I don't tend to read short stories. I know this is a personal failing. But I think it's because I've never shaken my childhood view: a book should let me lose myself in another world. Preferably for a long time. A single story won't do that. Even now, if I read short stories, it's usually as part of a linked collection.
As a child, even though I preferred nice long books, I would make do with whatever was at hand. The family joked that I could get lost reading the cereal boxes at breakfast. On family vacations, I always "had my nose in a book"...even when it made me carsick. "Look out the window" they'd say, exasperated. But I always preferred my inner journeys.
Don't misunderstand: my parents valued books. A lot. They just thought I overdid it. I'm sure they wondered why I felt the need to escape my surroundings with such regularity.
Their concerns didn't stop them from feeding my obsession. I always received books as gifts. Often they were a little over my head.
That's why I spent one Christmas break lost in the dark stories of Edgar Allan Poe.
I was probably 10, maybe 11. I can still picture the book. Satisfyingly thick. A two-tone hardbound cover, black and grey. An embossed raven. I thought I still had it, but I've just searched the bookshelves and can't find it. That saddens me.
Poe was heady stuff. Macabre. Scary. I remember some of my favorite stories. The Pit and the Pendulum. The Tell Tale Heart. The Premature Burial. I was both fascinated and repelled. I couldn't turn away.
The Collected Stories of Edgar Allan Poe may have been one of my first "adult" books. Even though I never developed a taste for short stories or for speculative fiction (a genre Poe invented) I have always read mysteries (he's considered the inventor of that one, too.)
I only discovered in the last few years that Poe and I share a birthday, January 19. I just celebrated mine with a trip to New Orleans.
Happy belated birthday, Edgar.
Causes Blair Kilpatrick Supports
Louisiana Folk Roots, National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, Habitat for Humanity/Musician's Village New Orleans, Doctors Without Borders