The Big Read, the monthlong celebration of Edgar Allan Poe, begins today. Here are 25 things worth celebrating, remembering or thinking about.
Just don't let it keep you up at night.
1. He was the original Goth - and he didn't have to wear guyliner to prove it.
2. His tortured characters wouldn't think so, but Poe had a brilliant sense of humor. Not like, say, Jay and Conan, but more like Johnny Depp's dark and flirtatious character interpretations in "Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street," "Sleepy Hollow" and "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." Depp does wear guyliner, though.
3. If his tales were - please, bear with me - a scoop of ice cream, then death was what kept the flavorful treat cold. You can't have Poe without death, and what good is room-temperature ice cream?
4. What was the cause of Poe's death on Oct. 7, 1849? Congestion of the brain? A broken heart? Alcohol? Murder? Of course, his death would be a mystery.
5. Poe's mother, an actress, performed frequently in Charleston.
6. At 18, Poe took a post as a private at Fort Moultrie on Sullivan's Island, and his tale, "The Gold Bug," is set on the island.
7. Poe's Tavern in Sullivan's Island has food named after Poe's popular stories.
8. The Baltimore Ravens' defense is to low rushing statistics for running backs what "The Raven" is to night lights.
9. Poe married his first cousin, Virginia Clemm, in 1836.
10. Poe has inspired at least one rapper: Edgar Allen Floe co-opted the poet's name. Listening to Floe's music is another example that hip-hop can be poetic.
11. Like hip-hop heads, Poe was into lyrics. In "The Fall of the House of Usher," he spends two pages on song lyrics. What was the purpose? Was it just in his head?
12. Music is all about sound. Read the poem "Annabel Lee" and listen. You'll hear - and feel and smell - the ocean.
13. "The Pit and the Pendulum" has MacGyver-like ingenuity. The question answered: How do I get these rats to chew through these straps? Jason Bourne wouldn't have thought of an answer.
14. Who said this?: "I would give the world to embody one half the ideas afloat in my imagination." You have but one guess to score /Get it wrong / And you will be nevermore.
15. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow is revered as one of the most lyrically gifted poets. Poe accused Longfellow of plagiarism.
16. Brandon Lee quotes from "The Raven" in "The Crow." Lee died while filming the movie in which he played a dead character. Very Poetian.
17. Poe's image was once used to sell beer. Perhaps people will start using his image as their Twitter avatar, not that tweets and brews are mutually exclusive.
18. Who said this?: "All that we see or seem is but a dream within a dream." You shouldn't need to guess.
19. The Edgars are the awards arm of the Mystery Writers of America, the leading association for professional crime writers.
20. Speaking of crime fighting, since "Sherlock Holmes," starring Robert Downey Jr., will be released this year, shouldn't there be a biopic on Poe's life? (Or a movie on Poe's detective, C. Auguste Dupin?) Who could play a writer whose wild imagination led those who knew him to think he was perpetually hallucinating? Perhaps Johnny Depp.
21. There is a such a thing as a Poe Toaster. No, it doesn't char toast. Rather, it's someone who toasts Poe's original grave marker every Jan. 19, his birth date, with cognac and three roses.
22. The Edgar Allan Poe House and Museum in Baltimore is always open for visitors. You can put your ear to the floor and see if you can hear a beating heart. But that would be like saying Candyman three times in a mirror.
23. Poe was interested in cryptography, the process of hiding information. Maybe that's why there are so many Poe scholars still searching for clues in his work.
24. If there ever was a need for music to accompany a program on Poe, presenters would be wise to tap Telltale, the New York band that features Columbia native Lauren Andino. The music is dark and made for dreams that extend into nightmares.
25. Poe's obituary, which first appeared in the New York Tribune, read, "Edgar Allan Poe is dead. He died in Baltimore the day before yesterday. This announcement will startle many, but few will be grieved by it." It was written by Rufus Griswold, a literary enemy of Poe's. More than 150 years later, Griswold has been proven wrong. Poe must still be ghoulishly laughing.
- Otis R. Taylor Jr.