Yesterday's News

By Scott Snyder

I was in sixth grade the first time I produced a piece of writing I was happy with, and it was a Halloween story. It didn't have a plot, really, just some sixth-grade spook stuff -- shadowy images and faint-shaded spectres. I read the story to my English class in a darkened Lang Arts classroom, by candlelight. I remember that, when I had finished, and I had blown out the candle, the room was silent for a moment -- a tense, satisfying hush, unbroken by the prepubescent tittering I was accustomed to.

I have liked candles ever since, and I write about them often. They are romantic and ominous, softening and shadowing what they illuminate. Light your subject in the blue flicker of the Late Show, and it becomes diseased and pallid. Cast it in the chiaroscuro of candlelight, and it's seductive, or mystical -- whispered beneath sheets, or from the frightful darkness under the bed.

In have misgivings about writing for the Internet. I'm not sure how comfortable my work is in the monitor's glare; I fret that screenlight will be unkind to me. I have tried lighting candles next to the monitor. It doesn't help.

I have a friend, an English teacher, who insists that computers will destroy the spirit of our literature. The spines of the classics can't bear the load of circuitry, he says. I don't think I agree with that. But I do worry about the things that phone lines won't convey. I worry about the seductive and the mystical; I'm afraid my faint-shaded spectres may have trouble making the rent.

Most of the works of Poe are available on the Web, but I can't recommend them that way. A Netscape window won't do them justice. Go find the book, and read it by candlelight, curled on your couch. Poe would've prefered that, I think.

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