One of the things that makes goths special is that we are not afraid to look death in the face. We take special delight in exploring taboos, especially the taboo of death. The entire aesthetic of the gothic subculture reflects a time when people interacted heavily with death—specifically the Victorian era, with its elaborate mourning customs and associated wardrobe, art, and accoutrements. Unfortunately, much of mainstream American culture does not share our morbid proclivities. In fact, Americans seem to have become obsessed with shielding themselves as completely as possible from death and dying. We relegate death to the sanitized rooms of hospitals and allow funeral workers to whisk our loved ones away as soon as possible to be prepared for cremation or burial by total strangers. Did you know you can even order a cremation online and have your loved one picked up, cremated, and mailed back to you in an urn without ever interacting with a single human being or having to face any visual reminders of death?
One of the many stereotypes of the gothic subculture involves reading poetry and brooding in a corner. While the brooding isn’t entirely necessary, poetry is a great way to indulge in your daily dose of darkness. Here are just a few of my absolute favorite gothic poems:
1) “Annabel Lee” by Edgar Allan Poe
The works of Edgar Allan Poe were some of my first gateways into the realm of gothic literature. Poe is regarded as a leading patriarch in the American gothic tradition. He helped to popularize the genres of both horror and mystery with his numerous short stories. But for me, the true gothic beauty of Poe resides chiefly in his poetry. Now, I’m sure you’re all familiar with “The Raven,” so I figured I’d introduce you to one of my other favorite poems of his. “Annabel Lee” is a hauntingly beautiful poem about two of Poe’s favorite things: a beautiful woman and death. In fact, many of Poe’s poems and stories involve the death of a beautiful woman, perhaps influenced by the early death of his young wife, Virginia. “Annabel Lee” tells the story of a man and woman who were so in love that the angels in heaven grew jealous and took the woman away. The poem has an ethereal cadence that works beautifully put to music, as in this electro dance cover by one of my favorite musicians, Psyche Corporation:
Some of you may be familiar with Scott Westerfeld from his delightfully disturbing dystopia series Uglies. In Uglies, we saw that Westerfeld has the potential to get very dark in the doom and gloom of a futuristic totalitarian government kind of way. Westerfeld’s latest book, Afterworlds, goes down a completely different path, but may be equally entertaining to dark-minded readers.
I don’t even know how I would classify the genre of this book. There are really two different stories going on in alternating chapters: a simple realistic coming of age story of Darcy Patel—a teenage writer struggling to navigate the adult worlds of New York City, publishing, and true love; and then you have the story of Darcy’s novel about a teenage girl named Lizzie who becomes a psychopomp and falls in love with a death god as she struggles to come to terms with her new relationship with the dead. It’s really in this second story that the darker elements come into play.
Love classic Gothic novels, but prefer protagonists with a little more spunk than the defenseless damsels typically featured in these works? Then the books of Leanna Renee Hieber may be just what you’re looking for. In Darker Still, the first in her Magic Most Foul series, Hieber follows the tropes of her Gothic predecessors, writing in an epistolary style and featuring murder, mystery, and the occult set in a romanticized past. The story takes place, however, in a museum in 19th-century New York, rather than in the stereotypical Old World gothic manor.
This year was my second year attending Book Expo America—a giant event for publishing industry professionals—and its open-to-the-public counterpart, BookCon. I spent Wednesday, May 27th through Saturday, May 30th running around, meeting authors, getting books signed, and grabbing stacks and stacks of free books and advanced reader copies. My total haul came out to about 44 books!
It would take way too long to go through every one of those books with you, so I’ve picked out ten of the spookiest looking titles that I am most excited to read:
New to gothic literature? Maybe you’ve always loved horror movies and dark films, and want to see if you can get the same shivery feels from the written word. Or maybe you’ve wandered over from another genre such as romance or fantasy after realizing that you kinda like the dark stuff. Or maybe you’re a baby bat who has found the clothing and the music but doesn’t know where to start with the books. Well, whatever brought you over to the dark side, I’m glad you came. Gothic literature is a magical world filled with so many abandoned castles, moonlit moors, and frightening forests to explore. But if you’ve never read anything in the genre (or loose collection of genres) before, jumping right in can seem a little…well, scary. But not to worry! Your favorite Gothic Librarian has put together the perfect little starter pack of gothic literature to get you into the genre.