The Silver Eel

"A gape-jawed serpentine shape of pale metal crested with soot hung high for a sign."

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

"If the landowner finds that one of the twain (and God knows whether he beat one or both, but this man is certainly beaten) be in the city, there will be a murder done, and then will come the Police, making inquisition into each man's house and eating the sweet-seller's stuff all day long."
From 'Gemini' by Rudyard Kipling, in The Man Who Would Be King and other stories. Date of first publication: 1888. Some things never change.


In Louis Cornell's notes to 'The Strange Ride of Morrowby Jukes' he writes that it "reflects the dominant influence of Poe's tales of the fantastic." In the introduction to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, John Seelye writes, "Setting out with Huck in search of buried treasure, Tom clearly operates under the influence of such fictions as Poe's 'The Gold Bug'." In the essay 'My First Book' RLS writes, "No doubt the skeleton is conveyed from Poe"; in his introduction to Treasure Island Seelye writes, "As for Stevenson's other, acknowledged borrowings, such as the parrot from Robinson Crusoe, the stockade from Marryat, and the pointing skeleton from Poe's 'The Gold Bug,' these are perhaps best regarded as tributes to authors Stevenson admired."

All of which makes me wonder if it isn't high time that I read some stories by Edgar Allen Poe. I've read about him, in Brian Aldiss's excellent Trillion Year Spree fourteen years ago, and I know that he's widely credited with having invented both the detective story and the science fiction story, but that's it.


Seelye goes on to write, "And so it goes, that joint interweaving between texts that is not only essential to the notion of genre but suggests the larger kinship, the DNA as it were, that joins the various members of the great family of adventure fiction in one common blood-bond."

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At 28 October 2006 at 14:50 , Blogger Joe said...

No hesitation in saying go forth and read Poe! I've been reading the old soak since I was about twelve and still come back to him regularly, especially around this time of year when I'm in the mood for a good spooky short tale. And yes indeed, he is usually credited with the invention of the modern scientific detective; although Conan Doyle used his old mentor Bell as a template Poe was pretty much the first to lay down the outlines of the modern detective which Holmes personifies.Alan Moore pays homage in the first League of Extraordinary Gentlemen graphic novel, with Mina Murray and Alan Quatermain hunting down a new monster in the Rue Morgue (Mr Hyde, as it turns out).

But mostly I love his tales of the macabre and his chillers. Quite often there isn't a huge amount happening that is overtly horrific in these works, but the sense of dread builds like the closeness of an approaching storm; pure atmosphere rather than shock or monsters or bloody descriptions of foul deeds, best read on a dark night. Hmmm, I think I've just talked myself into reading a couple of Poe short stories for Halloweenn :-)


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