Reading Edgar Allan Poe and other classic literature

In my junior year of high school, I took Honors English. During that year and during half of my senior year when I was also in Honors English, I read many stories and authors that, due to my short attention span, I was not able to really absorb what I read. Among those stories and novels: The Great Gatsby, A Separate Peace, Beowulf, Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Villette. I have since been preparing to gear up to re-read these stories.

Interestingly enough, I enjoyed reading Robinson Crusoe, Huckleberry Finn, Jane Eyre, To Kill a Mockingbird and even Great Expectations. I also read, for a book report, George Orwell’s A Clergyman’s Daughter and enjoyed that one also.

And, so, last night, I read Edgar Allan Poe’s short story The Fall of the House of Usher.

After I bore down, I surprised myself and finished reading it in about two hours.

I find Poe’s autobiography very fascinating, but his writing style is definitely a complicated acquired taste. For me, it’s a lesson in strengthening my reading skills to understand and appreciate classic literature.

Poe’s style is to occasionally throw in French and Latin terms (such as Edmund Morris did in an annoying frequency in his authorized biography of President Ronald Reagan). He also uses words I’ve never heard of, perhaps words that were commonly used at the time but have fallen into disuse among modern English readers.

As for Usher, here’s what I understood: a man rides to a bleak, ominous mansion and spends time with an old friend whom he’s not seen in many years. What we learn of the Ushers suggests to me that incest has taken place within the family. The old friend’s sister dies and is buried in the wall. But, as the two men read stories and encounter one about a woman buried alive, they realize that the sister has also been buried alive.

And then, as the storyteller leaves the mansion, it collapses.

Yes, I will definitely have to re-read this again someday. While, admittedly, Poe’s writing style is far from my favorite, I suspect it’s the first step towards one of my biggest goals in life: becoming a well-read person.

Richard Zowie is a writer who believes a day should not go by without exercising his fingers on his keyboard. Post comments here or e-mail Richard at richardzowie@gmail.com.

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Poems on pens, style, clouds, a pretty lady, odes and wisdom

9-18-2011 — Drums and Pens

In a magazine
I saw an
Elaborate
Drum kit.
Only two hands and two legs
Yet so many
Drums,
Cymbals and hi-hat.
What drums, cymbals, kick drums, hi-hat.
Why, how they are used
Depend on
The song, the tempo.
I have
Black, blue, red, purple
Papermate Profits, Silhouette Elites, 300 RTs
Zebras
And a few Parkers.
Waht, which, how, when, why
Depends on
What’s being written, how, why
And, sometimes,
It’s all up to my mood.

9-21-2011 S.E. Hinton and 60s to 70s style

When S.E. Hinton wrote
That Was Then, This Is Now,
And observed
Greasers combing their hair over their foreheads
And Socs dressing to look poor,
For me,
This 1971 observation
Captured
The transition
Of 1960s
To 1970s Style.

9-22-2011 — Dirty Clouds

Dirty billows of cotton
Fill the blue sky
How they must be having fun
As they slowly float by
Not a care in the world
Atop the world
As they look at us and observe
They lack the nerve
To leave their home
And among us roam.

9-25-2011 — The Beautiful, Unhappy Woman

The thin,
Curly blond-haired,
Blue-gray-eyed
5’5″-ish
Beautiful woman
Asks for cigarettes
Her once-medium-high voice
Now a little hoarse,
Gravelly, upper range.
She wears a ring
And her eyes
Avoid her smile.
Sometimes I wonder
If smoking
Is the result
Of that piece of metal she wears
And
Of the eyes that won’t smile.

9-25-2011 — Ode to the Ode

You always work so hard
Paying homage to others.
Now,
It’s time
For you to be recognized
I honor you, Ode.
Enjoy.

9-25-2011 — Chinese and American Wisdom

In the land called
中国,
A wise person once observed:
“Failure is the mother of success.”
Fast forward a millennia or so.
In the land called America
(Or, in 中文, 美国)
A somewhat wise writer said:
“Life is a chess match.
“Always think at least
“Ten moves ahead
“When making important decisions.”

Post comments here or e-mail them to richardzowie@gmail.com.

Reading classical literature

Someday, I would love to return to college and add to an English degree to my history degree. Lord willing, I would even love to get a master’s degree. It sounds very pleasurable: find an area of literature that really fascinates me and specialize in that and go into it in-depth.

Starting on that path, I think it’s time I broke open English and American Literature anthologies I’ve accumulated and read them. Take notes. Get a heads-up should the day ever come that I return to college.

I have thought about this lately as I have decided to take somewhat a break from reading modern fiction. This year I’ve read several novels the latest was an attempt to read Stephen King’s The Dark Half. Yes, normally, I like reading King, but I found the villain in this novel a little too holier-than-thou and found it difficult to imagine him really making his way past hardened law enforcement officers as if they were police academy washouts.

So, soon I shall start reading selected readings from American literature until I can find my English lit anthology. Eventually, I will probably even read translated classics in other languages, such as Russian.

Richard Zowie tries to stay busy in his writing life and believes it’s far better to be busy than unemployed. Post comments here or e-mail him at richardzowie@gmail.com.

The simplicity of Hebrew

hebrew

Or, as Hebrew-speaking people in Israel and other countries call their language, עברית.

I spoke to a friend last night, a friend I count as a mentor and as one of the brothers I never had (yes, I love my three sisters dearly, but I miss never having had a brother). Howard told me about his studies in Hebrew and how it’s actually a very simplistic language.

Note, he said simplistic, which doesn’t necessarily mean easy.

Howard, who’s fluent in sign language, said Hebrew is very similar to signing. Both languages omit needless words and tend to be direct. He gave as an example how they’d say the phrase “I’m going to the store”: “I go store”.

Some languages tend to be more complicated, but only because they’re specific. In Russian, for example, saying “I’m going to the store” depends on a few factors. Are you walking, running, biking, driving, flying or boating to the store? Are you going in the direction of the store, going to the store, emphasizing the location of the store?

Almost done with my Writer’s Digest assignment

writersdigest

I’ve gone through twenty or so drafts in my 750-word assignment for Writer’s Digest. The assignment is about a woman allowed to travel through time to change one thing she regrets. It’s been an interesting experience: using the Strunk and White adage of omitting useless words.

I’m basing the story on where I went to college, Pensacola Christian College. Some of the characters in the story are based on people I knew, but upon advice from my creative consultant, the lovely Mrs. Zowie, I have changed the names. Nothing bad, though.

Hard to believe I finished at PCC in 1995. Seems like a lifetime ago. I started off there as a commercial writing major but changed to history with an English minor. I wrongly thought at the time I didn’t need a major with so much graphic design. If I had to do it over again at PCC, I would’ve double majored in English and commercial writing.