Tuesday, January 13, 2009

People I Want To Kill

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. The poet was well known personally or by reputation, in all this country. He had readers in England and in several states of Continental Europe. But he had few or no friends. The regrets for his death will be suggested principally by the consideration that in him literary art lost one of its most brilliant, but erratic stars.
Irascible, envious, bad enough, but not the worst, for these salient angles were all varnished over with a cold repellent cynicism while his passions vented themselves in sneers. There seemed to him no moral susceptibility. And what was more remarkable in a proud nature, little or nothing of the true point of honor. He had, to a morbid excess, that desire to rise which is vulgarly called ambition, but no wish for the esteem or the love of his species, only the hard wish to succeed, not shine, not serve, but succeed, that he might have the right to despise a world which galled his self-conceit.

These passages are from an obituary written by one of Poe's rivals, Rufus Griswold, under a pseudonym. (Read the whole thing here.) We all have people like this in our lives, people who will say nasty things about us when we're gone if they don't get to the grave first... in which case, we'll be happy to badmouth them. Edgar Allan Poe had more to most, and it's probably one of the reasons bloody and gruesome revenge was such a strong theme in his work.

Revenge! The thought excites me (as a writer, of course). Without even straining memory, I quickly jotted down a list of more than a dozen people I'd like to give the "Amontillado treatment." It wasn't hard. In a way I've been compiling this list my whole life. I think I'll cut it down to a nice tight group... and do a thorough job. In the next couple of weeks I'll be posting tales, nonfiction pieces, and other media. And each one will be inspired in some way by a real person, someone I do not like at all.


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