Thursday, April 20, 2017


As arranged in the Running Press book, the next four Poe tales are all pretty humdrum humor-stories from the author.

"Why the Little Frenchman Wears His Hand in a Sling" is little more than an excuse for Poe to indulge in dialect-humor, in which a boastful Irishman competes with a "little Frenchman" for a maiden's favor. Even if one didn't know the story's title, Poe telegraphs the story's "surprise" from a mile away.

"How to Write a Blackwood Article" is narrated by "Signora Psyche Zenobia," who gives a snarky account as to how a writer can sell short stories to the popular fiction magazine Blackwood's. In the original publication Poe this supposed instructional essay with one of the Signora's stories, "The Scythe of Time," in which Zenobia herself is beheaded by a giant clock-hand. Unlike the slightly later "Pit and the Pendulum" that contributed to Poe's notoreity, "Scythe" is presented as a tale that did not really take place, so that the paired narratives conform to the naturalistic phenomenality.

"The Devil in the Belfry" is a marvelous story in which a devilish being enters a Dutch community, one obsesses with orderliness, and upsets the citizens by causing a clock to strike thirteen o'clock. The satire probably worked better in 1838.

"The Man Who Was Used Up" is the only story with any substance. An unnamed narrator meets a famed war hero, A.B.C. Smith, at some party. The narrator is immediately fascinated with the man's physical comeliness-- indeed, in modern times readers would assume that the narrator has formed some sort of "man-crush," if not outright homosexual lust. But as the narrator hears strange rumors about Smith, he becomes consumed with curiosity. He finally seeks out Smith at the man's home, only to learn that the great war-hero has lost most of his natural body-parts to duels and battles with Indians. Smith's manservant has to put the "used up" hero together out of false legs, false arms, a false palate, etc. This too I rate as "naturalistic" even though it is certainly an exaggeration of what the prosthetics of the time could produce.

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