Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Good ol' Edgar A. Poe

After reading finally Hemmingway's "The Old Man and the Sea" then plowing through Jonathan Harvey's "The Girl Who Just Appeared" I thought it was high time that I finally read some Edgar Allan Poe because I read somewhere that he single-handedly invented the "Detective Fiction" genre, which is one of my favourite genres..

c auguste dupin
C. August Dupin as he

appeared in 1999's
"League of Extraordinary
Previously my exposure to Poe went as far as:
  1. Oh yeah, he's the writer of "The Tell-Tale Heart." (Never read it, but referenced heavily in an early episode of The Simpsons.)
  2. The Simpson's "Treehouse of Horror" (Season 2) segment "The Raven."
  3. (Without realizing it at the time) C. Auguste Dupin's guest spot in 1999's "League of Extraordinary Gentlemen" written by Alan Moore.
And that is the totality of my exposure to Edgar Alan Poe, unless you take into account the numerous authors so obviously inspired/influenced by Poe, most notably Sherlock Holmes creator Arthur Conan Doyle.

So, I grabbed a copy of The Modern Library's collection of stories that focuses on the exploits of Dupin, "The Murders in the Rue Morgue: The Dupin Tales." The book contains three stories and I've only finished reading "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" but I'd say I'm a fan, even if the opening paragraphs are dense with lots of big words it felt like my brain was out of shape the same way a 40-year old sprints up a couple of flights of stairs then has stop to catch his breath and, possibly, throw-up before walking the rest of the way at a staid pace more in line with his age and physical prowess.

My brain didn't actually vomit but I had to re-read the first few pages to really drop my brain into a gear that rarely sees any use. That would be the Thinking part of my brain where I have to recollect word definitions on the fly and parse the "rhythm" of the text. People don't write like this anymore on account of the facts that a) Twitter exists and b) it's not 1841. In cases where the density and verbosity of the old-timey text get in the way of comprehension, my brain will sort through a Rolodex -- another reference to an old thing -- of voices I'm familiar with to "play" while I'm reading so I hear the story in that voice.
Skip "Simpson, Homer." Familiar with the voice and most his Poe knowledge comes from The Simpsons, but I'm not up for doing that voice for more than two pages. "Duchovny, David," we'll mark that down as a possibility. Multiple seasons of the X-Files to draw from and those three episodes of Californication he watched by accident... Ah, here we are, "Stewart, Patrick!" Hours of Star Trek: The Next Generation, his reading of the The Last Battle from the Narnia series, his role as Professor X... Perfect!
Hearing Patrick Stewart in my head while reading "The Murders in the Rue Morgue" automatically slows down my reading because if I read too fast it throws off the cadence of his voice. As a result, I spend more time on each word and notice (and appreciate) the punctuation rather than getting an impression of the punctuation as my eyes rocket from left to right.

Next on my reading list is anything from H.P. Lovecraft, another writer that is often referenced in pop culture -- I have an action of figure of Cthuhlu, for crying out loud! -- and I've never read any of his works outside of a couple of Wikipedia entries. I for one can't wait to see what voice my brain chooses for that reading!

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