One hundred and sixty-three years after his death, New Hampshire is aiming its literary spotlight on Edgar Allan Poe.
Throughout October libraries around the state are encouraging people to get acquainted – or perhaps reacquainted – with one of the masters of horror.
NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.
Edgar Allan Poe didn’t have a chainsaw or horror-movie special effects.
But the guy had a wicked imagination.
When it came to scaring millions of readers he did just fine with stories like:
The Fall of the House of Usher.
And the Pit and the Pendulum.
Then in the early ‘60s there were a series of movies like the Pit and the Pendulum.
Music. Thunder and Vincent Price.
“This is my father’s world, Mr. Barnet. The shrieking of mutilated victims became the music of his life….”
This month libraries around the state are featuring Poe as part of the Big Read program.
The National Endowment for the Arts sponsors the program.
In New Hampshire Big Read is being coordinated by The Center for the Book.
Mary Russell is its director and she says the endowment for the arts provided a list of recommended authors.
“So, we decided Poe would be a nice match for Halloween.”
Libraries are coming up with their own ideas on how to go Poe, including working with different age groups.
Up in the North Country Bethlehem library director Laura Clerkin is trying to find something for everyone.
Harmon travels the country as a Poe impersonator.
“He’s going to discuss Poe’s contribution to literature and then he does an in-character question-and-answer segment.”
Harmon says the two most common questions are:
“How did you die?”
“It is still a mystery although there are some very good theories out there.”
And the very nosy:
“Did you marry your cousin.”
“Virginia was 13 when they were married and she was his first cousin.”
Harmon will also read The Raven and The Tell-Tale Heart.
Harmon reads: “But why would you say that I am mad? The disease has sharpened my senses, not destroyed, not dulled them.”
In the southern part of the state Amy Friedman is putting on a series of plays.
Her theater group –Eclectic Entertainment - will visit 12 libraries to perform “Poe. Poe. Poe.”
“It is a part reader’s theater and part scenes from Poe’s life. It integrates some of his poetry and stories along with some facts from his life.”
In a time of slasher movies and high-tech gore one question is whether Poe still has the ability to frighten.
Mary Russell, of The Center for the Book, thinks he does.
“I think he actually is very scary. Obviously it depends on which story you are looking at. But the big focus of his horror tends to be human psychology. It is not really generally monsters jumping out at you so much as the evil that lurks in the minds of men.”
Now that is scary.
The Poe-athon continues through October – probably at a library near you.
For NHPR News this is Chris Jensen
For a list of events go here.