Friday, October 30, 2015

Edgar Allan Poe-America's Pocket Author

Edgar Allan Poe often began his stories with epigrams, often in other languages. He also liked to throw into his text foreign words, phrases, and sayings. So I'll begin today with a word from another language, carina. It's an Italian word and it means cute. The root of the word is cara--dear or beloved. The suffix -ina makes it diminutive, thus carina, literally, little dear or little beloved. Carina and Cara (or Kara, my niece's name) have passed into our language as girl's names. They are lovely names and carry lovely sentiments, but I would expect nothing less from Italy and its wonderful people.

So it occurs to me that Edgar Allan Poe is America's pocket author. What do I mean by that? Well, he wrote stories and poems that have been collected in pocket editions--you can see some examples below--but that's not exactly it. What I mean is that Poe is America's little beloved author. Maybe beloved isn't quite the right word. Treasured might be closer to the truth. He wrote little works--short stories and poems--that we have taken to our hearts in a way that seems to me unique. Charles Brockden Brown is too remote. His works are too large and perhaps too flawed. Washington Irving is a beloved author, too, but for only a couple of stories. Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson are admired by many, but they were writers of non-fiction. They don't quite capture the imagination. Nathaniel Hawthorne and Herman Melville are too dark, dense, and weighty. Mark Twain is beloved but too big and expansive, and perhaps too cynical and biting. Louisa May Alcott and Willa Cather are also beloved. My √Āntonia is one of the most beautiful books I have ever read I think. Both are known for their novels, however. Bret Harte, Stephen Crane, and Ambrose Bierce might be candidates for America's pocket author, but they don't quite make it. None is especially beloved. I can't even imagine saying "the beloved author Ambrose Bierce." That leaves Emily Dickinson, also a  little author and perhaps Poe's main rival for the title. By the time you get to the twentieth century, there aren't many authors from which to choose. Ernest Hemingway and J.D. Salinger wrote some fine short works, but even they can't match Poe. I guess what I'm getting at, too, is that Poe is beloved or treasured by children. He might be the first serious American author whom children read and learn to recognize. He might be the first they search out. That counts for a lot. Maybe they see something in him with which they can identify, a childlike quality, an appeal to the young heart, mind, and imagination, or an author who wrote romantic expressions of love, fear, and tragedy. Maybe that's why there have been so many little books made of his stories and poems. Anyway, here are some covers of carina books from my collection. Happy Halloween to all readers of weird tales!

Eight Tales of Terror (Scholastic, 1961, 1972). This book and the book below are in the small mass-market paperback format, small enough to fit in your pocket.

Ten Great Mysteries (Scholastic, 1960, 1970).

The Raven and Other Selections (Fleming H. Revell Company, 1967), a small hardbound edition.

Visions of Darkness (Hallmark Editions, 1971), another small hardback.

Tales of Edgar Allan Poe (Whitman, 1972). This book isn't quite pocket-sized, but it is a book intended for children.

Three Tales of Horror (Penguin, 1995), which includes stories by Poe, Bierce, and Robert Louis Stevenson. This is a very small paperback and one of a series. The cover art is by Goya.

Note: Click on the authors in bold for links.
Text copyright 2015 Terence E. Hanley


  1. My "go-to" EAP paperback is a 5th printing, October 1962 edition of Washington Square Press' "Great Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe". I bought it as a teenager in a used bookstore in Santa Barbara, CA and was at once captivated by the writings of the master. It's a bit faded and yellowed, but the binding is still tight and remains a serviceable copy. My bookmark? Why, a quartet of USPS 3-cent EAP postage stamps, of course!

    1. Thanks for the contribution, John. I knew when I wrote my article that there are far more small volumes of Poe's stories and poems, but I just wanted to show some from my own library. Probably every fan of mystery and terror has his or her own favorite. Thanks for writing.