Monday, December 28, 2015

Did Edgar Allan Poe Write Short Stories?

The basic questioned posited as the title of this article may seem rudimentary to some, but to those new to Edgar Allan Poe it is not. The short (story) answer is that Edgar Allan Poe wrote many short stories. It's debatable which is his most popular, but surely these are in the Top Ten Poe short stories: "The Fall of the House of Usher," "The Black Cat," "The Gold-Bug," "The Pit and the Pendulum," "The Tell-Tale Heart," and "The Cask of Amontillado."

Below is a complete list of Poe's short stories:

"A Tale of Jerusalem" (1832)
"Bon-Bon" (1832)
"Loss of Breath" (1832)
"Metzengerstein" (1832)
"The Duc de L'Omelette" (1832)
"Four Beasts in One" (1833)
"MS. Found in a Bottle" (1833)
"The Assignation" (1834)
"Berenice" (1835)
"King Pest" (1835)
"Lionizing" (1835)
"Morella" (1835)
"Shadow" (1835)
"Mystification" (1837)
"A Predicament" (1838)
"How to Write a Blackwood Article" (1838)
"Ligeia" (1838)
"Silence - A Fable" (1838)
"The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion" (1839)
"The Devil in the Belfry" (1839)
"The Fall of the House of Usher" (1839)
"The Man That Was Used Up" (1839)
"Why the Little Frenchman Wears His Hand in a Sling" (1839)
"William Wilson" (1839)
"[The Bloodhounds]" (1840)
"The Business Man" (1840)
"The Man of the Crowd" (1840)
"A Descent into the Maelström" (1841)
"Eleonora" (1841)
"Never Bet the Devil Your Head" (1841)
"The Colloquy of Monos and Una" (1841)
"The Island of the Fay" (1841)
"The Murders in the Rue Morgue" (1841)
"Three Sundays in a Week" (1841)
"The Gold-Bug" (1842)
"The Masque of the Red Death" (1842)
"The Mystery of Marie RogĂȘt" (1842)
"The Oval Portrait" (1842)
"The Pit and the Pendulum" (1842)
"A Tale of the Ragged Mountains" (1843)
"Diddling Considered as One of the Exact Sciences" (1843)
"The Black Cat" (1843)
"The Tell-Tale Heart" (1843)
"Mesmeric Revelation" (1844)
"Thou Art the Man" (1844)
"The Angel of the Odd" (1844)
"The Balloon-Hoax" (1844)
"The Literary Life of Thingum Bob, Esq." (1844)
"The Oblong Box" (1844)
"The Premature Burial" (1844)
"The Purloined Letter" (1844)
"The Spectacles" (1844)
"The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether" (1844)
"Some Words with a Mummy" (1845)
"The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar" (1845)
"The Imp of the Perverse" (1845)
"The Magazine Prison House" (1845)
"The Power of Words" (1845)
"[The Rats of Park Theatre]" (1845)
"The Thousand-and-Second Tale of Scheherazade" (1845)
"The Cask of Amontillado" (1846)
"The Domain of Arnheim" (1846)
"The Sphinx" (1846)"Hop-Frog" (1849)
"Landor's Cottage" (1849)
"Mellonta Tauta" (1849)
"Von Kempelen and His Discovery" (1849)
"X-ing a Paragrab" (1849)

#PoeShortStories #EdgarAllanPoe

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Review of The Pearl by John Steinbeck

Long before there were salt of the earth people getting instantly rich off the lottery only to curse the windfall they had received, there was a tiny little nugget of a novel called The Pearl. The novel was published by John Steinbeck in 1947. True originality in the novel is lacking because it is based on a folktale from Mexico.

The Pearl has been influential on popular singers. Below are a number of songs based on--or influenced by--The Pearl.

"Angry"                 Matchbox 20         Mad Season 2000
"Colored People"                 dc talk         Intermissions 2000
"Colors of the Wind"                 Vanessa Williams Pocahontas 1995
"Half-Breed"                 Cher                 If I Could Turn Back Time 1999
"How Can I Keep from Singing" Eva Cassidy         Eva by Heart 1998
"I am Woman"                 Helen Reddy         Helen Reddy's Greatest Hits 1987
"I Got a Name"                 Jim Croce Photographs and Memories 1985
"I Write the Songs"                 Barry Manilow Greatest Hits 1978
"The Pearl"                 Fleming and John
"Reach"                 Gloria Estefan         Destiny 1996
"Songs"                 Joan Armatrading What's Inside 1995
"Sunshine on My Shoulders"         John Denver         Behind the Music 2000
"To Have and Not to Hold"         Madonna         Ray of Light 1998
"The Pearl"                 Joshua Kadison Delilah Blue 1995
"Seek Up"                 Dave Matthews Live At Red Rocks 1995

Pros: If you want to read an artistically written book, bursting with fine prose, then is the novel for you. It is also on the shorter side and could be called a novella.

Cons: The characters of The Pearl are monotone and the dialog is lacking. In actuality, there is little dialog at all. I also found the plot rather simplistic and as mentioned above, lacking in true originality.

Rating: 6 out of 10 stars.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Tolstoy Footage on Film

Few photographs exist of Leo Tolstoy and even less moving pictures. The video below shows Tolstoy as he had gotten up in years.

Most of footage was shot after he had published his excellent Tolstoy short stories of love, war and as a guide to his beloved peasants. On his grave Tolstoy asked to die as a peasant. At this time of the year he makes think of a skinny Santa Claus.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Review of The Outsiders by S. E. Hinson

If you have yet to read The Outsiders by S. E. Hinson that was published in 1967, you may have seen the 1983 film direct by Francis Ford Coppola. It had a star-filled cast that included Tom Cruise, Patrick Swayze, Rob Lowe, and Matt Dillon.

This post, however, is about the excellent novel. It is set in Oklahoma and pits Greasers (boys from a blue collar families) against Socs (kids from white collar families). I admit that I was a little disappointed to learn that the novel centered around gang violence, for which I have no interest. But I stuck with the novel if for no other reason than the writing was top notch and the characters were believable and somehow real.

When I finished the novel, I realized that I really like it and now hold it in high regard. Mrs. Hinson has done a difficult trick for writer and that is to get someone (many tens of thousands of someones) to love her novel when they have little interest in the subject matter.

#TheOutsidersReview #SEHinson

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Ulalume by Edgar Allan Poe as Read by Jeff Buckley

Ulalume by Edgar Allan Poe

One of my favorite Poe poems is "Ulalume" published in 1848. It is his only poem centered around October--a month Poe owns like no other. Read Edgar Allan Poe's annotated poems.

Check out this haunting reading by Jeff Buckley. It has a Jim Morrison feel.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Black Cat Song by Broadcast

Recently I posted Edgar Allan Poe's haunting short story "The Black Cat" along with a photo of the house in Philadelphia where he wrote it. One of the best songs ever written about the scary short story is:

Song: Black Cat
Band: Broadcast

I'm sure Poe would have loved this song. Check it out on SoundCloud!

#BroadcastBlackCat #BlackCat #EdgarAllanPoe

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Did Edgar Allan Poe Write a Werewolf Story?

Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) wrote scary stories in a number of supernatural genres. He did not invent the horror short story, but he took it to unbelievable heights. Poe penned ghost stories. He was the first to invent a closed room murder mystery (The Murders in the Rue Morgue of 1841) and a founding father of science fiction short stories. Poe also was the first to take us inside the head of a crazy man in The Tell-Tale Heart of 1843.

Yet Edgar Allan Poe failed to cover a few crucial genres in his short stories. For instance, he did not write a vampire or monster story. I have blogged on the former in the past. That is unfortunate as I am convinced that no one could have written a vampire story like Poe.

Unfortunately, Poe also did not write a werewolf story. Below is a list of werewolf stories originally published in the English language during Poe's lifetime, which he may have read. They are found in Transformation: The Best Werewolf Short Stories 1800-1849:

1831 The Man-Wolf by Leitch Ritche (1800-1865)
1846 A Story of a Weir-Wolf by Catherine Crowe (1790-1872)
1828 The Wehr-Wolf: A Legend of the Limousin by Richard Thomson (1794-1865)
1839 The White Wolf of the Hartz Mountains by Captain Frederick Marryat (1792-1848)
1838 Hugues the Wer-Wolf: A Kentish Legend of the Middle Ages by Sutherland Menzies [Mrs. Elizabeth Stone] (1806-1883)

#WerewolfStories #BestWerewolfStories

Sunday, October 4, 2015

The Black Cat by Edgar Allan Poe

Years before the black raven was engrained into the minds of Americans as a reminder of lost love, another sable animal gained Poe fame. “The Black Cat” ranks as one of Poe’s best tales. He actually owned a black cat in 1840 when he published a short article entitled “Instinct vs. Reason.” Here is a snippet: The writer of this article is the owner of one of the most remarkable black cats in the world – and this is saying much; for it will be remembered that black cats are all of them witches. The one in question has not a white hair about her, and is of a demure and sanctified demeanor.1 Poe was a lover of cats to be sure. Besides his black cat, he owned a tabby cat with his wife, Virginia, named Catterina. Like many of his tales, there are other autobiographical elements here. As a child Poe killed a pet bird owned by his foster mother, Frances Allan, and later felt guilt and remorse. Here is a photo of Poe's house in Philadelphia where he penned "The Black Cat."

The Black Cat

(Works, 1850)

For the most wild, yet most homely narrative which I am about to pen, I neither expect nor solicit belief. Mad indeed would I be to expect it, in a case where my very senses reject their own evidence. Yet, mad am I not —and very surely do I not dream. But to-morrow I die, and to-day I would unburthen my soul. My immediate purpose is to place before the world, plainly, succinctly, and without comment, a series of mere household events. In their consequences, these events have terrified —have tortured —have destroyed me. Yet I will not attempt to expound them. To me, they have presented little but Horror —to many they will seem less terrible than barroques.2 Hereafter, perhaps, some intellect may be found which will reduce my phantasm to the common-place —some intellect more calm, more logical, and far less excitable than my own, which will perceive, in the circumstances I detail with awe, nothing more than an ordinary succession of very natural causes and effects.
From my infancy I was noted for the docility3 and humanity of my disposition. My tenderness of heart was even so conspicuous as to make me the jest of my companions. I was especially fond of animals, and was indulged by my parents with a great variety of pets. With these I spent most of my time, and never was so happy as when feeding and caressing them. This peculiar of character grew with my growth, and in my manhood, I derived from it one of my principal sources of pleasure. To those who have cherished an affection for a faithful and sagacious4 dog, I need hardly be at the trouble of explaining the nature or the intensity of the gratification thus derivable. There is something in the unselfish and self-sacrificing love of a brute, which goes directly to the heart of him who has had frequent occasion to test the paltry friendship and gossamer5 fidelity of mere Man.
I married early, and was happy to find in my wife a disposition not uncongenial6 with my own. Observing my partiality for domestic pets, she lost no opportunity of procuring those of the most agreeable kind. We had birds, gold fish, a fine dog, rabbits, a small monkey, and a cat.
This latter was a remarkably large and beautiful animal, entirely black, and sagacious to an astonishing degree. In speaking of his intelligence, my wife, who at heart was not a little tinctured with superstition, made frequent allusion to the ancient popular notion, which regarded all black cats as witches in disguise. Not that she was ever serious upon this point —and I mention the matter at all for no better reason than that it happens, just now, to be remembered.
Pluto7 —this was the cat’s name —was my favorite pet and playmate. I alone fed him, and he attended me wherever I went about the house. It was even with difficulty that I could prevent him from following me through the streets.
Our friendship lasted, in this manner, for several years, during which my general temperament and character —through the instrumentality of the Fiend Intemperance —had (I blush to confess it) experienced a radical alteration for the worse. I grew, day by day, more moody, more irritable, more regardless of the feelings of others. I suffered myself to use intemperate language to my At length, I even offered her personal violence. My pets, of course, were made to feel the change in my disposition. I not only neglected, but ill-used them. For Pluto, however, I still retained sufficient regard to restrain me from maltreating him, as I made no scruple of maltreating the rabbits, the monkey, or even the dog, when by accident, or through affection, they came in my way. But my disease grew upon me —for what disease is like Alcohol! —and at length even Pluto, who was now becoming old, and consequently somewhat peevish —even Pluto began to experience the effects of my ill temper.
One night, returning home, much intoxicated, from one of my haunts about town, I fancied that the cat avoided my presence. I seized him; when, in his fright at my violence, he inflicted a slight wound upon my hand with his teeth. The fury of a demon instantly possessed me. I knew myself no longer. My original soul seemed, at once, to take its flight from my body; and a more than fiendish malevolence,8 gin-nurtured, thrilled every fibre of my frame. I took from my waistcoat-pocket a pen-knife, opened it, grasped the poor beast by the throat, and deliberately cut one of its eyes from the socket! I blush, I burn, I shudder, while I pen the damnable atrocity.
When reason returned with the morning —when I had slept off the fumes of the night’s debauch —I experienced a sentiment half of horror, half of remorse, for the crime of which I had been guilty; but it was, at best, a feeble and equivocal feeling, and the soul remained untouched. I again plunged into excess, and soon drowned in wine all memory of the deed.
In the meantime the cat slowly recovered. The socket of the lost eye presented, it is true, a frightful appearance, but he no longer appeared to suffer any pain. He went about the house as usual, but, as might be expected, fled in extreme terror at my approach. I had so much of my old heart left, as to be at first grieved by this evident dislike on the part of a creature which had once so loved me. But this feeling soon gave place to irritation. And then came, as if to my final and irrevocable overthrow, the spirit of perversness. Of this spirit philosophy takes no account. Yet I am not more sure that my soul lives, than I am that perverseness is one of the primitive impulses of the human heart —one of the indivisible primary faculties, or sentiments, which give direction to the character of Man. Who has not, a hundred times, found himself committing a vile or a silly action, for no other reason than because he knows he should not? Have we not a perpetual inclination, in the teeth of our best judgment, to violate that which is Law, merely because we understand it to be such? This spirit of perverseness, I say, came to my final overthrow. It was this unfathomable longing of the soul to vex itself —to offer violence to its own nature —to do wrong for the wrong’s sake only —that urged me to continue and finally to consummate the injury I had inflicted upon the unoffending brute. One morning, in cool blood, I slipped a noose about its neck and hung it to the limb of a tree; —hung it with the tears streaming from my eyes, and with the bitterest remorse at my heart; —hung it because I knew that it had loved me, and because I felt it had given me no reason of offence; —hung it because I knew that in so doing I was committing a sin —a deadly sin that would so jeopardize my immortal soul as to place it —if such a thing were possible —even beyond the reach of the infinite mercy of the Most Merciful and Most Terrible God.
On the night of the day on which this cruel deed was done, I was aroused from sleep by the cry of fire. The curtains of my bed were in flames. The whole house was blazing. It was with great difficulty that my wife, a servant, and myself, made our escape from the conflagration.9 The destruction was complete. My entire worldly wealth was swallowed up, and I resigned myself thenceforward to despair.
I am above the weakness of seeking to establish a sequence of cause and effect, between the disaster and the atrocity. But I am detailing a chain of facts —and wish not to leave even a possible link imperfect. On the day succeeding the fire, I visited the ruins. The walls, with one exception, had fallen in. This exception was found in a compartment wall, not very thick, which stood about the middle of the house, and against which had rested the head of my bed. The plastering had here, in great measure, resisted the action of the fire —a fact which I attributed to its having been recently spread. About this wall a dense crowd were collected, and many persons seemed to be examining a particular portion of it with every minute and eager attention. The words “strange!” “singular!” and other similar expressions, excited my curiosity. I approached and saw, as if graven in bas relief10 upon the white surface, the figure of a gigantic cat. The impression was given with an accuracy truly marvellous. There was a rope about the animal’s neck.
When I first beheld this apparition —for I could scarcely regard it as less —my wonder and my terror were extreme. But at length reflection came to my aid. The cat, I remembered, had been hung in a garden adjacent to the house. Upon the alarm of fire, this garden had been immediately filled by the crowd —by some one of whom the animal must have been cut from the tree and thrown, through an open window, into my chamber. This had probably been done with the view of arousing me from sleep. The falling of other walls had compressed the victim of my cruelty into the substance of the freshly-spread plaster; the lime of which, had then with the flames, and the ammonia from the carcass, accomplished the portraiture as I saw it.
Although I thus readily accounted to my reason, if not altogether to my conscience, for the startling fact ‘just detailed, it did not the less fall to make a deep impression upon my fancy. For months I could not rid myself of the phantasm of the cat; and, during this period, there came back into my spirit a half-sentiment that seemed, but was not, remorse. I went so far as to regret the loss of the animal, and to look about me, among the vile haunts which I now habitually frequented, for another pet of the same species, and of somewhat similar appearance, with which to supply its place.
One night as I sat, half stupefied, in a den of more than infamy, my attention was suddenly drawn to some black object, reposing11 upon the head of one of the immense hogsheads12 of Gin, or of Rum, which constituted the chief furniture of the apartment. I had been looking steadily at the top of this hogshead for some minutes, and what now caused me surprise was the fact that I had not sooner perceived the object thereupon. I approached it, and touched it with my hand. It was a black cat —a very large one —fully as large as Pluto, and closely resembling him in every respect but one. Pluto had not a white hair upon any portion of his body; but this cat had a large, although indefinite splotch of white, covering nearly the whole region of the breast.
Upon my touching him, he immediately arose, purred loudly, rubbed against my hand, and appeared delighted with my notice. This, then, was the very creature of which I was in search. I at once offered to purchase it of the landlord; but this person made no claim to it —knew nothing of it —had never seen it before.
I continued my caresses, and, when I prepared to go home, the animal evinced a disposition to accompany me. I permitted it to do so; occasionally stooping and patting it as I proceeded. When it reached the house it domesticated itself at once, and became immediately a great favorite with my wife.
For my own part, I soon found a dislike to it arising within me. This was just the reverse of what I had anticipated; but I know not how or why it was —its evident fondness for myself rather disgusted and annoyed. By slow degrees, these feelings of disgust and annoyance rose into the bitterness of hatred. I avoided the creature; a certain sense of shame, and the remembrance of my former deed of cruelty, preventing me from physically abusing it. I did not, for some weeks, strike, or otherwise violently ill use it; but gradually —very gradually —I came to look upon it with unutterable loathing, and to flee silently from its odious13 presence, as from the breath of a pestilence.14
What added, no doubt, to my hatred of the beast, was the discovery, on the morning after I brought it home, that, like Pluto, it also had been deprived of one of its eyes. This circumstance, however, only endeared it to my wife, who, as I have already said, possessed, in a high degree, that humanity of feeling which had once been my distinguishing trait, and the source of many of my simplest and purest pleasures.
With my aversion to this cat, however, its partiality for myself seemed to increase. It followed my footsteps with a pertinacity15 which it would be difficult to make the reader comprehend. Whenever I sat, it would crouch beneath my chair, or spring upon my knees, covering me with its loathsome caresses. If I arose to walk it would get between my feet and thus nearly throw me down, or, fastening its long and sharp claws in my dress, clamber, in this manner, to my breast. At such times, although I longed to destroy it with a blow, I was yet withheld from so doing, partly it at by a memory of my former crime, but chiefly —let me confess it at once —by absolute dread of the beast.
This dread was not exactly a dread of physical evil-and yet I should be at a loss how otherwise to define it. I am almost ashamed to own —yes, even in this felon’s cell, I am almost ashamed to own —that the terror and horror with which the animal inspired me, had been heightened by one of the merest chimaeras16 it would be possible to conceive. My wife had called my attention, more than once, to the character of the mark of white hair, of which I have spoken, and which constituted the sole visible difference between the strange beast and the one I had destroyed. The reader will remember that this mark, although large, had been originally very indefinite; but, by slow degrees —degrees nearly imperceptible, and which for a long time my Reason struggled to reject as fanciful —it had, at length, assumed a rigorous distinctness of outline. It was now the representation of an object that I shudder to name —and for this, above all, I loathed, and dreaded, and would have rid myself of the monster had I dared —it was now, I say, the image of a hideous —of a ghastly thing —of the GALLOWS! —oh, mournful and terrible engine of Horror and of Crime —of Agony and of Death!
And now was I indeed wretched beyond the wretchedness of mere Humanity. And a brute beast —whose fellow I had contemptuously destroyed —a brute beast to work out for me —for me a man, fashioned in the image of the High God —so much of insufferable wo! Alas! neither by day nor by night knew I the blessing of Rest any more! During the former the creature left me no moment alone; and, in the latter, I started, hourly, from dreams of unutterable fear, to find the hot breath of the thing upon my face, and its vast weight —an incarnate Night-Mare that I had no power to shake off —incumbent eternally upon my heart!
Beneath the pressure of torments such as these, the feeble remnant of the good within me succumbed. Evil thoughts became my sole intimates —the darkest and most evil of thoughts. The moodiness of my usual temper increased to hatred of all things and of all mankind; while, from the sudden, frequent, and ungovernable outbursts of a fury to which I now blindly abandoned myself, my uncomplaining wife, alas! was the most usual and the most patient of sufferers.
One day she accompanied me, upon some household errand, into the cellar of the old building which our poverty compelled us to inhabit. The cat followed me down the steep stairs, and, nearly throwing me headlong, exasperated me to madness. Uplifting an axe, and forgetting, in my wrath, the childish dread which had hitherto stayed my hand, I aimed a blow at the animal which, of course, would have proved instantly fatal had it descended as I wished. But this blow was arrested by the hand of my wife. Goaded,17 by the interference, into a rage more than demoniacal, I withdrew my arm from her grasp and buried the axe in her brain. She fell dead upon the spot, without a groan.
This hideous murder accomplished, I set myself forthwith, and with entire deliberation, to the task of concealing the body. I knew that I could not remove it from the house, either by day or by night, without the risk of being observed by the neighbors. Many projects entered my mind. At one period I thought of cutting the corpse into minute fragments, and destroying them by fire. At another, I resolved to dig a grave for it in the floor of the cellar. Again, I deliberated about casting it in the well in the yard —about packing it in a box, as if merchandize, with the usual arrangements, and so getting a porter to take it from the house. Finally I hit upon what I considered a far better expedient than either of these. I determined to wall it up in the cellar —as the monks of the middle ages are recorded to have walled up their victims.
For a purpose such as this the cellar was well adapted. Its walls were loosely constructed, and had lately been plastered throughout with a rough plaster, which the dampness of the atmosphere had prevented from hardening. Moreover, in one of the walls was a projection, caused by a false chimney, or fireplace, that had been filled up, and made to resemble the rest of the cellar. I made no doubt that I could readily displace the at this point, insert the corpse, and wall the whole up as before, so that no eye could detect anything suspicious.
And in this calculation I was not deceived. By means of a crow-bar I easily dislodged the bricks, and, having carefully deposited the body against the inner wall, I propped it in that position, while, with little trouble, I re-laid the whole structure as it originally stood. Having procured mortar, sand, and hair, with every possible precaution, I prepared a plaster could not every poss be distinguished from the old, and with this I very carefully went over the new brick-work. When I had finished, I felt satisfied that all was right. The wall did not present the slightest appearance of having been disturbed. The rubbish on the floor was picked up with the minutest care. I looked around triumphantly, and said to myself — “Here at least, then, my labor has not been in vain.”
My next step was to look for the beast which had been the cause of so much wretchedness; for I had, at length, firmly resolved to put it to death. Had I been able to meet with it, at the moment, there could have been no doubt of its fate; but it appeared that the crafty animal had been alarmed at the violence of my previous anger, and forebore to present itself in my present mood. It is impossible to describe, or to imagine, the deep, the blissful sense of relief which the absence of the detested creature occasioned in my bosom. It did not make its appearance during the night —and thus for one night at least, since its introduction into the house, I soundly and tranquilly slept; aye, slept even with the burden of murder upon my soul!
The second and the third day passed, and still my tormentor came not. Once again I breathed as a free-man. The monster, in terror, had fled the premises forever! I should behold it no more! My happiness was supreme! The guilt of my dark deed disturbed me but little. Some few inquiries had been made, but these had been readily answered. Even a search had been instituted —but of course nothing was to be discovered. I looked upon my future felicity18 as secured.
Upon the fourth day of the assassination, a party of the police came, very unexpectedly, into the house, and proceeded again to make rigorous investigation of the premises. Secure, however, in the inscrutability of my place of concealment, I felt no embarrassment whatever. The officers bade me accompany them in their search. They left no nook or corner unexplored. At length, for the third or fourth time, they descended into the cellar. I quivered not in a muscle. My heart beat calmly as that of one who slumbers in innocence. I walked the cellar from end to end. I folded my arms upon my bosom, and roamed easily to and fro. The police were thoroughly satisfied and prepared to depart. The glee at my heart was too strong to be restrained. I burned to say if but one word, by way of triumph, and to render doubly sure their assurance of my guiltlessness.
“Gentlemen,” I said at last, as the party ascended the steps, “I delight to have allayed your suspicions. I wish you all health, and a little more courtesy. By the bye, gentlemen, this —this is a very well constructed house.” (In the rabid desire to say something easily, I scarcely knew what I uttered at all.) —”I may say an excellently well constructed house. These walls —are you going, gentlemen? —these walls are solidly put together”; and here, through the mere phrenzy of bravado,19 I rapped heavily, with a cane which I held in my hand, upon that very portion of the brick-work behind which stood the corpse of the wife of my bosom.
But may God shield and deliver me from the fangs of the Arch-Fiend! No sooner had the reverberation of my blows sunk into silence than I was answered by a voice from within the tomb! —by a cry, at first muffled and broken, like the sobbing of a child, and then quickly swelling into one long, loud, and continuous scream, utterly anomalous20 and inhuman —a howl —a wailing shriek, half of horror and half of triumph, such as might have arisen only out of hell, conjointly from the throats of the damned in their agony and of the demons that exult in the damnation.
Of my own thoughts it is folly to speak. Swooning, I staggered to the opposite wall. For one instant the party upon the stairs remained motionless, through extremity of terror and of awe. In the next, a dozen stout arms were tolling at the wall. It fell bodily. The corpse, already greatly decayed and clotted with gore, stood erect before the eyes of the spectators. Upon its head, with red extended mouth and solitary eye of fire, sat the hideous beast whose craft had seduced me into murder, and whose informing voice had consigned me to the hangman. I had walled the monster up within the tomb!

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Review of Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

Brave New World by Englishman Aldous Huxley is a science fiction concept novel published in 1932. In Huxley's future world, the people of today are portrayed as savages and modern people are controlled by groupthink and a designer drug--soma. In the novel the people of today feel love, believe in God and pray. Base savages!

The novel has taken on a life of its own and is often read in high school and college classrooms. Many rock bands have created songs about it. But does that alone make it a classic?

  • “Brave New World” Reagan Youth
  • "Hug Me" Meg & Dia
  • "I Don't Know How to Love Him" Jesus Christ Superstar
  • “The Future” Prince
  • "I Have Seen The Future" The Bravery 
  • "I Hate You, Then I Love You" Celine Dion & Luciano Pavarotti
  • "Imagine" John Lennon
  • "Last Resort" Papa Roach
  • "Let Down" Radiohead
  • "She's So High" Tal Bachman
  • "Short People" Randy Newman
  • "Soma" The Strokes
The novel is thin in a few areas. Huxley has stepped on the trap that clamps on many a leg of sci-fi writers. He was unable to fully imagine a world 600 years (only 500 now) in the future with his descriptions. The most glaring example is the mode of transportation for the denizens of the future. Rocketships? Hovercrafts? Vacuum tubes? Try helicopters.

In the 1920s and 1930s is when commercial helicopters took flight. Brave New World was published in 1932. This is 100 years after the visionary authors in Mesaerion: The Best Science Fiction Short Stories 1800-1849 imagined travel to the moon and flight on the tails of comets.

Huxley hit close to the mark, however, on a number of his other visions. A detached sexual revolution would come 30 years later in the 1960s. Today, designer drugs are prevalent. Soma for all my little friends! Brave New World is one of the first novels to glorify tailored drugs and it was kept afloat in popular culture by Tim O'Leary and Ken Kesey in the drug fueled culture of the 1960s. Even on his deathbed Huxley asked his wife for LSD, which administered.

What has made Brave New World stand the test of time is the concept more than the execution. There is one on thing in the novel that makes it great. There are no enduring characters such as a Jay Gatsby or Holden Caufield or Randle McMurphy. The descriptions and writing style are good, but lacking in some ways as pointed out above. The concept is what holds the other middling elements together. And because of it the novel should be read in the context of a classic, though a minor one.

#BraveNewWorld #BraveNewWorldReview

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Andrew Barger Book Sales Heat Map

Above is a heat map showing where my books sell in the United States, with a few caveats. The first is that it is where my physical books sell, not ebooks. I sell about 20% more ebooks that physical books. The second is that it is only sales via, which is where I got the heat map. As a free service to its authors, Amazon publishes sales data through its Digital Text Platform.

It is surprising to me that Boston does not rank higher on the list. Boston does, after all, claim Edgar Allan Poe as it own. I have edited a number of Poe books and his annotated horror stories appear in 6a66le: The Best Horror Short Stories 1800-1849.

To the fine (and intelligent) Andrew Barger readers in Los Angeles--thank you very much. The same goes for New York and D.C. and Chicago. You are a good-looking bunch of intellectuals!

#BookHeatMap #AmazonDTP #AndrewBarger

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Review of "We the Living" by Ayn Rand

In her debut novel, Ayn Rand has penned a masterpiece of literature simply titled, We the Living. The novel likely did more to weaken the early foundations of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (U.S.S.R.) than any waving of guns or thumping of politicians’ chests, and this is why.

Published in 1936, We the Living has it all—intrigue, one of the strongest female characters ever created in literature, and a tight plot that will leave readers guessing until the end. I won’t give anything away, but let’s just say that it is a classic love tragedy. The novel's only minor annoyance is frequent calling of character's names when it is clear who is speaking. She also used the first and last names of the characters much too often. Again, a minor annoyance.

Ayn Rand stated that it was “as near to an autobiography as I will ever write.” The author had fled Russia ten years earlier in 1926. What is amazing is her command of the English language in the novel. I found very few mistakes of grammar or turns of phrase. The start of her writing career sandwiches her first work between the novels of Tolstoy and Nabokov, two other great Russian writers that left their mark on literature. We the Living is a condemning portrayal of the U.S.S.R. from the belly of the beast that wastes no time blowing holes in the confining foundations of a doomed Marxist-Leninist regime.

Since this is Ayn Rand’s first novel, it is where she began fleshing out—in a fictional manner—the constructs of her philosophy of living called Objectivism. It purports that each person should live according to what is best for their particular life and wellbeing. That may cause you to set down your burrito and say, “Hold the hot sauce that it sounds like humanism.” Yes, it does in many ways.
The main difference from my perspective is that a humanist relies on other humanists to reach the ultimate (albeit very selfish) state of being. Think of it as crowd-sourced happiness. An objectivist, on the other hand, relies on no one but themselves to reach their ultimate state of happiness and enjoyment.

Regardless, your objective should be to get to a library or bookstore and grab a copy of We the Living. It is not to be missed.

#WetheLiving #AynRand

Saturday, July 25, 2015

In Search of Harper Lee - A Curious Visit to Monroeville, Alabama

Signs Outside Courthouse
With the ink still wet on the first edition printing of Harper Lee's first book -- Go Set a Watchman -- I set out myself to the historic town of Monroeville, which is billed as "The literary capital of Alabama." So many great writers have come from the little town (Nelle Harper Lee, Truman Capote, Mark Childress, etc), it is impossible to dispute its self-given title. As I strolled its Southern-baked streets, I felt as though I was living history.

Monroeville, Alabama Courthouse
The Monroeville courthouse took my breath away as I turned the corner. The film of To Kill a Mockingbird was not filmed there, but a nearly exact replica was used for the Hollywood soundstage of the film. I expected to find the place jam packed with visitors, but there were only a few. This meant I was able to get great shots of the interior of the courthouse. If only those pews could speak!

Center Aisle of Monroeville Courthouse
I was also surprise that the town was not charging for admittance into the courthouse. I gladly would have paid $20 or more for the chance to get inside. In the gift shop I overheard a guy saying that his grandfather knew Harper Lee. It seemed that everyone I met in Alabama had a connection to Harper or Monroeville.

What is Left of Truman Capote's Childhood Home

The remains of Truman Capote's house were also cool to see. To me he was the best writer to come from the little town. Next to the stones of Capote's house is an ice cream shop that sits on the grounds of Lee's childhood home. On the day I visited it appeared out of place, foreign, a sugary intruder of literary heritage. How both homes were not preserved is a tragedy.

Ice Cream Shop Where Harper Lee's Home Used to Sit

I never did run across Harper Lee. She is in a rest home in Monroeville. But I felt her presence there just the same as if she was standing next to me. She will always be there.

#HarperLee #GoSetaWatchman #TrumanCapote

Saturday, July 11, 2015

First Use of "hell's bells" in Literature

Thomas Moore (1779-1852)

On a rainy day last weekend I was sitting around with nothing much to do and I started thinking about the origins of a now common term--hell's bells--thanks to a ringtone I heard go off. I began wondering from whence it came. And having the sometimes curse of a quizzical nature, and much time on my hands, I set about to find out.

For the risk of sounding like the title of an Ayn Rand novel, we the living have heard the popular AC/DC rock tune "Hell's Bells." Surely AC/DC was not the first to use the phrase. Like many classic terms and phraseologies, I knew it had to come from literature. But when?

The Bible tells us hell is a place of eternal damnation where the worm does not die and the fire is never quenched. That doesn't sound like a place that has chiming bells. I also knew that I did not uncover the first use in my research on Dante's The Divine Comedy for The Divine Dantes trilogy.

My guess was that it came out of nineteenth century literature; perhaps by Edgar Allan Poe. I reread his poem "The Bells" and it was nowhere to be found. I finally found it used in an unexpected place. I was right about it being in the nineteenth century, but I expected it from a horror author.

Instead, I found it used by Thomas Moore (a very un-horror writer) in his "Tom Crib's Memorial to Congress," published in March 1819. Tom Crib was a well-known pseudonym of Thomas Moore, who was an Irish entertainer and poet. His memorial poked fun at an inept congress and included the following great lines:

Seeing as how, I say, these Swells
  Are soon to meet, by special summons,
To chime together like “hell's bells"

And there you have it. The first use of "hell's bells" in literature was not by Edgar Allan Poe or H.P. Lovecraft. It was by an Irish poet named Thomas Moore.