The first read-along for Season of the Witch is my favorite Edgar Allan Poe story: “The Masque of the Red Death.”
I went to a small Lutheran school for grades K-6. It had a library that was about the size of my apartment’s front room and kitchen. In this library’s small collection were illustrated Edgar Allan Poe books published by Troll Communications. I clearly remember “The Masque of the Red Death” and “The Pit and the Pendulum,” but there was apparently a version of “A Cask of Amontillado” too. Sure, they were abridgments, but the color illustrations were glorious. I checked them out often and they cemented my love of Poe at an early age.*
I always forget how short “The Masque of the Red Death” is. In less than 2500 words, Poe conjures a world dying a bloody death, a selfish prince, *and* gives us a lot of architectural details. The only place that the illustrated version of “Red Death” falls down is in its depiction of Prince Prospero’s abbey. I was going to call it a hall, and I had thought of it in the past as a series of drawing rooms, but, in the text, it is an abbey. Nothing matches what my mind’s eye has built from Poe’s plans.
A subtlety I noticed this time around, probably because I’ve been thinking about Romanticism since rereading Frankenstein, inside the abbey is a Romantic ideal of beauty. In fact, it’s literally Beauty with a capital B. At the end of the story we’re left with Death and Decay with capital Ds.
* Don’t worry. My mom was the school librarian and most people agree that I turned out alright.
Other Small Perils
I joined the October Reading Club on Facebook. The community features a short story every day throughout October. I haven’t read every story, but I’ve gotten a few in.
“The Red Room” by H.G. Wells (1896) – A fairly standard stay-the-night-in-a-haunted-room tale. That doesn’t mean it lacks tension.
It was after midnight that the candle in the alcove suddenly went out,
and the black shadow sprang back to its place there. I did not see the
candle go out; I simply turned and saw that the darkness was there, as one
might start and see the unexpected presence of a stranger.
“Man of Science” by Jerome K. Jerome (1892) – Men of science and their skeletons, both ones in and out of closets. This is a tale told to other skeptics by a man named Jephson. At the end of the tale:
Brown was the first to break the silence that followed. He asked me if I had any brandy on board. He said he felt he should like just a nip of brandy before going to bed. That is one of the chief charms of Jephson’s stories: they always make you feel you want a little brandy.
“The Terrible Old Man” by H.P. Lovecraft (1920) – One of Lovecraft’s shorter, more straight forward stories. And also a reread for me!
It was the design of Angelo Ricci and Joe Czanek and Manuel Silva to call on the Terrible Old Man. This old man dwells all alone in a very ancient house on Water Street near the sea, and is reputed to be both exceedingly rich and exceedingly feeble; which forms a situation very attractive to men of the profession of Messrs. Ricci, Czanek, and Silva, for that profession was nothing less dignified than robbery.