On Tour with Annabel Lee: The Story of a Woman, Written By Herself by Christopher Conlon and Meet the Author

This is one of those books I advise you to get because I won’t be reading it–meaning, I think is that good.

The book is Annabel Lee: The Story of a Woman, Written By Herself by Christopher Conlon, a Historical Gothic.

Everybody knows Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee”—but who was she really? In this haunting and evocative novel, Christopher Conlon (“one of the preeminent names in contemporary literary horror”—Booklist) imagines a life for one of literature’s most renowned characters. Hers is a chronicle even more thrilling, doom-haunted, and tragic than Poe himself could have conceived, for here Annabel Lee tells her own story in her own words…for the first time.

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I heard Mrs. Krasnoff cry out. One of the men shouted. I rushed to Mother. It all happened in an instant—she whirled to face me and I saw the knife plunge down in a flash. A indescribable pain erupted in my shoulder, between my collarbone and the base of my neck, like nothing I had ever felt. I heard screaming and knew it was my mother’s. I knew also that as quickly as the knife had sunk into my flesh it had been pulled clear again. The world tilted. I felt myself falling—saw blood flowing across my shoulder and chest—I collapsed onto the floor. The pain immediately became something more akin to a numbness, a strange lack of feeling, as if I were disconnecting from my body and looking down upon it as a separate being. I felt that I was part of another world even as I was there, on the floor, with my eyes open, watching as the men rushed at my mother. There was the sound of glass shattering as she hurled the doctor away and his back crashed into a kitchen window. Sheriff Wyre reached for the knife in her hand, but was a moment too late. She plunged it into her own heart—deeply, I saw—more deeply than I would have imagined possible, so deeply that nothing but the knife handle could be seen, the knife handle in her hand now covered in a copious, flowing river of blood. There was a terrible silence as Sheriff Wyre backed away in shock and all expression died out of my mother’s eyes and she fell forward, the knife being plunged ever more deeply her body as she collapsed onto the floor directly beside me, her empty and now lifeless eyes only inches from my own. I heard screaming then, but whose it was I did not know. The sound seemed to fade away and I heard it as from far away, down a long empty canyon. The world darkened as I heard hurried shufflings around me, felt hands touching and pressing around my neck. I could not move. I stared helplessly into my mother’s dead eyes and the world turned white—then gray—then black.

I believe that at that moment I died. The sounds around me were remote and I felt myself suddenly dematerialize—become lighter than air—float free—and somehow was witnessing the scene from above: Mrs. Krasnoff rushing to us with towels in her hands, the doctor frantically applying the towels to me and trying to stanch the flow of blood, the sheriff asking, “Do I take it out? Do I?” and the doctor saying, “Yes, yes,” and the sheriff wrenching the knife from my mother’s heart, blood burbling forth then as from a cauldron, soaking her nightgown, his hands, the floor, my dress and hair. Then higher—as if I were suspended in the sky now, past the ceiling and roof, looking down at the top of the house which was now somehow transparent, and seeing them working desperately to save us, or rather to save me—I saw the sheriff give up on Mother and turn his attention to the doctor and his young emergency patient. They worked and worked and somehow, though I was far above in the sky, I felt them maneuvering my body this way and that, felt the hard press of the towel against my neck, heard the doctor say, “Annabel, are you there? Can you hear me, child? Try to respond. Can you speak? Can you squeeze my hand?” And just then I realized that my left hand was within the doctor’s big palm and I slowly forced movement through my fingers, enough that he said, “She is alive. Keep the pressure on the wound, sheriff. Hold it as tightly as you can. Mrs. Krasnoff, more towels, please, or cloth, whatever you can find. And water.” After a moment, more quietly, “I think her artery is all right. If that is so, she may live. She may just live.”

About the Author

Christopher Conlon (b. 1962) is best known as the editor of the Bram Stoker Award-winning anthology “He Is Legend” (Gauntlet/Tor), a tribute to author Richard Matheson which was reprinted by the Science Fiction Book Club and in multiple foreign translations. His novel “Savaging the Dark” was included in Booklist’s “Top Ten: Horror” for 2015 (starred review) and acclaimed by Paste Magazine both as one of the 21 Best Horror Books of the 21st Century and as one of the 50 Best Horror Novels of All Time. Two of his earlier novels, “Midnight on Mourn Street” and “A Matrix of Angels,” were finalists for the Stoker Award, and he has written numerous collections of stories and poems along with two full-length stage plays. A former Peace Corps Volunteer, Conlon holds an M.A. in American Literature from the University of Maryland and lives in the Washington, DC area.

I and My Annabel Lee

by Christopher Conlon

copyright 2019 by Christopher Conlon

“You mean the Annabel Lee?”

I’ve received this response several times now after telling people that the title of my newest novel is Annabel Lee (with the subtitle The Story of a Woman, Written by Herself). Almost everyone has encountered the poem by Edgar Allan Poe at some point, most typically in school. It’s a basic American classic, with its wonderfully lilting language and storyline of aching romantic doom. The narrator and his girlfriend Annabel surely stand as one of the great Gothic couples, alongside other such passionate lovers of the period as Heathcliff and Catherine of Wuthering Heights and Rochester and Jane of Jane Eyre. Why tinker with a masterpiece?

What occurred to me in thinking recently about “Annabel Lee”—which I first read and loved as a child—is that, for all its unforgettable imagery and emotion, the reader never experiences a single moment of the poem from Annabel’s own point of view. The entire piece is narrated by the nameless young man who tells us that they “loved with a love that was more than love,” but he alone defines this; Annabel’s own thoughts and feelings are never given voice at all. We know what he says about her and their relationship; but what might she have said?

My novel sets out to answer that question, and in so doing goes into some strange and unexpected places—including an appearance from Mr. Poe himself. How successful my imaginings are, of course, is for the reader to decide….

Annabel Lee

By Edgar Allan Poe

It was many and many a year ago,

   In a kingdom by the sea,

That a maiden there lived whom you may know

   By the name of Annabel Lee;

And this maiden she lived with no other thought

   Than to love and be loved by me.

I was a child and she was a child,

   In this kingdom by the sea,

But we loved with a love that was more than love—

   I and my Annabel Lee—

With a love that the wingèd seraphs of Heaven

   Coveted her and me.

And this was the reason that, long ago,

   In this kingdom by the sea,

A wind blew out of a cloud, chilling

   My beautiful Annabel Lee;

So that her highborn kinsmen came

   And bore her away from me,

To shut her up in a sepulchre

   In this kingdom by the sea.

The angels, not half so happy in Heaven,

   Went envying her and me—

Yes!—that was the reason (as all men know,

   In this kingdom by the sea)

That the wind came out of the cloud by night,

   Chilling and killing my Annabel Lee.

But our love it was stronger by far than the love

   Of those who were older than we—

   Of many far wiser than we—

And neither the angels in Heaven above

   Nor the demons down under the sea

Can ever dissever my soul from the soul

   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;

For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams

   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;

And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes

   Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;

And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side

   Of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride,

   In her sepulchre there by the sea—

   In her tomb by the sounding sea.

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