READ THE GOOD BOOKS FIRST

November 22, 2018


I had a marvelous literature teacher my senior year in high school.  Her name was Mrs. Robinson. Can’t remember her first name; we never used it anyway.  Mrs. Robinson repeatedly told us to “read the good books first—then read them again”.  She meant later on in our lives, probably adult lives.  Okay, what is your definition of a “good book”?  I have a very simple approach to this.  Take a look at your son, daughter or grandchild’s summer reading assignments.  The books they were supposed to read throughout the summer.  The ones there may or may not be Cliff Notes for.  These are just some of the “good books” determined to be timeless.  What we may call the classics.  Some old—some new, but the ones used to demonstrate writing style and prose uncommon relative to our modern writers.  We are inflicted with books today, not all mind you, but some that represent throw away literature. Once read never to be re-read.  Basically, time wasting garbage.

While cleaning out our attic this past summer, I found several boxes of books our sons were instructed to read during their time in high school.  I’m going to briefly talk about one right now—“Ten Great Mysteries by Edgar Allan Poe”.

BIOGRAPHY:

Given below is a portrait of Mr. Poe probably made in his late thirties.

Edgar Allan Poe is undoubtedly one the greatest and most-recognized American authors in our countries history although his life was not a bed or roses by any stretch of the imagination.

Edgar Allan Poe was born on January 19, 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts. Poe’s father and mother, both professional actors, died before he was three years old.   John and Frances Allan raised him as a foster child in Richmond, Virginia thus giving him his middle name.  John Allan, a prosperous tobacco exporter, sent Poe to the best boarding schools and later to the University of Virginia, where he excelled academically. After less than one year of school, however, he was forced to leave the university when Allan refused to pay Poe’s gambling debts.  Poe returned briefly to Richmond, but his relationship with Allan deteriorated and in 1827, he moved to Boston where he enlisted in the United States Army. His first collection of poems, Tamerlane, and Other Poems, was published that year. In 1829, he published a second collection entitled Al Aaraaf, Tamerlane, and Minor Poems. Neither volume received significant critical or public attention. Following his Army service, Poe was admitted to the United States Military Academy, but he was again forced to leave for lack of financial support. He then moved into the home of his aunt Maria Clemm and her daughter Virginia in Baltimore, Maryland.

Poe began to sell short stories to magazines at around this time, and, in 1835, he became the editor of the Southern Literary Messenger in Richmond, where he moved with his aunt and cousin Virginia. In 1836, he married Virginia, who was thirteen years old at the time. (This was a great shock to me and I had no idea Poe ever married much less someone of such a very young age.)  Over the next ten years, Poe would edit a number of literary journals including the Burton’s Gentleman’s Magazine and Graham’s Magazine in Philadelphia and the Broadway Journal in New York City. It was during these years that he established himself as a poet, a short story writer, and an editor. He published some of his best-known stories and poems, including “The Fall of the House of Usher,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” and “The Raven.” After Virginia’s death from tuberculosis in 1847, Poe’s lifelong struggle with depression and alcoholism worsened. He returned briefly to Richmond in 1849 and then set out for an editing job in Philadelphia. For unknown reasons, he stopped in Baltimore. On October 3, 1849, he was found in a state of semi-consciousness. Poe died four days later of “acute congestion of the brain.” Evidence by medical practitioners who reopened the case has shown that Poe may have been suffering from rabies.  A tragic end to a great writer.

The following short stories are in the book I just mentioned:

  • Murders in the Rue Morgue
  • The Purloined Letter
  • The Tall-Tale Heart
  • The Facts in the Case of Mr. Valdermar
  • The Pit and the Pendulum
  • The Tale of the Ragged Mountains
  • A Descent into the Maelstrom
  • The Black Cat
  • “Thou Art the Man”
  • Metzengerstein

It became very obvious as to why his works are considered classic.  The writing style is very much unlike the style of any America writer.  His ability to keep the reader in suspense is remarkable.  The manner in which he describes a specific chain of events using the English language must be considered legendary.  He is a marvelous “word-smith” putting together sentence after sentence demonstrating his “high-class” writing ability.

Mrs. Robinson was absolutely correct when she told us to read the good books first.

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