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Having reviewed over 1200 books on this blog, I have now written two myself. Motherdarling is a story about a search for a missing Will which reveals long-hidden family secrets. The Kids of God is a thriller set in a dystopia ruled by fascist paramilitaries. Both are available as paperbacks and on Kindle through Amazon. I live in Canterbury, England. I lived for more than thirty years in Bedford. Having retired from teaching; I became a research student at the University of Bedfordshire researching into Liminality. I achieved my PhD in 2019. I am now properly retired. I love reading! I enjoy in particular fiction (mostly great and classic fiction although I also enjoy whodunnits), biography, history and smart thinking. 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. Could it be described as a picaresque? There 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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