Monday, January 30, 2012

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket, etc

I am reading Edgar Allen Poe's gothic horror seafaring/Antarctica adventure novella, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. It's not a great book, I sadly must admit. Not Poe's best work by far, but I'll be glad to have read it when I write my own seafaring/Antarctica adventure novella next year or so. I think one of my characters will have read the Poe and will subscribe to the hollow earth theory despite the real-life expeditions that have gone to the continent. That might be fun. He could claim that Scott lied or was mistaken, etc. That Shackleton is a con man or something. I could enjoy that sort of thing.

But Mister Poe's prose strains my readerly sensibilities and I'm halfway through the narrative and very little has actually happened. I can see where such folks as Lovecraft got a sense of atmospheric writing and I admire the way Poe plundered his nonfiction sources, stealing factual detail to give a semblance of plausibility to his story. I recognize that technique, all right. Still, I'll be happier having read this than I am reading it.

Chekhov, meanwhile, is preparing for his Sakhalin trip. That'll be interesting.


  1. An Antarctica adventure novel sounds ambitious! And exciting. Good luck with it. I listened to a poetic radio drama of Erebus by Jo Shapcott on Radio 4 recently, about the search for the North-West passage, and it was fantastic. I don't know if it was just the sound effects but all that ice creaking and breaking was totally chilling.
    I also just read your post on postmodernism (and I'm also reading Great Expectations at the mo, freaky) and had to share my favourite joke with you.

    What do you get if you cross Post modernism with a Mafia Don?

    Someone who'll make you an offer you can't understand.

  2. stealing factual detail to give a semblance of plausibility to his story

    And you have not even gotten to the frickin' penguin nests.

  3. Overdue: My Antarctica book will be less action and more character, I think. But we'll see. I haven't written it yet.

    Have you read GE before? Does your copy have both endings? If so, I'll be interested to see which you prefer.

    The PoMo joke is good.

    Tom Reader: I work with a world-reknowned penguin expert! So that bit will be fun for me.

    The editor has been pretty good about pointing out where Poe got his facts wrong. Apparently a lot of the early reviews were good at that, too.