By James Calemine
After 3 cups of coffee, I stopped what I was doing, and decided to revisit the work of Edgar Allan Poe. In my 20s I read his books and accumulated a formidable collection of his work. Something compelled me to reach for Ed Poe on this early, rainy August morning. A scent of changing seasons lingers in the air.
Born in Boston during 1909, Poe died 40 years later in Baltimore’s Washington Medical College. Hands down, Poe exists as one of America’s greatest writers, and definitely a “master of the macabre”. The cold facts of his short life speak for themselves. His life proved to be a series of terrible misunderstandings, which emerged in his stories–as well as his poetry. And, Ed Poe didn’t own a cell phone or ever experience the chance to be a snarky punk on social media. He certainly would have spared no mercy on the literary tourists of today. He did not suffer fools. Poe proved to be a savage critic in his time…
I chose to re-read a short story, published in 1846, titled “The Cask of Amontillado”. I could have picked many other stories of his such as “The Journal of Julius Rodman”, “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”, “The Black Cat”, “The Masque of Red Death”, “The Tell-Tale Heart” or “The Purloined Letter” but this one demonstrates Poe’s ability to spook with an economy of words in seven pages.
The tale transpires somewhere in Italy during “the supreme madness of carnival season.” It tells the story of a man who kills his so-called friend over habitual disrespect. The story begins like this: “The thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as best I could, but when he ventured upon insult, I vowed revenge. You, who so well know the nature of my soul, will not suppose, however, that I gave utterance to a threat. At length I would be avenged…”
The narrator, Montresor, takes revenge on Fortunato by seizing advantage of his weakness for wine by luring his fake friend into catacombs to bury him alive. In the end, the killer admits after 50 years, his enemy’s body remains undiscovered.
A dark tale, indeed. Poe’s death certificate was lost soon after his passing. The details of his demise remain mysterious. I don’t think Poe would have it any other way. Life imitates Art, eh?