Thursday, January 24, 2013
Woe Is Poe: The TV Show 'The Following" Loses Its Literary Grip
Poor Poe. Carolyn Kellogg at the Los Angeles Times points out that Edgar Allan Poe is maligned in the new TV show The Following.
Woe to Edgar Allan Poe. In life, the writer was ill-served by fortune: orphaned as a toddler, an indebted college dropout, Poe moved often, usually to dodge creditors. His beloved wife (and, um, first cousin) died in the Bronx at age 24; two years later Poe himself was dead. The circumstances of his death remain mysterious -- the 40-year-old left Richmond, Va., en route to Philadelphia and turned up five days later at a pub in Baltimore, where he was delirious, wearing someone else's clothes and was at the end of a deathly bender or something else that drove him into the arms of the grim reaper.
Yes, his stories were dark. Characters are buried alive, blackmailed, overwhelmed by guilt; they exact revenge and try and fail to escape fate; they are tortured and even murdered.
What is not in any of his work: A serial killer. Or a death cult.
So, to "The Following." In the show, Kevin Bacon is former FBI agent Randy Hardy, who locked up an English professor-turned-serial killer. The professor, Joe Carroll (played by James Purefoy) was a Poe expert.
By some twist of logic, we're meant to believe his Poe expertise led him to slaughter comely co-eds in a dorm. But... that's so un-Poe! In "The Murder in the Rue Morgue," sometimes called the first detective story, we're on the side of the investigator, not the criminal. When we're meant to observe the creepy gothic horror of his stories, it's the sense of inevitability or fate that gives the reader a frisson, not the gore: someone is buried alive, or dissolves in a moment.
You can read the rest of the piece via the below link:
Note: I agree with Carolyn Kellogg, and I think The Following sort of rips off Michael Connelly's The Poet and Thomas Harris' Red Dragon.
Yet despite its failings, I still liked the TV show. Kevin Bacon is very good and so is James Purefoy an the supporting cast.
The above photo by Sarah Shatz/Fox show Kevin Bacon at the scene of the crime.
You can read about Poe in an earlier post via the below link: