Monday, March 14, 2011

The Poe Perplex Continues


I have read all of the thirteen tales in Edgar Allen Poe's Tales of Mystery and Terror. The first tale, The Sphinx, had somewhat of an O. Henry ending. The narrator was terrified by something that merely turned out to be an exotic insect seen at an odd perspective that magnified it. But most of the tales do, indeed, deal with terror and horror.

I suppose it's the anticipation of horror that drives most of these stories. In most cases, the ending isn't as gripping as the lead-up. But four stories did fall into the traditional story arc: Hopfrog, The Black Cat (Poe seems to delight in tales where the narrator does something evil and then gives himself away), William Wilson, and The Pit and the Pendulum, which I thought was his best. Of course, maybe Poe has just been growing on me, story by story.

There was a delightful surprise in this little book, though -- Some Words with a Mummy. I was expecting a chilling encounter replete with grizzly details. Instead, a group of scientists unwrap a mummy (after getting museum permission), and find it is still alive. It hasn't gone through the usual embalming process; instead, a different process left it for hundreds of years in suspended animation. Immediately the British scientists and the Mummy get into a competitive discussion as to which culture has achieved the most astounding accomplishments. This is truly a funny tale. Who knew that Poe had a sense of humor? I don't know if he every wrote another funny tale like that one. The story ends with the narrator seeking this special method of preservation and future awakening in order to escape his nagging wife!

So, thank you, Carrie, for the challenge to read a book I hadn't read before and had always meant to read. I can't say I've become a Poe devotee, but I do admire his use of language and his ability to create tension and build suspense. And I was pleased to learn that behind the doleful expression one sees in his photographs there lurked a sense of humor.

Poe joking. Imagine that!

8 comments:

Richard said...

I know it sounds strange, but I wrote a paper in college comparing "The Black Cat" to "The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner." There are some interesting similarities.

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

Wow, I'll have to go back and read the Ancient Mariner. I distantly remember it from junior high school. Never read it since. Thanks for the tip, Richard.

Carrie said...

I am definitely going to check out that story! It sounds very funny. You have inspired me to get going on 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea...I need to get reading!

Rachna Chhabria said...

I am surely going to check out Poe. Like the sound of the 'Some words with a Mummy' story.

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

Rachna and Carrie, let's keep each other posted on reading those "I always mean to read" books. I love discussions like these.

Kenda said...

I've got several literature anthologies around the house, leftover from college days. I wonder if "Some Words with a Mummy" is in any of them? I hope so--it sounds like a story I'd love to read. The only Poe story I remember is the Pit and the Pendulum. That was required high school reading for most of us, wasn't it? Thanks for a good Poe review :-)

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

Hi, Kenda, yes, it's worth looking up. You never hear about this story, probably because it's not a tale of terror or horror. :-)

J.L. Campbell said...

Sounds like a good mixture of stories. Wonder if I'll get around to Poe though. So much to read, so little time. That Mummy tale sounds very, very interesting.