Thursday, September 11, 2014

Book Review: Ghost Stories of Old New Orleans, by Jean deLavigne

First published in 1946, Jeanne deLavigne's excellent "Ghost Stories of Old New Orleans" fell out of print for a long while. In 2013, the Louisiana State University Press remedied that with a new edition, including a foreword by folklorist and LSU Professor Emeritus of English Frank de Caro. As de Caro accurately says of the 40 stories collected in this book, deLavigne "...gave her legends a literary twist, and the tales in [the book] read like literary stories." All of these genuinely eerie (and allegedly true) ghost stories brim with fully developed characters, intricate plots, intimate settings, and great attention to historical detail. The world is full of books of ghost stories, but very few of them are well-written enough to qualify as literature. This one does. (Note: Like all art, this book is a product of its place and time -- readers offended by occasional racial or ethnic slurs might not enjoy this collection.)

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Book Review: Edgar Allan Poe: The Fever Called Living, by Paul Collins

For those interested in a brief and well-written biography of the man, author Paul Collins' "Edgar Allan Poe: The Fever Called Living" is a perfect place to start. At less than 120 pages (including a few pages of Notes and recommendations for additional reading), the book's five engaging chapters fly by quickly. By his own admission, this book adds little "unusual or even unique" material to the subject of Poe's often calamitous life, and his strange death, but that's no discredit to Collins -- as one of America's most beloved authors and the widely-acknowledged inventor of the modern detective story, there's already a voluminous trove of scholarly information available about Poe and his work. However, any reader keener to wade rather than drown in Poe's murky pool will be glad for Collins' book.