An Evening In: The Masque of the Read Death

Under this heading, I will be combining two of my great loves: reading, and having a delicious drink. If there is a better way to spend an hour or two of life than with a good book and a beverage, I do not know it, and I do not care to.

poeLet’s kick this off with a classic. Or even better, twenty-five classics, like the twenty-five shots of gothic suspense in The Penguin Popular Classics selection of Edgar Allan Poe shorts. The Fall of the House of Usher and The Murders in the Rue Morgue are here, so are The Pit and the Pendulum and The Tell-Tale Heart. It’s a pretty solid tour through madness and guilt and Time and death.

My particular favourite in this collection is The Mask of the Red Death, and with this we’re going to pair, of course, red wine. Something deep and dark and thick, woody and smokey like an old cigar. A Cabernet Sauvignon would work well.  If you can actually smoke a cigar while reading this, all the better. Ideally, I would don a velvet smoking jacket, sit by a shelf of leather bound books and read this by the light of a single, guttering candle, and then preferably go mad and die with my face in a rictus of horror.

Failing this, it’s still a brilliant read; a grotesque bacchanalia in a grand abbey, gates of iron welded shut and the hideous disease of the Red Death stalking the kingdom outside while Prince Prospero and his wild court give themselves over to Dionysian extravagance. Anyone who’s ever been to a good old-fashioned death orgy will appreciate the need for one creepy room, and Poe has naturally placed a massive ebony clock in the creepy room, which ticks ominously and every hour puts a real damper on the party by tolling out doom. Guess what happens at the end.

The whole collection is atmospheric, artful and written with the rich intensity of black coffee, beautiful like a reflection in an old mirror.

Book: Edgar Allan Poe, Selected Tales

Pair with: Cabernet Sauvignon


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