Sunday, January 27, 2013

Dark Passages: The Poet

Fox's "The Following" is hardly the first entry in the dark crime genre to weave the works of Edgar Allan Poe into its plotline.  There are plenty of examples to be found in the world of fiction and film/TV, but one of the more ingenious instances is Michael Connelly's 1997 novel The Poet.  The book details the attempt to track down a Poe-quoting serial killer, and wallops readers with a terrific plot twist involving the writings of the 19th Century master of the macabre.  Here's a passage in which the protagonist, Jack McEvoy, discusses the personal impact of Poe's words:

Soon I was back in the embrace of the words of the poet.  Dead a hundred and fifty years but reaching from the grave to grip me.  Poe was a master of mood and pace.  The mood was gloom and the pace was often frenetic.  I found myself identifying the words and phrases with my own life. "I dwelt alone / In a world of moan," Poe wrote.  "And my soul was a stagnant tide."  Cutting words that seemed, at least at the moment, to fit me.

I read on and soon felt myself gripped by an empathic hold of the poet's own melancholy when I read the stanzas of "The Lake":

But when the Night had thrown her pall
Upon that spot, as upon all,
And the mystic wind went by
Murmuring in melody--
Then--ah then I would awake
To the terror of the lonely lake 

Poe had captured my own dread and fitful memory.  My nightmare.  He had reached across a century and a half to me and put a cold finger on my chest.

(passage quoted from pp. 195-6 of the 2004 trade paperback edition from Grand Central Publishing)

No comments: