You know a story has staying power not just when when we keep telling it decades and even centuries after its composition, but when we keep telling it in new forms. Even when Edgar Allan Poe set his literary sights on writing a poem that would win both high critical praise and a wide popular audience back in 1845, he could hardly have imagined that it would still bring haunted delight to its readers, listeners and even viewers more than 170 years later. But The Raven does endure, not just in the various celebrity readings we’ve featured here on Open Culture but in numerous illustrated editions, a beloved Simpsons segment, and now even a pop-up book.
Though The Raven: a Pop-up Book, illustrated and designed by Christopher Wormell and David Pelham, adapts Poe’s work of supernatural verse into a perhaps unexpected medium, it does so with thoroughness indeed.
Flip through it as do the hands in the video above, you’ll find springing to paper life before you not just the poem’s lovelorn narrator and the talking crow who pays him a visit, but every element of the setting as well, from the furniture and other objects of the narrator’s study — the velvet chair, the books, the bust of Pallas, the locket with the image of lost Lenore — to the seaside castle in which this vision of the story locates it.
Those of us who haven’t opened a pop-up book since childhood might be surprised to see how far its art has come. Not only would the illustrations of The Raven: a Pop Up Book hold up in a mere two dimensions as well, they interlock in three to form relatively complex geometric structures, ones that sometimes move with an almost eerie hint of naturalness. (You may, as I did, want to watch the narrator open his locket-holding hand more than once.) What’s more, the design allows viewing from more than one angle, providing details that those who only look at the book straight on will never see. Using the archaic apostrophe of which Poe himself might have approved, Boing Boing’s Cory Doctorow recommends the book “if you’re gearing up for Hallowe’en and want to get your kids in the spirit of things” — and especially if those kids wrongly believe themselves too old for pop-up books or too 21st-century for Poe. Get your copy of The Raven: a Pop Up Book here.
Based in Seoul, Colin Marshall writes and broadcasts on cities and culture. His projects include the book The Stateless City: a Walk through 21st-Century Los Angeles and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.