Hello to all those faithfully reading and hopefully enjoying this effort to make even the worst horror movie more watcha... aw, screw that - I'm not that good. If a movie makes you cringe because yet another batch of unlikable teens that are pushing 30 are inching toward their deaths, having a party no one does anywhere ever, a paranormal movie is boring you to tears with unending pans of empty rooms, or thanks to CGI technology when people finally bite it, their blood squirts everywhere except on the victim, the ground, the people next to them... you're in good company and this is the right place for you.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Geniuses Whose Works Are Constantly Screwed Up

Edgar Allen Poe 
(January 19-1809 - October 7, 1849)

Like H.P. Lovecraft, Edgar Allen Poe was appreciated most after he was dead. He is one of the very first in America to practice the writing of short stories and is considered the inventor of the detective fiction genre, as well as science fiction. He made barely any money off his writings, although they were constant.

He was born to two actors. His father abandoned them and his mother died when he was young. He was taken in by a family named Allen, although they never adopted him (hence the use of both surnames). He tried college, but had no money. He tried the Army and then West Point as a cadet, but couldn't handle it, and so arranged to be courtmartialed on purpose. He then started his writing career by penning a set of poems that, when published, was only credited to 'a Bostonian'. Not an auspicious start, but geniuses seemed to live difficult, and short, lives. Estranged from his foster father (the mother had died), he continued to write for whomever would publish him, and actually acted as a literary critic for others. In 1835 he secretly married his 13 year old cousin (Sounds like Jerry Lee Lewis, doesn't it?) but it wasn't until ten years later that he published a poem that was even then considered successful - The Raven - for which he was paid a whopping $9.

He wrote what was then called 'Gothic' stories because that is what sold the best, even back then, people loved to read horror stories. He wrote other types of stories also, even humor, but it was the Gothic stuff for which we all remember him.

Wife Virginia Poe
Two years later his wife died of tuberculosis and his steady downward spiral started although many feel it was the death of his wife that caused him to write some of his most famous works. In 1949, before his final story The Penn (renamed The Stylus) could be published he died of unknown causes. The guesses about the cause range from suicide, to drugs and alcohol, to disease. All that is known is he was found delirious in the street (and not in his own clothes), and died in the hospital a short time later. Any documents relating to his admittance to the hospital and death certificate cannot be found. Rufus Griswold wrote a biographical article of Poe called Memoir of the Author, which he included in an 1850 volume of the collected works. Griswold, an editor who hated Poe, depicted him as a depraved, drunk, drug-addled madman and included Poe's letters as evidence. Many of his claims were either lies or distorted half-truths. For example, it is now known that Poe was not a drug addict. Griswold's book was denounced by those who knew Poe well, but it became a popularly accepted one. It was widely reprinted in part because readers thrilled at the thought of reading works by an 'evil' man. Letters that Griswold presented as proof of this depiction of Poe were later revealed as forgeries.

Other than writing and criticizing others, he also loved cryptography. He had placed a notice of his abilities in a Philadelphia paper inviting submissions of ciphers, which he proceeded to solve. It is said that his knowledge of cryptology was based on his analytical abilities, the same that made him a good writer of detective stories. So how is it that his stories can get so mucked up?

Well, since the popular opinion (and that's all it was) was that he was a demented, depressed genius his stories are considered to be the work of a demented mind, and what was usually straight up horror becomes either diluted or twisted or, worse, updated to fit the world of today. Consider the new movie (sorry John Cusack) that portrays Edgar as being a detective himself, having to solve the mystery of who is murdering in the style of his stories. Nice, but wouldn't have happened. Or The Tomb (didn't get to see Vincent Price do that one from 1964, I saw the sorry remake of 2009, reviewed 8/4/12). You'd think they'd be a little more careful with classic works, but like Wes Craven once said, 'Stories are watered down for a quick sell.' Amen.