Notes from the October 2014 EnCore Book Club: Edgar Allan Poe

'Poe Returning to Boston'/ Image via Stefanie Rocknak

‘Poe Returning to Boston’/ Image via Stefanie Rocknak

Pumpkin beer, pumpkin “blondies,” pumpkin whiskey (that’s right), pumpkin ice cream, Halloween-themed Jo-Jos, OTTO pizza, wine and cider and hot tea and more; this was the fall spread that the EnCore book club attendees tucked into as they pulled out their copies of Edgar A. Poe’s short stories.

One could title this meeting “From Victorians to the Void.” The discussion ranged widely for three hours. We began by sharing our particular attitudes towards the ghostly and the gruesome. What were the scariest films we ever saw? Were we most disturbed by the brightly eerie moments from The Shining? The blood-spattering scenes from Saw? The banality of 80’s kitsch from American Psycho?

We discussed Poe’s incessant themes of young, beautiful women dying young, of catatonia leading to premature burials, of the “Imp of the Perverse” within us all which threatens to blow off our tightly screwed lids. But we aren’t Victorians; does this mean we are any less obsessed with death?

Somehow, we veered from talk of serial-killers and psychopaths to the inner demon latent within the average Joe, and to the existential dread we push aside every day. Neil Gaiman once said of Poe that he not only saw the skull beneath human flesh, but that he “could not forget the skin that once covered it.” Perhaps this accounts for Poe’s enduring fascination and creepiness; in the end, nothing is scarier than what is irrevocably human.

If you could not join us for this meeting, worry not; the November book club will take place on the 5th (Guy Fawkes Day!). The EnCore book club will discuss Nights at the Circus, by Angela Carter, a Gothic wit in her own right. Whether you get your hands on the book or not, join us at CAS 119, for victuals and verbosity, verisimilitude and villainous alliteration.


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