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Paper #1 I ask a simple question, why do you like to read Edgar Allan Poe stories and poems? You are going to give a simple answer along the lines of, “I like dark stories” or “he is my favorite writer”. That however, doesn’t truly answer my question of why. We all have a personal literary aesthetic, what we enjoy reading and what we don’t. What makes for a good read? A bad read? We all as readers have differing opinions on these concepts. I would like to discuss my personal literary aesthetic, addressing what’s of literary quality and what isn’t, what I consider good and what I consider bad, and what’s worth reading and what isn’t. There are many characteristics of what I consider good work. There are the basics such as grammar, good plot, good characters, language, etc. Then there are the particular things about the stories that I read that either enticed me or deterred me from reading further, which I will mention as I go through the different types of reading materials. The first thing I would like to discuss is what I consider of literary quality and a pleasure to read. Edgar Allan Poe's work is something I find pleasurable and it has great literary quality. I find his work pleasurable because it delves into the psychologically dark recesses of our minds and forces us to think about the dark side of humanity. I find this interesting because we all would like to think we would never do the things the characters in Poe’s work would do, but when you really think about it you may be surprised. Poe has an ability to wind the reader up with his writing and make you feel just as tense as the situation your reading. For example, in the Tell Tale Heart the narrator is attempting to spy on the old man without waking him and he manages to make you feel like you’re there with the narrator moving an inch at a time being completely silent “I proceeded-with what caution-I went to work. I turned the latch of his door and opened it-oh so gently” (Poe pg. 312). There is an entire paragraph describing how stealthily he spies, making you feel nervous for him and involving you in the process making you feel tense hoping he won’t wake the man. Poe invokes this feeling just by his style of writing and the way he makes the story build and flow seamlessly. Poe is a literary genius; he meets all the basic requirements but the particular reason I believe this is, because he understands the society he writes to and what pleases them but, he doesn’t actually sell out and write exactly what pleases them. The stories may have pleased his audience back then but only because he fooled them into thinking exactly that. For example in How to Write a Blackwood Article and The Predicament people thought he was writing exactly what society craved in exactly the format they expected but there is so much more to it. Society read his work and saw what they wanted, but if you look, really look; you will see the satirical mocking humor of Poe adding his own spin to the otherwise formulaic story. Poe mocks the idea that successful stories can be written in such a way, they come out preposterous and impossible like The Predicament. There may be a formula to how Poe writes, evident by his explanation of how he writes The Raven, but it’s his own process, simple though it may be, and it works for him by producing beautiful, dark, twisted works of literature. The Hidden Hand by Southworth is also a pleasant read. I really enjoyed reading this story; it was fast paced, tense and entertaining. I liked the humor and sassiness of the characters they made me laugh and who doesn’t like to laugh at the things they read? I find The Hidden Hand to be of good literary quality. It was well written, it meet all the basic requirements of good literature; good characters, plot and language. But the thing that enticed me was how it kept me wanting to know more. I had to know the next thing that happened. This ploy works because this story was originally serialized and the point was to make you want to get the next installment. Southworth has a way of leaving you hanging at the end of a section that just infuriates you and makes you love it all at the same time. One of the best examples is where Old Hurricane finds out its Marah Rocke he has agreed to help at the very end of chapter six “A horrible laugh of scorn was his only answer as Old Hurricane arose, shook himself and led the way back to the parlor” (Southworth chpt. 6). We know how happy Marah is about this good fortune and we anticipate what is going to happen next. We also wonder if poor Marah is going to be devastated or if Hurricane is going to change his mind. Southworth does this sort of leave off at the end of almost every chapter and it’s highly effective. There are many things a person reads daily that may not be of literary quality but we still enjoy reading them regardless of how quality poor they are. My biggest vice is reading “dime novels” or cheap romance novels like the Harlequin novels. I shamefacedly enjoy reading these books any chance I get because I enjoy the “fated encounters” the description of the “spark of lust at first sight”, the moment of realization that the man can’t live without the woman or vice-versa, and finally the big moment where the confession of love is made and there has to be a choice, which is neatly tied up in a happily ever after bow. This is where I close the book with a little smile hating impossible happy endings but deep down loving them anyway. These books are completely unrealistic and very formulaic but I fall for them every time. I get obsessed with reading and getting to the end, knowing full well what it’s going to be. These books are written much like Nancy Drew novels; by several different people all over the country contributing certain parts till you have a finished product. There is no depth to the story it’s as shallow as you can get. I find that these novels have more grammar, spelling and structure problems because they aren’t meant to be great works of fiction they are meant to be cheap entertainment, not thought provoking complex works. Through school we all have had that one novel that we absolutely hated to read and had to be bribed into reading. For me that book was Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemingway in high school. I abhorred everything about that book because it was by far the most boring pointless thing I had ever read. The basic story is, an poor, old man fishes in the ocean, catches a swordfish, wrestles it for days, brings it back to shore only to find it had been eaten by sharks, and everyone goes back to normal life. It was sheer torture having to read that book because I had never read anything so boring and pointless. However, if you look deep enough you see the understory of religious symbols, life and death representation, and all the many other symbols but the main story is not enough to keep me interested, even the action filled moments at sea bored me to tears. Hemingway is supposedly one of the greatest writers of all time, his work is supposedly of literary value and it can be if you try hard enough to find it. I do not disagree that his work is valuable but you can only find the value if you are willing to tear the novel apart to find this whole other realm of possibilities and meanings. There is meaning behind everything Hemingway writes and he has a beautiful style of writing and he has a way of creating an image in your head with his vivid descriptions. However, I get no pleasure from reading his work because it takes so much effort to find the value in what he writes. If he could write a story rife with biblical references anything similar to my favorite novel Tess of The D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy, I would find his work to not only be of literary quality but fun to read as well. Finally we come to the kind of things we read that are of no literary quality and are not good reads. The things that I find to be of the lowest literary quality and they are pointless to read are magazines, particularly teen magazines. They are completely shallow works all about celebrity gossip and the newest fashions, not to mention the ridiculous quizzes. There is no true value in the quizzes other than to kill time. The celebrity news is who is in a relationship, who smoked what etc. They are gossipy observations with no opinions, few facts, and nothing deeper than what designer you’re wearing to the Kids Choice Awards. I am completely incapable of seeing how these teen magazines make so much money for the crap they write, but it just proves how shallow the audience is they sell to. There is no literary value in these particular magazines because you’re guaranteed to find grammar/structure mistakes, there are no themes or symbols to speak of and there is nothing to keep me, personally interested. I don’t enjoy reading these magazines because the information provided is of no importance in the grand scheme of things. Strictly speaking I have an interesting literary aesthetic. I enjoy reading things that many people do not and I find many things horrendous to read that many people enjoy. My daily aesthetic changes depending on my mood, one day I may prefer mysteries to romance because I’m feeling partial to the literary and pleasure value of a good mystery novel. What you find of literary quality is a subjective concept, my concept represents the basic structure of a work as well as that something particular that makes it of value to me. It might simply be the style of writing or the way I get strung along like in The Hidden Hand that makes it of value to me.

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