I read “A Descent into the Maelström” this week in addition to finishing “Vamphiri!” and working on a couple other things that I’ll mention below. It’s a story about a whirlpool, and the narrator’s failure to die in it after figuring out that the larger an object, the faster it gets sucked down, so he ties himself to a cask, throws himself overboard and I guess the whirlpool stops whirlpooling and the guy is picked up by a passing boat. “The Pit and the Pendulum” is sort of the same thing— the tale of someone who fails to die in seemingly inescapable circumstance via a combination of close observation and a sprinkle of deus ex machnia.
A friend of mine is an honest to god English professor, and I asked them about why Poe is popular at all. My notes for “A Descent into the Maelström” contain phrases like “vortex of boredom” and “six pages of flowery prose describing a storm until the titular descent” and “more flower than 10,000 roux” which indicates to me I may not have been a sober as I thought I was when reading it.
The professor, who’s identity I will disguise to the point of using entirely neutral pronouns, basically feels that Poe’s best works dive into personal demons in the way that few American writers did at the time— things like “The Cask of Amontillado” for instance, can be read as an addiction metaphor, and “The Tell Tale Heart”’s portrayal of guilt are trailblazing.
Me, I get lost on things like the endless naming of Norwegian islands or passages which describe horror but do not actually convey it to me. It’s strange; I’m not against flowery prose, or even stories in which not a lot happen, but this stuff grates for me. Anyone who has suggestions on ‘how to enjoy Poe’ a little more is welcome to communicate with me.
Also finished this week:
“Ella Minnow Pea : A Novel in Letters”— Mark Dunn At first I thought this would be too clever for it’s own good, and in some ways it is, but it’s also a thoughtful parable. I enjoyed it, and it will probably get an essay about it here sometime soon.
What I am Reading:
“Blindsight”— this is turning into interesting science fiction; but it’s also extremely concept heavy.
“The Waves” — Virginia Woolf I’ve only ever read “To the Lighthouse” and that was a long time ago. This has a reputation as being one of her weirdest novels, and thus far, that is the case.
The “Moby Dick” bookclub has been discussed, but it was discussed over a fair amount of booze, so it’s… starting. We’ll see how it goes.