Edgar Allen Poe-Inside the mind of the insane

Edgar Allen Poe is one of my favorite authors. I remember reading The Raven for the first time back in eighth grade, and I instantly fell in love. The way he could weave words together and send chills down my spine was the best. After that, I was hooked and read everything I could by Edgar Allen Poe.

This week we read a few short stories The Tell-Tale Heart, The Black Cat, and The Cast of Amontillado, by Poe where the narrator was not so reliable. The narrators in each story were insane. Now, writing a story with a narrator that’s not all there is not an easy task. As a writer, we walk a fine line with our word choice with these characters, but they can be so much fun to write if you know what you are doing. Poe certainly did.

The Tell-Tale Heart ranks up there with The Raven for me. I will admit, I have not read the story in years, so it was neat to take a look at it with a fresh pair of eyes. The story is short which is nice, but the words chosen pulls us in and guides us through a brief trip inside this lunatic’s mind.

Poe introduces us to the problem the narrator faces. He cannot stand the color and look of an eye that the old gentleman he tends to has. He describes it as, “He had the eye of a vulture—a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees—very gradually—I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye forever,” (Poe 179). Now, most of us would think why should the eye bother someone that much. My first thought would be to not look at it. But, there are small things all around us that can affect us and drive us nuts. For me, I don’t like to see a mass of little bugs like baby spiders or ants running around. All I want to do is banish them from my site. So, while I can understand his aversion to the eye, killing the old man is just a tad too much.

If Poe had thought the same way as me, we wouldn’t have a creepy story to read. I found it interesting how the narrator tries to justify his hate for this one body part. He goes to great lengths to tell us how much he loves the old man and has no desire for the man’s wealth, but that one eye is what pushes him over the edge. I think Poe did a good job getting inside the narrators head and giving us a front row seat to his downward spiral.

In The Black Cat, the narrator starts the same way telling us that he is mad and that he is going to die, but he must tell us what caused this. He seems to be happily married, and they have lots of animals. Everything appears great for this guy, but then one day something happens, and he goes off the deep end. To me, there is no reason for him to have these issues other than it seems to be a midlife crisis gone wrong. Isn’t this what could happen to any of us? We are fine and dandy one day and the next we are losing it and about to go on a killing spree.

What I found interesting in these two stories was the fact that both of the narrators after everything is said and done feel guilt. If someone, is genuinely insane would they feel guilty about what they did? It almost seems to me that this was an excuse used to absolve themselves of responsibly.

Poe does a great job with planting these questions in our mind. That may not have been his intent, but for me it does. Writing from the point of view of someone who is insane or unreliable is no small task, and yet Poe handles this rather well. What’s even more interesting is the fact that he did these with so few words. Whether you like Poe or not you have to give him applause for doing what most don’t want to do.

Batman: The Killing Joke

The Killing Joke by Alan Moore and Brian Bolland has to be on of these most messed up graphic novels I have read. The whole premise of the story made me feel like I had drunk some chemical concoction and fallen down a twisted rabbit hole. With that being said it was a good read, and it brought up a lot of interesting questions.

I have always wondered what The Joker’s backstory was. So, I asked my husband, who loves comics, and he told me that there was no real backstory to Joker. That made me curious about the sheer fact that Joker seems like he is intelligent even though he is seriously unhinged. As I am reading the book, we are introduced to a man who supposedly is Joker before the change. He wants to be a comedian, and yet he fails which is ironic because after his transformation he is twistedly sick and funny at times. For someone who was so smart that he worked as a lab technician it made me wonder why he would fall into the hands of criminals. I know people do crazy and stupid things when they are desperate, but I am sure he could have found a better job instead of taking these criminals through his former place of work.

After doing some digging, I found out that Joker does not have a real backstory. The only thing I could find about him was that the creators modeled him off of Conrad Veidt’s character Gwynplaine from the 1928 film The Man Who Laughs but beyond that, there is nothing else to go on. It is as though the creators wanted a maniac without a background. There was a lot of fan speculation. My favorite one is that Joker knows he’s in a comic and that’s why he breaks the fourth wall sometimes. I think that is just the writers having fun with the fans.

Visually this graphic novel is well done. The colors are sharp and eye-catching which is a significant contrast to 30 Days of Night. The colors grab your attention, and they force you to focus on the gruesome yet beautifully drawn images. This book pushes things to the edge. From Joker shooting Police Chief Gordon’s daughter and then taking pictures of her to Joker and his minions stripping Gordon naked.

Now, let’s look at that section for a bit. I think it was the most messed up part of the story. Barbara and Gordon are having a typical father-daughter conversation. I was waiting for Batman to appear and some discussion takes place. Instead, we have Joker arrive, and he shoots Barbara, and his goons beat up Gordon and take him away. But before Joker leaves Barbara to die, he decides to undress her and take photographs of her. That part made my skin crawl, but the worse was yet to come. We find Gordon being stripped naked and Joker tries to make him go mad by sending him through an old carnival ride with pictures of his daughter plastered everywhere on the screens. The storyline seemed like something Joker could and would do. Visually the artist made it so you could not turn away though the colors used and the use of light and dark throughout the scenes. Honestly, I could have done without that part but, for the shock, they were going for in the story they nailed it.

The Killing Joke was an interesting take on Joker. I didn’t find this idea of his backstory very believable considering how intelligent he is. It was an intriguing story and the use of color, and sometimes lack of color pulled you in or directed your attention to a specific area first. It may be something I look into later on down the road.

Joyride-A not so pleasant ride after all

So far this semester we have read some interesting books, but Joyride takes the cake. Jack Ketchum takes you on a ride deep into the mind of no So far this semester we have read some interesting books, but Joyride takes the cake. Jack Ketchum takes you on a ride deep into the mind of not only a psychopath but also his victims.

Most of the time when you read a story that has someone committing a murder we don’t get to learn much about the victim. The detectives or the murderer will reveal a little bit, but that’s it. Jack Ketchum did something that so far I have not seen in a book, and that is to introduce us the thoughts and dreams of the victim right before they died. He took the adage that your life will flash before your eyes and made it real. In doing this, it causes us to feel more for the victim and even connect with them. There were a few cases where I could identify with the person on the receiving end of Wayne’s (psychopath/murderer) rage. If we can sympathize with the poor soul, who is about to die then their death has more of an impact on us as the reader. As I was finishing the story, I had to make sure to watch something funny, so I could clear my mind and not have to worry about the possibility of messed up dreams.

Teachers and writers warn us that when we write our stories to be careful switching between too many points of view with the characters. This is understandable because a story can become muddy or jumbled with too many voices trying to be the focus. In the beginning, I was a tad confused as to whose head we were in, but once I recognized the thought process of each character, the story became a breeze. I would have stayed a little longer in each person’s voice before I started to blend them to give the reader enough time to figure out who was talking.

This story was a fast read. There was a conflict right at the very beginning when Wayne and his girl Susan fought after he tried to choke her during sex. After Susan storms off and leaves Wayne in the woods, I wondered what was next. The set up was of course for Wayne to watch Carole and her boyfriend Lee murder her ex-husband. At that moment, we got a real taste for how far gone Wayne was. His obsession with Carole and Lee keeps the moment of the story going. Wayne was the force that drove the story forward and kept the middle of the story from hitting that dreaded lull all writers fear. There was so much going on that you wanted to keep turning the page up until almost the very end. The story lost its momentum after the police rescued Carole from Wayne’s house. But, it was necessary because the joyride was over and it was time to tie up loose ends and close the story.

In most books I’ve read the cop is happy that they found the person committing the crimes. I have not come across many books where the detective thought that he was like the killer. This story was different in the end. Detective Rule has finally come full circle with his inner demons. His wife left him because he was never there. He goes so far to say to his psychiatrist that he and Wayne are just alike in that they destroy things. But, his psychiatrist points out that Rule tries to stop what is terrible and protects what is good through whatever means necessary and that separates him from the monsters in the world.