November 30, 2007


Caption: This is Poe's black cat or a reasonable facsimile thereof. Pretty scary, huh?

Welcome to the last day of Edgar Allan Poe Week at Goat Rope. If this is your first visit, please click on the earlier posts. You will also find links and comments about current events.

El Cabrero can't think of a better way to wrap up the week than with his selection of Greatest Hits from Poe's short stories.

Here goes:

*Cask of Amontillado. This tale of revenge by burial alive is a hoot. It's probably Poe at his most darkly humorous. I love the first paragraph:

THE thousand injuries of Fortunato I had borne as I best 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 gave utterance to a threat. At length I would be avenged; this was a point definitely, settled --but the very definitiveness with which it was resolved precluded the idea of risk. I must not only punish but punish with impunity. A wrong is unredressed when retribution overtakes its redresser. It is equally unredressed when the avenger fails to make himself felt as such to him who has done the wrong.

Aside from beautiful dead women, Poe had a major fixation about live burial. It was even better for him when a not quite dead beautiful woman was buried alive. Something like that happened in The Fall of The House of Usher.

*The Masque of the Red Death. A little justice is done by Death in this story, which shows that even rich folks have to pay the piper. Here are some first lines:

THE "Red Death" had long devastated the country. No pestilence had ever been so fatal, or so hideous. Blood was its Avatar and its seal -- the redness and the horror of blood. There were sharp pains, and sudden dizziness, and then profuse bleeding at the pores, with dissolution. The scarlet stains upon the body and especially upon the face of the victim, were the pest ban which shut him out from the aid and from the sympathy of his fellow-men. And the whole seizure, progress and termination of the disease, were the incidents of half an hour.

But the Prince Prospero was happy and dauntless and sagacious. When his dominions were half depopulated, he summoned to his presence a thousand hale and light-hearted friends from among the knights and dames of his court, and with these retired to the deep seclusion of one of his castellated abbeys. This was an extensive and magnificent structure, the creation of the prince's own eccentric yet august taste. A strong and lofty wall girdled it in. This wall had gates of iron. The courtiers, having entered, brought furnaces and massy hammers and welded the bolts. They resolved to leave means neither of ingress or egress to the sudden impulses of despair or of frenzy from within. The abbey was amply provisioned. With such precautions the courtiers might bid defiance to contagion. The external world could take care of itself. In the meantime it was folly to grieve, or to think. The prince had provided all the appliances of pleasure. There were buffoons, there were improvisatori, there were ballet-dancers, there were musicians, there was Beauty, there was wine. All these and security were within. Without was the "Red Death."

But the Red Death had the last word. I love the last line:

And Darkness and Decay and the Red Death held illimitable dominion over all.

*The Pit and the Pendulum. No one expects the Spanish Inquisition, much less the hapless narrator of this tale.

*The Telltale Heart. Although El Cabrero's taste for the theme of heats has diminished in the wake of his own cardio problems, this one is still a keeper. Again, some great first lines:

TRUE! nervous, very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why WILL you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses, not destroyed, not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How then am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily, how calmly, I can tell you the whole story.

I didn't include The Black Cat as I am a friend to the feline.

Did I miss any of your favorites?

CALLING IT A WIN. The United Mine Workers is declaring victory after an NLRB judge ruled in their favor in a dispute with Massey Energy at the Mammoth mine in Kanawha County, WV. Here's hoping it's over. Massey will appeal.

GASSING DOWN. A new study suggests the US could reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 28 percent with relatively little costs.

SHINY UNHAPPY PEOPLE. El Cabrero's beloved state of WV comes within a hair of leading the nation in depression and suicide. Basic economic justice issues seem to be a major factor:

People who are college educated and have health insurance are less likely to be depressed or suicidal, the study concluded. About 245,000 of 1.8 million West Virginians are without health insurance, and roughly 16 percent have college degrees.

West Virginia also has a relatively low number of mental health professionals compared to other states. West Virginia has about eight psychiatrists and 10 psychologists per 100,000 people, compared with 22 and 83, respectively, in neighboring Maryland, one of the healthiest states in the country.

In addition, more than 17 percent of West Virginians report being unable to afford health care, about double the rate of South Dakota, which had the lowest depression rate.

CALAMITY JANE. This one from alternet suggests we move beyond the Jane Austen vogue. El Cabrero, however, is a big fan.


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