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I live in Bedford, England. Having retired from teaching; I am now a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Threshold Concepts in the context of A-level Physics. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. I have also recently become a keen playgoer to London Fringe Theatre. I enjoy mostly classics and I read the playscripts and add those to the blog. I am a member of Bedford Writers' Circle. See their website here: http://bedford-writers.co.uk/ Follow me on twitter: @daja57

Monday, 2 February 2015

"The narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket" by Edgar Allan Poe

The hero stows away to sea but the ship is subject to a mutiny and is then wrecked. He survives via cannibalism and then travels to a warm part of Antarctica where he and his shipmates encounter hostile natives. The narrative is unfinished.

This is a very episodic novella. Thee seems to be little coherence. The theme of being buried alive is repeated but that seems coincidental. A promise that a broken bottle may have significance later is not honoured. An example of what seems to be a slapdash construction is that a faithful dog, who appears a bit like a deus ex machina when the narrative requires, later disappears without being mourned; he is presumably washed overboard in a storm but this is not explicitly stated. The unfinished ending, with a 'note from the editor' which explains that two or three chapters have been lost, seems to be an excuse for Poe not being able to see how to extricate his heroes from their latest predicament. Or he became bored.

On an interesting note, the dog is called Tiger and there is also a character called Richard Parker. Pym confuses Tiger and Parker in a dream. Of course, the Life of Pi, has a tiger character called Richard Parker; they are involved, like Poe's characters, in a shipwreck and there is some question as to whether the hero has just dreamt the tiger.

Overall I found this an unsatisfactory novel and nothing compared to the great heights that Poe can achieve. Nevertheless it clearly inspired James de Mille to write A Strange Manuscript Found in a Copper Cylinder (whose very title reflects the influence of Poe who also wrote MS Found in a Bottle). This also tells of a strange race of beings in a strangely warm Antarctic. And H P Lovecraft wrote At the Mountains of Madness which also tells of strange alien beings although this time in a snowy Antarctica (and Lovecraft's creatures are clearly not men). Other possible influences might include Conan Doyle's Lost World. So Poe had massive influence on the genre.

February 2015; 161 pages

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