Saturday, January 9, 2010

Poe Fridays (on Saturday)

We are coming to the end of our year-long journey with Poe, and I approach it with mixed feelings. On one hand, I would be lying if I didn't say I was getting a bit burned out. This happens to me when I read a whole bunch by the same author all in a row - it's why I don't try to read series with more than 3 books back to back. I just need to give myself a break, and then I am able to appreciate the author's work a bit more.

However, it has been an enlightening and mostly entertaining year reading Poe's stories and poems. I feel like I understand him better as a person, though maybe not as a writer, and I certainly have a new appreciation for his work. I'm glad I participated in this year of Poe!

Now on to this week's selection - Poe's only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. You can, if you are interested, find the full text here.

How to summarize this story? It's part adventure, part travelogue, part coming-of-age, partly incomprehensible. Arthur Gordon Pym, of Nantucket, goes on several sea voyages, most of which turn out horribly. He survives shipwreck, mutiny, ambush, illness, starvation - really, he has quite a dramatic time. And...then it ends, in one of the most abrupt finishes I've ever read.

I'm glad Kristen gave us extra time for this one - it was not an easy read. Parts were quite exciting, but parts seemed rambly, and there were places that made me feel pretty uncomfortable - Poe clearly bought into the prevailing racist attitudes of his day, and made his few non-white characters awfully stereotypical.

I think if it would have been a short story, I actually might have enjoyed it. I definitely was intrigued and entertained by the first section, and a good way into the second. However, it really started to drag for me about halfway through, and I definitely had to push myself to finish. And then the ending - suddenly, it was just done. I couldn't tell if Poe ran out of things to say, or was just as tired of this story as I was.

It's interesting to note the influences this story had on other work, most notably that of Herman Melville and Jules Verne. It had a somewhat mixed reception at the time it was initially published, but has gone on to be one of Poe's most translated works.

Poe Fridays is hosted by Kristen at WeBeReading.

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