I left of the last two words in the title of Poe’s only complete novel; typing out The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket would make the title of this post entirely way too long. The title character of this tale experiences a series of adventures and misadventures — a shipwreck, mutiny, cannibalism — after stowing away aboard the Grampus, a whaling ship. He is eventually rescued by the crew of the Jane Guy and continues his adventures with another sailor, Dirk Peters, further south towards the South Pole.
I’ve already deduced from reading this collection that I am not a fan of Poe, but I guess you could also say that I am not a fan of adventures on the high seas. The footnotes tell me that Poe intended to present a realistic story, which he certainly does not do in the tales included in this collection, and drew from his and others’ experiences at sea.
I can see why Poe’s poetry and tales are more well-known. This novel is a rambling mess that impossible to follow and invest in. The abrupt ending on the novel is rather unsettling and unsatisfying. Wikipedia says it ending was left to speculation because it serves as a “symbolic conclusion to Pym’s spiritual journey”, but I needed a better payout for reaching the end of this giant tome. Supposedly, Poe himself called this novel “a very silly book”. I would have to agree!
Final thoughts on Poe? As I said above, I’m not a fan of him and his work. I can appreciate how he avoided monsters and rather developed the psychological thriller genre, but I don’t think he and I will ever truly be friends.
- Poe, Edgar Allan. Ed. Benjamin F. Fisher. The Essential Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe. New York: Barnes & Noble Classics, 2004. Print. 642 pgs. ISBN: 9781593080648. Source: Purchased.