The Poe Project (1)

the-poe-project

Two Tales…

The Unparalleled Adventures of One Hans Pfaal

This was written in 1835 and intended by Poe to be a hoax. It tells the story of Hans Pfaal, who, to escape his creditors, builds a balloon and with it flies to the moon. The story starts with the people of Rotterdam watching while a weird balloon descends from the sky. The man upon it hands (or rather throws) a letter to the burgomaster (the mayor) Mynheer Superbus Von Underduk, which describes Hans Pfaal’s adventures in the moon. Well, not really in the moon, but of how he got there in the first place.

I had no idea what this tale was about when I started it, so it’s quite by accident that I chose a story so alike The First Men in the Moon. Although, it’s a lot less accurate. I’m not sure if it’s because it was written so long before or because Poe really did intend it to be a hoax. It also wasn’t exactly what I expected, considering I tend to expect gruesome tales of death by Poe. The most it did was leave me uncomfortable while he described the physical symptoms Hans Pfaal suffered when he reached the outer parts of our atmosphere.

I began to find great difficulty in drawing my breath. My head, too, was excessively painful; and, having felt for some time a moisture about my cheeks, I at length discovered it to be blood, which was oozing quite fast from the drums of my ears. My eyes, also, gave me great uneasiness. Upon passing a hand over them they seemed to have protruded in no inconsiderable degree; and all objects in the car, and even the balloon itself, appeared distorted to my vision.

I don’t think this will ever be one of my favorite of Poe’s tales, but I liked the fantastical nature of it, especially considering we now know very well that a journey like that is impossible. I’m not sure if H. G. Wells ever read this or Jules Verne (with his From the Earth to the Moon novel), but Poe most certainly wrote it first.

The Gold-Bug

This tale was written about 1842 and tells the story of Mr. William Legrand, who after losing all his family’s money moves from New Orleans to an island in South Carolina. During the story the narrator, a nameless person, and Legrand’s valet, Jupiter, join him in his mad quest. I don’t want to give away too much of the plot, but let’s just say he wasn’t so crazy after all.

The Gold-Bug is shorter than The Unparalleled Adventures of One Hans Pfaal and has a faster pace. It’s also more ‘Poe-ish’ than the other, although I’m starting to wonder if I haven’t been stereotyping Poe’s stories. They can’t all be horror and murder, right? Every writer walks through more than one genre I suppose. But still, it wasn’t the gruesome tale I keep expecting to see.

It’s more of a little adventure tale, about fluctuating luck and perseverance, even when no one believes you. And that following your instincts might reward you in the end. I may be making it sound profound, but it’s not really a layered story: there was a mystery and an intelligent man to solve it. With his sidekicks, of course, no sane adventurer leaves home without them.

Also, it’s one of those weird stories that start with a strange bug. In this case a gold one.

“Curse your stupidity! do you know your right hand from your left?”

and a poem by Edgar Allan Poe

Tamerlane

My Poe poem this month is Tamerlane, which is about a man who is corrupted by his ambition to rule the world. Or at least that’s what I got from it. I’m terrible with poems: I love them, but I never read them. So I’m very rusty at the whole interpreting poems thing and Poe isn’t exactly transparent. From what I can gather, Tamer is telling his story to his father, who sounds dead to me but who knows.

You call it hope – that fire of fire!
it is but agony of desire

Tamer describes to his father his greed in conquering all of earth and his love for a woman who he makes his queen. He talks about a storm, a fight between Heaven and Hell. Then in the end, when Death comes for him, he wonders about this never-ending ambition of his and what it did to him. I liked this poem, I thought it had beautiful images of love and sin. I won’t cast judgment on Poe’s style yet (be it good or bad), since this is my second poem by him (the first being The Raven). We shall wait and see.

We grew in age – and love – together –
Roaming the forest, and the wild;
My breast her shield in wintry weather –
And when the friendly sunshine smil’d
And she would mark the opening skies
I saw no Heaven – but in her eyes.

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The Poe Project

ImageIn which I read all of Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories, novels and poems. He has one finished novel, around 68 tales and 97 poems (though I’ll only read about 48 of them, because those are the ones in the book of ‘complete’ poems I have). So I’m in for one hell of a ride. Although I’ve read 3 of his tales, the Dupin ones, I’ll re read them because I loved it and they’ll be part of the project. I’ll list all his stuff in the projects section and cross them off as I go.

I’ll be reading two or three each month, depending on how much time I have. I’ll post my thoughts on Poe on the last Fridays of each month. Hopefully.

I’m so excited to start!

Quoth the raven, “Nevermore.”

Through the Bookshelves or How I Spend My Money (2)

Here’s the second edition of Through the Bookshelves or How I Spend My Money, in which I can’t resist a good book. They are just so… good? But anyway, these are my recent buys:

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(from bottom to top)

1) The Kreutzer Sonata by Leo Tolstoy
I’ve always wanted to read Tolstoy, though I have to admit that I’m a bit intimidated by Anna Karenina, so I thought I’d start somewhere else and work my way up. The Kreutzer Sonata seemed a good place as any and it sounds like my sort of book. Meaning: murder. Even though it’s about much more than that. I’m so excited!

2) Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, Sir Orfeo by J. R. R. Tolkien
Tolkien + Arthurian legend = instant buy. It’s a collection of three stories in verse about some of the Knights of the Round Table written by an unknown poet and translated to modern english by Tolkien. Which goes along with my recent interest in the legends of King Arthur (if only I could finish The Once and Future King).

3) Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
I’ve been seeing this book in my local bookshop for a few weeks and although it sounded interesting, I wasn’t sure about buying it. Until I saw this video at booksandquills about it and it convinced me to try. I’m surprisingly excited to read it.

4) The Complete Poetry of Edgar Allan Poe by (surprise, surprise) Edgar Allan Poe
Ever since I read Poe’s The Murders in the Rue Morgue and his other Dupin tales I’ve been wanting to read more from him. So I armed myself with all his poetry and all his short stories plus The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket which is his only novel. I’m thinking about making a project of it: The Poe Project. I’m also super excited to start it!

And those are all my new books. So: share your own recent buys with me and we shall squee together like the bookworms we are.

Tchau!