Quick reviews on Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories that frighten, disgust and awe me

Reading Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories is never easy. It doesn’t matter that his short story that I read is only several pages long or more than 10 pages, his works present before me new challenges. From understanding his investigative method to reading the minds of his characters, Poe’s works are very worthy of further personal researching.

In Tales of Mystery and Imagination that I bought a few weeks ago, I skipped his famous detective fictions; Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Mystery of Marie Roget. I was trying hard to get his ideas but his style was too complicated for me. I didn’t understand what he was conveying. Probably I will get back to them later on when I feel my brain is smart enough.

In the meantime, here are some titles that I read (some are with hard efforts):

  1. The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar (1845)

This was my first experience of knowing that Poe is indeed a very creepy author. M. Ernest Valdemar, as the main character in the short story foreshadows, suffered from severe illness that he was dying. On approaching his death, he asked for the narrator to try saving him by conducting mesmerism. Mesmerism was the name given by German doctor Franz Mesmer in the 18th century to what he believed to be an invisible natural force (Lebensmagnetismus) possessed by all living things, including humans, animals and vegetables. The doctor believed that the force could have physical effects, including healing and he tried but to no avail for achieving scientific recognition of his ideas.

The narrator put the sick man in a suspended hypnotic state. Seven months passed yet M. Valdemar didn’t get better. Each time the narrator visited him, he neither really awoke nor slept. He replied the narrator’s questions by saying “I have been sleeping – and now- now- I am dead”, among the things. Until the very last visit, M. Valdemar instead asked for the narrator to end the practice, saying, “For God’s sake! – quick!- quick! Put me to sleep -or quick! Waken me- quick! I say to you that I am dead!”

What disturbs me is when the narrator halted the practice and the sick man eventually dead. This is because M. Valdemar’s body was changed, decayed into loathsome putrescence. Two things that attract me are the term mesmerism and the disgusting description of M. Valdemar on his way to death.

  1. MS. Found in a Bottle (1833)

The plot of the short story is very simple. An unnamed narrator sailed from Batavia (now Jakarta) but then faced horrible circumstances that made him and other passengers sinking into the sea in a series of disasters. MS means manuscript, which in this short story means the manuscript that the narrator wrote to have described his experiences before the ship he was in was sinking while reaching Antartica.

Poe fascinates me with his narration style here. He vividly describes scenes, facial changes of the narrator and other passengers he came across. The way Poe depicts when the ship sinks, the narrator’s fear and his struggle to get back on waters bring me strong pictures on tremendous, horrific situations that the narrator faces at that time. There isn’t any better technique of inviting readers to closely feel what characters in fictions experience than the one like in MS. Found in a Bottle.

  1. A Descent into the Maelstrom (1841)

The core of this short story is quite similar to the second I mentioned here. Poe presents a man who recalled his life-and-death experience with his brother when a whirlpool and shipwreck suddenly struck them. Unlike the unnamed narrator in the second story, the man in the third story survived so that he was able to have described the deadly and frightening moment in his life.

I really like how Poe, again, describes the man’s experience here. Much like the second story, Poe details every single process when the disasters occur. He is so skilled at building tension that the climax reaches my nerve. Poe successfully makes me feeling the tense and the suspense of the shipwreck and the whirlpool. I can’t imagine if I were experiencing them.

  1. The Purloined Letter (1844)

I honestly didn’t follow details of the story because of the intricate story full of clues, suspicions, guesses and political relations. This is the third part of the three detective stories other than The Murder of the Rue Morgue and The Mystery of Marie Roget with fictional C. Auguste Dupin as the detective.

As the title suggests, the short story revolves around a letter that went missing from the boudoir of an unnamed woman done by Minister D. Dupin and the narrator of the story were joined by one of their friends called as G from Perfect police unit. He told them on the missing letter that was believed to contain important information. But the Perfect couldn’t find the letter even after they searched the apartment of the minister. Dupin applied his tactic that eventually earned him the letter and the reward the G gave to him.

I am awed by Poe’s complicated story-telling style and (after I read Wikipedia) doubly mind reading applied by the minister and Dupin. Despite Dupin is said as amateur, his strategy of getting the letter is brilliant.

  1. The Fall of the House of Usher (1839)

I had known the title long, long time ago and last night I finally read it. I was enjoying the story very much despite the fact I am a coward. I couldn’t help being hypnotized by Poe’s smooth, beautiful way of describing the atmosphere, the scenery, the night mode and many small elements that were leading to the climax of the story. Add to that was Poe’s depiction of Roderick Usher as dying man. And of course Usher’s only sister, Madeline, who was severely ill then dead. Better not to provide details of the story. You have to read it by yourself then feel horrific, hysterical mode in it. A sense of supranatural, metaphysical is well-combined into major theme on loneliness, isolation and madness.

I intentionally didn’t complete reading the story last night then resumed it this morning because of very powerful scary mode that I felt when the story hadn’t reached the peak. I was afraid I couldn’t sleep imagining how the finale scene would be. That’s how influential Poe’s writing style left me with.

 

 

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In praise of short fiction: lessons learned from Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Gold Bug”

Digging the gold. Source: users.telenet.be

In what we call as artificial story, there is abundant knowledge upon certain subject, deep understanding on human attitude and sophisticated calculation. Such is as I obtain after reading The Gold Bug by Edgar Allan Poe.

After slowing my reading pace down on the short story, I don’t still really get how Mr. William Legrand can fully unveil mystery surrounding a beetle that brings in him a treasure.

I am like the narrator in the story who regards Mr. William Legrand an insane person. His obsession to the beetle makes him loses his mind. And I do hope that is proven by the end of the story. Perhaps as a reader who gets used to reading books by George Eliot and Charles Dickens, my view on imaginative story gets blurred. I find it hard to differentiate imagination and reality because, as much as the two create artificial story, their ways of depicting story conveying message feel like they are like non-fictions.

I almost forgot that I this time around, I read The Gold Bug, a story by the master of imaginative, mysterious and Gothic theme, Edgar Allan Poe. I shouldn’t expect at the very beginning that the short fiction would confront me with moral values as I often get after reading books by Victorian writers. Thanks God, that didn’t happen. Otherwise, why would I buy his short story collection if not I wanted to look for highly qualified reading in contrast to what I usually enjoy?

As much as I am entertained by Poe’s idea in The Gold Bug, I get confused with his way of loosening all riddles bit by bit. Don’t worry. It’s just my poor reading capability. I need to work a little bit harder for reading this type of story.

Mr. Legrand has his days deeply engaged with the beetle. He believes this insect means so much for him. His curiosity makes him ill, acts so weird that it’s no wonder that the narrator as his friend, considers him crazy.

Despite the narrator’s opinion, he still wants to accompany Mr. Legrand going to a forest along with his assistant, Jupiter. The narrator only wishes to ascertain that his friend will coming back home safe and sound after he receives Jupiter’s letter saying that his master is quite sick.

So, off they go to the forest. Then Mr. Legrand instructs Jupiter to climb a tree. I’m sorry that I can’t elaborate anymore because my poor reading ability at this time can’t trace all in details.

All I can sum up here is that they do find the treasure, in forms of a heavy box full of gold coins. Mr. Legrand explains (I try to explain here as I possibly can), the mystery is firstly introduced by a paper that he gets burned after the narrator mocks it. It turns out the paper contains chemical substance that brings out number.

Here, I am amazed by Mr. Legrand’s intelligence in cracking the numbers that later become words and phrases and eventually the exact location of the hidden treasure. I am happy to know Poe brings him up as a sample of crazy person who doesn’t giving up his hope despite what others say about him.

Behind that absurd, non-sense statement there lies peculiar logic that only requires us paying more attention to it. Mr. Legrand is a good example for that.

The Power of Being Under Pressured Completing Reading Pile of Unread Books

Have you got dozens of books unread for months, or even years at the bookshelves in your room? Or, have you felt there seemed to be no time for reading books anymore because, frankly speaking, you are busy scrolling down your social media accounts?

If you have that questions in your mind and wish to get rid of them all or one of them, probably you can try my trick. The key is a little bit ridiculous; buying more titles!

So.. I haven’t finished reading Great Expectations, Homo Deus and The Professor for a few months. Those don’t include Sejarah Islam or The History of Islam, which, oh my God, hasn’t been touched for months, too.

When I bought The Professor, I didn’t need the urgency of finishing reading Great Expectations because honestly, the masterpiece of Charles Dickens is too sentimental to cope with. Later, The Professor didn’t satisfy me that much because too many, way too many statements in French language that I needed to look at the back of the book. I abandoned the title, as well.

Then, I made another mistake. A few weeks ago, I and my pals went to an internationally-scale book affair in Jakarta. To put it shortly, I purchased Homo Deus, a currently-popular book among readers globally. Plus, I am interested at reading books on internet and social media hence the book suits me best. And yes, indeed, until I discovered it too much already when I read the first pages of the book. I have left it untouched for weeks now.

This week, I visited, again, Kinokuniya bookstore, with my best friend, Wida. I didn’t intend to buy novels or books at that time but as we were looking at titles, somehow my mind struck at The Woman In White. I have been looking for the book for months. I almost took it home but Wida reminded me that Dian, our close friend, had bought it for me from Paris. Dian would bring the book next month when she comes back home.

I was trying so hard not to buy it by switching my mind on reading other detective or mystery tales. My head quickly turned to Edgar Allan Poe as his The Tell-Tale Heart became his only fiction that I read so far.

I circled the Mystery/Horror section for some moments, till, yes! Tales of Mystery and Imagination, a collection of short stories by Mr. Poe was put in one of the section’s bookshelf. How happy I was! I bought the book right away, ignoring the fact some titles were crying to be resumed.

After I went back home, I opened the first title of the collective story. The Gold Bug opened the book and I couldn’t stop reading it. I began remembering how genius Mr. Poe was, yet somehow, I looked at The Professor. My guilt started embracing me.

I stopped reading The Gold Bug, reopened the last page where I read The Professor then two days later (today), the novel was finished. I am so glad at the moment because I fulfill the promise that I made months ago. The personal triumph surprisingly comes from the guilt that I feel after buying another book.