19 January 2014

Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket (Edgar Allan Poe)

Total coincidence that I'm writing this on Poe's birthday--it's not much of a present, since I thought his only novel, Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, was no great shakes. So, uh, happy 205th, dude! I didn't like your novel!

But while I didn't enjoy it, I can appreciate its influence. The first chunk, wherein our narrator stows away on his BFF's dad's ship--only to find himself trapped below decks by a mutiny--is super Melville-y; or rather, some of Melville's work (esp Benito Cereno) turns out to be super Pym-y, right down to the uncomfortable-making racist bits. Who knew, right?

The middle chunk, wherein the last four survivors on the ship face the horrors of storm and salvation, is really the only part that feels like Poe to me, good and gory. When they're finally rescued, however, they embark on a journey to the South Pole (yes, really)--and then unfolds a precursor to the Weird Voyage tale (borrowing a phrase from Ann & Jeff Vandermeer's awesome anthology The Weird): strange animals, strange plants, strange people. Even the water changes nature. I've read a bazillion of these, short stories and novels both (see, for instance, M.P. Shiel's The Purple Cloud), and thus Pym suffers the fate of being read after its descendants, lessening its impact. This happens when you read ALL THE THINGS, unfortunately.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Creative Commons License
Muse at Highway Speeds by http://museathighwayspeeds.blogspot.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.