What an interesting week I’ve had reading both Poe and Hawthorne. I’ve read Poe before and enjoyed him immensely and did so again. ‘The Fall of the House of Usher‘
is a wonderful example of mood and tone. At the beginning we see a rider approaching a very dark, dank, crumbling house near a very glassy tarn. Immediately we are seeing the story from the riders perspective. The story quickly follows and Poe tells it with action and dread. You can guess the end fairly quickly but it is still satisfying when it comes.
I’ve been a fan of horror stories and love Stephen King’s early work. I can read horror stories without turning a hair. To this day Poe’s ‘The Black Cat‘ still gives me goosebumps.
A nice man turning into an alcoholic and changing personalities – OK, I’m good with that. However, his torture of an innocent black cat who has loved him just freaks me out. The man murders his wife – a fictional man murdering a fictional wife – but putting out the eye of a fictional cat and then hanging it, ick! Does that say something about me?
As for Nathaniel Hawthorne, now that was altogether another experience – exasperation. I managed to get through ‘The Birthmark‘. In itself it is a very interesting and multi-dimensional story about science and obsession – a bit like Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ in that respect.
Unfortunately, the in-depth exposé of Aylmer’s obsessive view on the tiny birthmark and his growing conviction that it goes to her soul that leads to her own conviction it needs to be removed is just way too long for my taste. Yes, there are layers and yes, it is descriptive. I can’t disagree with that, especially considering the time in which (1830’s) this story was written and that psychology and psychiatry were in their infancy.
Overall, I’ve decided that I’m a reader who likes their authors to set the scene and provide a quick-moving story – a modern reader. I find it difficult to work my way through detailed angst when I know where the story is going from the beginning. I like the tone to be achieved quickly and a quick pace with things happening regularly to carry me along the journey of a story.
All that said, I think both authors were wonderful. They told fantasy and horror stories in a way not done before. As Dark Romanticists they wrote about the evil in everyone and how emotional stress, alcohol, superstition, unethical science and obsession could bring it out. In lots of ways this is still the mark of great horror stories aka Stephen King, James Herbert and Dean Koontz – all authors who grace by bookshelves.
I know there are a myriad of people who would disagree with my views and that’s just fine with me. It makes life interesting.
Now I am having fun reading H.G. Wells starting with ‘The Invisible Man’. I’ve read ‘War of the Worlds’ but not this nor ‘The Island of Dr Moreau’. So far ‘The Invisible Man’ is nothing like I expected.