Could it be that fans of spooky fiction are tiring of vampires and zombies? Probably not, but I have been struck by the number of recent young adult novels based on the works of Edgar Allan Poe. One example of this is Bethany Griffith’s 2014 novel, The Fall, which reimagines Poe’s ‘The Fall of the House of Usher’ through the eyes of Roderick Usher’s sickly twin sister Madeline. This isn’t Griffin’s first expansion of Poe’s work. Prior to The Fall, Griffin turned to Poe’s short story ‘The Masque of the Red Death’ to create two dystopian novels, Masque of the Red Death and Dance of the Red Death. Other authors have also jumped on the Poe train. ‘Annabel Lee’, Poe’s spooky poem describing the death of a beautiful woman in “a kingdom by the sea”, is the basis for two recent novels, Ashes on the Waves by Mary Lindsey and Of Monsters and Madness by Jessica Verday.
Of course, filmmakers have been turning to Poe for inspiration long before this mini-trend in young adult novels and there have been quite a few film adaptations of his short stories and narrative poetry. To describe most of these movies as “loosely based” on his work is an understatement. (Certainly, the version of ‘Murders in Rue Morgue’ I watched in my high school English class didn’t have much to do with the short story.) Of the many Poe-inspired movies, Roger Corman’s film adaptations with Vincent Price are the ones a lot of people remember and they are a lot of fun to watch. If you would like a taste of the Corman/Price movies, the library has a DVD double feature of Fall of the House of Usher and The Pit and the Pendulum that is available for checkout .
Oddly enough, one of the most faithful film adaptations of Poe’s work is the version of ‘The Raven’ from the first Treehouse of Horror episode of the Simpsons. In this episode, the poem is read by James Earl Jones with Homer as the narrator and Bart as the Raven. While quite funny, the text of the poem is not changed and Homer’s descent into madness closely follows the narrative of the poem (or, at least, close enough that the episode is used by some high school teachers to introduce the poem to their students.) The second season of the Simpsons (which contains the inaugural Treehouse of Horror episode) is available at the library, but, if you can’t wait, the Raven segment can be easily found online.
‘The Raven’ has also been adapted in comics form by cartoonist Richard Corben, who is known for creating unsettling images using a combination of pen & ink and airbrush. Since the 1970s, Corben has drawn quite a few adaptations of Poe’s works. Many of these have been collected in two volumes owned by the library (in both print and electronic formats) – Edgar Allan Poe’s Spirits of the Dead and Creepy Presents Richard Corben (although I wouldn’t recommend them to those with a low tolerance for gore and nudity.)
On a less gruesome note, musicians have likewise turned to Poe for inspiration. Sarah Jarosz’s adaptation of the aforementioned ‘Anabel Lee’ (from the 2011 album Follow Me Down) is a great example of this. Playing clawhammer banjo (and changing the spelling of the title character’s name), she recasts the poem to resemble an Appalachian murder ballad in the spirit of ‘Knoxville Girl’ or ‘The Banks of the Ohio.’
In the end, of course, the best way to experience Edgar Allan Poe is to read his original work. Collections of Poe’s stories and poetry are available at all Denton Public Library locations. In addition, Denton Public Library cardholders can download electronic versions of Poe’s work using the library’s Overdrive and Hoopla services.
South Branch Library