My thoughts on “The Raven”

The RavenLast night, I watched The Raven on DVD.

It’s no secret that I like the work of actor John Cusack, who wore the character of Edgar Allen Poe as if it were a second skin. I’ve enjoyed a number of Cusack’s films, everything from rom-coms Must Love Dogs, Say Anything and Serendipity, to thrillers like Identity and 1408, to the odd and quirkier movies, such as Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and Martian Child.

The Raven was a mystery-thriller-love story, filled with blood and gore. But, based on the works of Poe, really, how could it have been anything else? As I watched, though, I connected with this story on a level that I think is only possible when one writer observes incidents that occurred (or could have occurred) in the life of another.

Now, do I rank myself as an author with the status of Poe? Hardly. But his work was considered part of the ‘pulp fiction’ of his day, much like horror, sci-fi, romances and mysteries are today.

The Raven portrays Poe’s understanding that he was forever subject to the vagaries of newspaper editors, critics, and his readers, who consumed his stories with a rapid and morbid interest one minute while considering him capable of serial murder the next. Poe also knew that his own dark thoughts had never translated into dark actions, but he still felt responsible when what he’d written prompted an evil mind to carry out the plots of his murders on real victims.

I can identify with this. I haven’t plotted many murders in my stories, nor do I have any plans to…at the moment. But one thing that all writers need to be cognizant of is that the printed word, on paper or on a computer screen, has the power to touch others.

Are we, as writers, responsible for the actions of our readers? No, of course not. But when we see how the 50 Shades trilogy has sparked a mini-baby-boom, don’t we have to wonder?

Or, to paraphrase Poe (the character) in The Raven, “If I’d known my work would have such an effect on my readers, I would have paid more attention to eroticism.”

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