Friday’s Maniacal Poe Quote – 22 May 2015


Though known for horror, mysteries, poetry and criticism, Poe also wrote a series of humorous or satirical short stories. They have not aged well; for the most part, they are awful. Here is an excerpt from one of them, ‘Lionizing’, considered to be less awful than most. The story is about a fantastic nose:  

There was myself. I spoke of myself;—of myself, of myself, of myself;—of Nosology, of my pamphlet, and of myself. I turned up my nose, and I spoke of myself.

“Marvellous clever man!” said the Prince.

“Superb!” said his guests:—and next morning her Grace of Bless-my-Soul paid me a visit.

“Will you go to Almack’s, pretty creature?” she said, tapping me under the chin.

“Upon honor,” said I.

“Nose and all?” she asked.

“As I live,” I replied.

“Here then is a card, my life. Shall I say you will be there?”

“Dear Duchess, with all my heart.”

“Pshaw, no!—but with all your nose?”

–from ‘Lionizing’ (1835)

This is one of the best passages from the story, mildly entertaining for its absurd banter. But the repetitive wordplay soon grows tiresome. 

Part morality tale, part bad joke with a really long set-up, part satire, this tale and others like were popular in the day. In this particular tale Poe satirizes a couple of other writers of the day; today no one remembers them, and any clever conceits are lost on the modern reader.   And so while my posts about Poe usually encourage to go back and read his stuff, today I’m not. Today I’d just like everyone to know that Poe had many interests and many pursuits. Thank goodness his humorous writing wasn’t the only one, or he wouldn’t be remembered today.

The image is from illustrator Harry Clarke, circa 1933. Clarke actually created an illustration for this story in a collection of Poe’s tales. Here you can see a gentleman examining the narrator’s nose.

Friday’s Maniacal Poe Quote – 23 January 2015


So many of Poe’s tales have been made into movies, and most of those movies have been dreadfully bad. There’s one Poe tale, however, that as far as I can tell, has never been adapted to film, but should be. “A Descent into the Maelström.” (There are a couple of films with this name, but they’ve nothing to do with the story.) With today’s CGI, this could be an exciting adventure, combing equal measures of science fiction, horror, sea-adventure and loads of period costumes: 

“Never shall I forget the sensations of awe, horror, and admiration with which I gazed about me. The boat appeared to be hanging, as if by magic, midway down, upon the interior surface of a funnel vast in circumference, prodigious in depth, and whose perfectly smooth sides might have been mistaken for ebony, but for the bewildering rapidity with which they spun around, and for the gleaming and ghastly radiance they shot forth, as the rays of the full moon, from that circular rift amid the clouds which I have already described, streamed in a flood of golden glory along the black walls, and far away down into the inmost recesses of the abyss.”

-from “A Descent into the Maelström” (1841) 

This wonderful little yarn from Poe is a mystery and a bit of science fiction. Weird physics, the bending of time, as well as a shipwreck yarn all wrapped into one. It’s an easy read, and full of the kind of purple prose only Poe could write. 

Finally, this story is another example of Poe’s ‘ratiocination’, his science of reason developed in “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” and “The Purloined Letter.” The science of reason and calm analysis, the kind of deductive thinking that invented the modern detective.

The image of the vortex (the ‘Maelström’) is from Harry Clarke’s illustration for the story from a 1919 edition. Notice the lack of CGI.