Tonight, after a trip to Maine to visit with some family (AKA: Five hours round trip in the car alone with my three year old – <sigh> AND I FORGOT SNACKS! #momoftheyear), I unsuccessfully read my child her goodnight books and attempted bedtime. It went terribly – piano playing, door knocking, general jumping around. My wonderful husband had to step in…
Fortunately for me, that means podcast time!
I listened to The Strange and Unusual Podcast. Tonight’s episode was about the 1830 White murder (here in Salem) that inspired Edgar Allan Poe’s short story, “The Tell Tale Heart” (1843). For real – Smithsonian says so! Coincidentally, the podcast creator, Alyson Horrocks, recently began a Facebook group for people following the podcast, and as I typed my introduction to say hello to the other members of the group, I remembered the literature teacher who first introduced me to gothic literature.
I vividly remember not really liking this teacher’s class. She was harsh, and sometimes rude. But she was also no non-sense, which I can better appreciate as an adult thinking back to middle school and the terribleness that some people (myself included) endured. I remember this teacher reading aloud Poe’s “The Black Cat“, and noting that she hated cats… which I – an animal welfare advocate – thought was weird and not cool at all, given the content of the tale…
That said, once this teacher realized I had suddenly become enamored with Poe’s gothic tales, she made sure I wouldn’t miss out on all his stories offered. She gifted me her personal copy of “Ten Great Mysteries by Edgar Allan Poe” (1960), which I now savor as one of my favorite things.
I remember, the same year, drawing an illustration for a short story I’d written inspired by Poe. I recall drawing a man running, but his brain was exposed in my drawing. All of the other students drew the bodies and colors and lives of their characters, but all I concentrated on in my drawing was this character’s brain: The detailed lines and squiggles that made him human were more important to me than the colors of his clothes or where he was going. The drawing was in pencil, aside from his yellow brain.
I remember feeling like I was “weird” or not quite the status-quo. Someone who couldn’t possibly care what her characters were wearing so long as their brains were evident in her drawing.
But I also remember knowing my weird Lit teacher who made sure I was able to surround myself in stories for people like me. People who knew life was more complicated than what the character was wearing or where he was going. People who understood literature as a part of life that was to be studied, and not just endured.
And, today, as an adult, I feel welcome again into this weird world of (dare I say it, gothic) literature. This world of people who read with the intent to empathize, and to grow, and not just to admit they’ve read a particular story. I haven’t yet decided on my introduction in Alyson’s facebook group, but I know it will include a THANKS to all the “weird” people who appreciate the “more than just a story” stories, including Poe’s take on the terrible murder mystery that occurred here in Salem in 1830.