I recently felt the urge to re-read The Picture of Dorian Gray, probably because I wanted Oscar Wilde's story topmost in my mind before the irresistible onslaught of movie promo. I was surprised to discover that it was his only long prose fiction. I was further surprised to find so many of the aphorisms which I thought Wilde himself had delivered at parties and such, to be delivered by one of the main characters in this book, a man whose relentlessly aphoristic style sounds affected to a modern ear. Nonetheless, the sayings which have stood the test of time...uh... stand the test of time: I cannot accept your invitation due to a subsequent engagement, and so on.
So, I remembered the book being thrilling, un-put-down-able. This time it took a long while for me to reach that feeling, but then when it started it literally left me breathless. How many BOOKS can really do that? Am I even talking about reading? The story is so awesome, that I think it quite possible that translated into the modern vernacular in every way (by this I even mean from book to movie) that it will be quite artistically successful. I hope so.
Then, I started free-associating over to Edgar Allan Poe. Hmmm. Not really contemporaries, but still...a couple of stories to re-read there too, in light of (my) current scholarship. Murder in the Rue Morgue, (and The Purloined Letter for that matter): Poe was acknowledged by Arthur Conan Doyle to have created the prototype of a detective before the word existed. Plus, somehow, I had a must-read recommendation for The Narrative of A. Gordon Pym. I can't remember who, and I can't figure it out, either. The first two thirds are a horror/sailing story (an unusual but not unknown category). However, the final third is science fiction - also a prototype. Jules Verne and and HG Wells feel to us like the pioneers of explorer science fiction. Yet Verne was born 20 years later than Poe, and actually wrote a sequel to Gordon Pym (!), and Wells wasn't born until 1866, more than 15 years after Poe's death and likewise credited him with the invention of the category.
Here the observation seems to be that Poe is quite under-rated. He is taken as a novelty act, but he was truly creative and courageous. I even saw, when I was confirming his dates on Wikipedia, that he was the first American writer to try to live on the income from his writing alone. The guy was full of ideas. I have to say that when I come across his poetry now, I put it in the special category with Dr Seuss and Shel Silverstein - producers of poetry with both distinctively creative rhymes and yet also natural-sounding scansion. I think these writers offer the best possible way to learn the intricacies of English pronunciation when it is not your mother tongue. I love them all for it.
(Note to self: send a suggestion to the BadAss guy about Poe. I'm pretty sure he was one. Meanwhile, gentle reader: run, don't walk, to http://www.badassoftheweek.com. There you will find a mixture of real historical figures, fictional characters, writers, scientists, etc, etc, whose bad-ass-iness is meticulously and HILARIOUSLY documented. I am actually going to subscribe to the RSS feed, so I don't miss out.)
I also must send a shout-out to Adam Rex here, who brilliantly spoofed The Raven, without any disrespect at all, apart from the obvious, ironic and rhyming disrespect in his version. It is a part of a poetry collection for kids - no that sounds all wrong, like, very, like, smarmy - it is a part of a kids' book, in rhyme, so funny that is almost wasted on kids. That book is called Frankenstein takes the Cake and it is actually a sequel to Frankenstein Makes a Sandwich, which we have never seen. My kids and I love his The True Meaning of Smekday, too. See link to his homepage under "writers"
And...big news! In case you were wondering, I discovered, with a couple of Grade 2 kids, that there actually are stories about women were-wolves! In fact there doesn't seem to be an actual term for them and most of the sites about them won't open because of the school's internet filters! Anyway, who but a Grade 2 kid and/or a poster of R-rated internet material would ever have asked such a question? Lets you know who is capable of thinking outside the box these days.
Should I also mention spooky, scary, Coraline? Loved Neil Gaiman's original book. LOVED Henry Selick's movie - a separate and original work of art (especially the opening title sequence, which is one of the most beautiful pieces of animation ever). LOVED the soundtrack, by composer Bruno Coulais in an imaginary language (how perfect is that?) and bought it and use one song as a ring tone on my mobile. And loved the graphic version by P Craig Russell (whom I already love for his graphic versions of opera. Actually - maybe I should check his work for female wolf-men - no term, remember? - as he is capable of thinking outside the box). See link under "fun, cool funny".
The marigold wonders nervously: Did you see how re-reading intersected with Hallowe'en just now? Were you wondering? Is it kewl?