Of the wide variety of articles in this week’s Common Room, one of the most fascinating is Laura Miller’s “Desecrating Poe,” posted over at Salon. Her scathing review of the new Fox TV show “The Following” includes commentary on art, beauty, and the artistic portrayal of violence. Sample quote:
Violence in popular entertainment is usually discussed in absolute terms: Either you think it should be reined in quantitatively or you defend it in blanket terms, as a matter of free speech. This bogus polarity obscures an important question: How is it used? Eyes are gouged out in “The Following” because the mutilated female corpses (all young and pretty in life) make a ghastly spectacle and enable Carroll to torment Hardy with talk of severing the victims’ ocular muscles one by one. Eyes are gouged out in “King Lear” to indicate that the play’s social order has descended to sub-human brutality as a result of the main character’s refusal to see the truth. It’s the same violent act, but in the latter case it is replete with meaning and induces an elemental despair, while in the case of “The Following” it’s just gleefully lurid.
Follow the link for the rest of the story, including many discussable points.
In other news and commentary:
Bloggers and C.S. Lewis fans: Review blog Pages Unbound is hosting a C.S. Lewis read-along throughout the month of February. Ways to participate include reviewing Lewis books or hosting discussions on your own blog, sending in guest posts to the Pages Unbound proprietors, and simply following along to read and/or comment on Lewis’ oeuvre.
Just a quick shout out on one of my favorite poems. The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe was first published with his name attributed to it on this day in 1845. Very haunting and very Gothic. Anyway, if you’d like to read it, go here. If reading isn’t your thing, you can find a recording on Librivox here. If you want to see a video of Vincent Price reading The Raven, go down to the bottom of the wikipedia page on the poem and you’ll find it under external links/video. He does a dramatic reading of the poem, not literal, but hey it’s Vincent Price! And if you want to see the best adaptation of The Raven ever, go here for The Simpson’s Halloween special version. So, if you like really depressing, gothic poems, enjoy!!
In America, we’re trained from a young age to equate Edgar Allan Poe with both terror and Halloween. In my experience, reading Poe in an English class was something of a yearly ritual, even if the rationale for the exercise was rather forced. Poe clearly enjoys a better literary reputation than our other horror master, Lovecraft — but only a marginally better one. Despite the ubiquity with which Poe dominated my education while growing up, once I entered college and began reading “Literature”, Poe was ignored almost as thoroughly by my profs as he had been taught by my gradeschool teachers. If we did read him, we did so only to devote the briefest of discussions to his work, and always in the context of establishing some other writer’s superiority with one literary element or another.
Of course, Poe has entered into the mainstream of American culture in a way that few writers have experienced. Almost all of his major stories have been adapted in some form or another to television or film, from several silent films of the 1920s and 30s to the (in)famous Roger Corman adaptation of “The Fall of the House of Usher” with Vincent Price in 1960, and the fantastic Simpson’s adaptation of “The Raven” for the first “Treehouse of Horror” episode. Even the Baltimore Ravens have three mascots, named Edgar, Allan, and Poe. Continue reading