empire-building, or writing a book. Then there is God. Some would charge that religious faith is just the covers a child hides under, hoping they will shield him from the horrors in the dark. I believe it is more than that. My faith, imperfect as it is, doesn’t protect me from death or loss, or even worry and fear. It does shore me up when I start to crumple, and it does help me reach out past my own self interest in a loving way to others, especially those others I find hard to love. It gives me an assurance of a bigger plan that I don’t need to understand to play a part in. And all it asks is that I keep trying, even as that figurative pendulum swings ever closer. I can do that. Maybe I can build a legacy of sort, as well.

The life of Edgar Allen Poe had its share of horror, but his legacy of literature has excited the imagination for nearly two centuries. The movie The Raven, starring John Cusack (one of my favorite actors,) is released Friday (April 27th) and I am looking forward to it. Poe, played by Cusack, teams up with a detective to catch a serial killer, who stages his kills based upon Poe’s stories. I don’t expect the same level of entertainment from the movie that I derived from Poe’s stories and poems, but I hope it is well done. That is the least we can ask from a film that dares to invoke a master of the macabre.

What movies and books give you shivers and thrills? A few of my top listed books: Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury and It by Stephen King. Movies: “What Lies Beneath” and “Coraline.”

6 thoughts on “Speaking of Poe,

  1. Charmaine

    “What Lie’s Beneath” I watched more than I care to admit from between and/or behind my fingers as my hands were over my eyes.
    I read “Alien” when I was in junior high – and while reading about the creatures closing in on the crew- my mom, coming back from her walk, tapped on my window…. I think I jumped a couple feet into the air.

    1. lynnettedobberpuhl Post author

      I am more of a “sitting in a ball on the couch, peeking over my fists which are clamped against my mouth so I don’t accidentally scream out loud,” kind of scary movie watcher. I also get light-headed from not breathing. We should totally watch scary movies together, it would be stressful, but fun.

      I can’t believe you read Alien in junior high. I haven’t read the book, but that would be so scary. I laugh imagining you jump! I would add the second movie “Aliens” to my list of favorite horror movies. Side note: Have you read Game of Thrones?

  2. Kelly Thompson

    For books, I love me some Bradbury but one that never fails to keep me up at night is King’s “Salem’s Lot.” Tougher call on horror movies because I’m a bit of a horror movie fan. I’ll tell you, one that freaked even ME out was “Jeepers Creepers”. Looking forward to “The Raven”; Cusack’s been really tweetin’ it up.

    BTW, Darlington’s comment in your post…very thought-provoking.

  3. lizsturm

    I got your reference but I had never read Poe. I had an education based on M.A.S.H., Not the classics. But I knew exactly what you, and he, meant.

    I understand what you mean about death changing over time. When some one died, it used to be something to endure as the living– the loss of someone dear. Now, I see it as someone leaving on a journey where I will soon follow.

    Thanks for writing this. I’ve been carrying this comment around in my head a few days, but haven’t had the seconds free to actually get it out to you. Darn packing!

    1. lynnettedobberpuhl Post author

      Moving is insane. You will be so happy when you are done with it, a year or so from now. 🙂 I LOVED M*A*S*H! And Star Trek, and Gilligan’s Island. I like to think of myself as well-rounded when it comes to 70’s popular culture. You should totally read Poe, though, if you like a little creepfest once in awhile. His are mostly delicious short stories that might come as a quick but welcome break from the boxes. So great to hear from you and good luck!

  4. J.D.

    I’m looking forward to seeing what they do with the Raven.Like you, I got into Poe in school–oh so many years ago. I still prefer the classic “Gothic” horror to anything since. One of the scariest books I’ve tried to read lately (couldn’t finish it scared me so much) was Kelley Armstrong’s The Summoning. *shudder*


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