Friday, October 7, 2016

The Port-Wine Stain

One hundred and sixty-five years ago today, Edgar Allen Poe died (October 7, 1849). He had been found unconscious a few days earlier in the streets of Baltimore. I always like to mark this day with a post about him. You can read about our Halloween party in honor of Poe last year (it was spectacular) or just hit the Edgar Allen Poe link in the column on the right to read other posts about Poe. He really is the patron saint of Halloween.

The funny thing about Poe is that while I love reading about him and his macabre stories, I don't so much love his style of writing. It's wordy, and while the words are lovely, it can be work to read them. That's probably unfair. To read Poe, you have to have absolute focus. You can't have a television or radio on in the background or just a few minutes to read the next paragraph. You must devote time and space to reading a Poe story. And, I suppose, that's the best way to honor him too.

That being said, I just finished a novel by Norman Lock called The Port-Wine Stain (2016). The novel is Lock's homage to Edgar Allen Poe. The publisher describes the book thus:

Edward Fenzil, who, in the winter of 1844, falls under the sway of two luminaries of the nineteenth-century grotesque imagination: Thomas Dent Mütter, a surgeon and collector of medical "curiosities," and Edgar Allen Poe. As Fenzil struggles against the powerful wills that would usurp his identity, including that of his own malevolent doppelgänger, he loses his mind and his story to another.

Have you ever liked a book more after you had read it than while you were reading it? Well, that's how I feel about this book. Lock tells the story through Fenzil in his later years. It is mostly a monologue as he tells the story to an unidentified listener. I read the book before going to bed each night and since there are no chapters I had to find a convenient place to pause each night and then read back a few pages each time I restarted. Lock writes in the style of Poe, you see. The words are beautifully written, but take focus to read. It didn't help that on some of those nights my husband was listening to the Red Sox game on the radio next to me.

Despite all of those things, I read on. I didn't even consider stopping - ok, I did, but it was fleeting. I wanted to know what was going to happen to Fenzil and that's the goal of a good story. I wasn't disappointed. The story builds slowly and creates a feeling of dread worthy of any Poe story. The ending is perfect. You have to read it.

The novel is short. My copy had just over 200 pages. You may curse me for suggesting it halfway through the novel, but that's because you haven't properly prepared yourself like I warned you. You can do this.

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