Tuesday, January 06, 2009

#4.5 - "The Fall of the House of Usher"

Oh Sony Reader, I do love you. Before the holidays, I dumped a bunch of ebooks onto my reader, classics from 1001 Books that I could always have on hand in transit. Stuff that I could read when I finished whatever novel I was carting around at the time. One of the stories I put on was "The Fall of the House of Usher," and I'm not going to tell a fib, primarily because it was short and I'm all about the numbers these days.

I love how 1001 Books states, "It seems to be stretching the definition of the word to its very limits to describe The Fall of the House of Usher as a "novel." Note they use italics and I am sticking to quotes because you can't tell me this isn't a short story. I'm not complaining, I'm just clarifying for my own edification.

Annnywaay, this story scared the living crap of out me. It's creepy, chilling and totally gothic in that yummy way that only Edgar Allen Poe can accomplish. A young man returns to the house of Usher where the only two remaining family members, Roderick and his sister, Madeline, live in a decrepit and decaying house. They're both sick, Madeline from an illness that confounds the doctors, and Roderick from something that reads a whole lot like depression to my modern eye. The narrative creeps up to the last fateful night, and what Poe achieves in 61 electronic pages is really astounding. Stories within stories, pages devoted to mad poetry (as in its being written by a madman, not "mad" in the means "awesome" way), and a narrator who spends more time describing in intricate detail the abysmal surroundings than he does talking to his childhood friend.

One line in particular that I bookmarked: "Hitherto she had steadily borne up against the pressure of her malady..." Maybe I need to make that into a t-shirt it's so fitting to my life. Now, one question: why is it that in ghost stories, things always happen in threes? It was the same in A Christmas Carol. And why does it take someone three utterly terrifying occurrences before they wake up and, um, get the fark out? I read a lot of Poe in grad school, but because my mind is terrible with titles, and well, let's face it, entire plots, I haven't counted off any of the stories in 1001 Books. I am going to go back to Project Gutenberg, though, and download some more. They're just perfect for a stormy night barreling through the city in the red rocket.

READING CHALLENGES: 1001 Books, natch.

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