Much more about this book later, but I finished this book about 3 a.m. this morning and I literally have not stopped thinking about it since. I just oMuch more about this book later, but I finished this book about 3 a.m. this morning and I literally have not stopped thinking about it since. I just ordered Forster's Selected Stories, hoping that the other stories in that book are as good as these are.
Seriously -- super book. My favorite quotation from the entire collection:
"Readings of Pym range widely, from psychoanalytic exploration to social satire, from self-referential commentary on writing (or reading) to a metacritical demonstration of utter absence of meaning. Those commenting on the text apparently cannot reach any consensus or 'thrust toward uniformity,'..."
Depending on which/whose critique/analysis you read, Poe's Pym is either a seagoing take on the American push for frontier expansion, an interior journey into the self, a quest novel (vis-a-vis Harold Bloom's definition, mentioned in this edition's introduction, ) a "jeremiad of the evils of slavery" or "covert statement of Southern racist ideology" , and it has even been noted as (in part) a story of thwarted colonialism (from Mat Johnson's hilarious novel Pym). Author Toni Morrison also argues re Poe's work that "no early American writer is more important to the concept of American Africanism than Poe" because of the "focus on the symbolism of black and white in Poe's novel."
The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym is a strange but interesting little book. According to that online font of knowledge called Wikipedia, Poe himself called this "a silly little book," and in some ways he's definitely right. It is way over the top and as another GR reviewer puts it, the "elephant in the room" of racism is definitely there. [as an aside, whether Poe was/was not a racist is still a matter of debate in scholarly circles.] After having read it, I can see why there are so many different interpretations of this novel (you can also add in bildungsroman), but in my opinion, no matter how you read it, it is much like many of Poe's other works, largely concerned with confronting the self in terms of other (if nothing else, the scene where he is disguised as a a dead man and can't recognize himself in the mirror is a huge clue), and the destabilization of the self that follows as a result. In the end, though I believe it's a novel best appreciated on an individual basis -- I mean, seriously, if vast numbers of scholars over the last 100-plus years can't agree about the nature of Pym, how can there be any definitive interpretation?
** A brief word about this book: for anyone remotely interested in further studies of Poe's Pym, this particular edition from Broadview Press is a good place to start. The narrative is extensively footnoted, and there are three appendices -- "Sources for the Novel", "Contemporary Reviews," and "Other Writers' Responses to Pym" (Melville, Beaudelaire, Jules Verne, and Henry James). It also has an extensive bibliography and even a map of Pym's travels. ...more
An interesting tidbit of absolutely useless information: Poe read and blurbed about this book in the journal Aristidean in 18read earlier this month.
An interesting tidbit of absolutely useless information: Poe read and blurbed about this book in the journal Aristidean in 1845. So now if that question ever comes up in a trivia contest, you'll nail it.
The motto of our hero in this book is "It is good to be shifty in a new country," meaning, as the author explains, that "it is right and proper that one should live as merrily and as comfortably as possible at the expense of others." And this is precisely what Captain Simon Suggs does throughout his life, from his teen years on. In fact, this con artist pulled his first major scam against his own dad, a Baptist preacher. Adventures of Captain Suggs is a chronicle of Suggs' adventures along the Tallapoosa in Alabama, and we read along as Suggs gets into predicament after predicament, always getting the better of someone and making a dollar or two in the process. But we're not here just to see how much trouble Suggs can stir up for himself or others.
The introduction to this book states that this book "flagrantly satirizes the Democrats, and especially former President Andrew Jackson, a lightning rod for the formation of the Whig party." The entire collection of Suggs stories in this volume is framed as a "campaign biography," in which the editor appeals to the "Men of Tallapoosa" at the end:
"...we have done! Suggs is before you! We have endeavoured to give the prominent events of his life with accuracy and impartiality. If you deem that he has "done the state some service," remember that he seeks the Sheriffalty of your county. He waxes old. He needs an office, the emoluments of which shall be sufficient to enable him to relax his intellectual exertions. His military services; his numerous family; his long residence among you; his gray hairs -- all plead for him! Remember him at the polls!"
Trust me. After reading this book, Suggs would be the last man on earth to get my vote for the "Sheriffalty" of my county.
His creator, Jefferson Jones Hooper, started writing his Suggs stories in 1844, publishing them first in the East Alabamian, where he served as editor. The motto of Jones' newspaper was " We stand upon the broad platform of Whig principles," so with that as a clue, it's not too difficult to figure out as you start to wade into the book that Adventures of Captain Suggs is meant to be a flat-out satire. But even (as in my case) if you know little to nothing about Jacksonian democracy, you may still find yourself mildly chuckling while reading these little stories, although quite honestly they were probably much funnier in their day. ...more