So a few events converged in the last few days that led me to listen to the audiobook of this singular novel by Poe. For one, I decided to use an audible credit for a complete collection of Poe that had been recently recorded by contemporary readers. Many of the previous Poe audio collections are either really short, really old, really bad, or some combination. This one had some familiar voices and a recent production. So good. It seemed to indicate that it was only stories and poems, and didn’t have much in the way of a guide, but whatever. Basically, I didn’t expect the novel to be included.
But it was. So good.
Second event was that my girlfriend was reading this article about 19th century boat stories of the Arctic: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/04/24/literatures-arctic-obsession
And well, I figured here we go.
This is a a silly novel in a lot of ways because a lot of energy is spent trying to convince the reader that it’s true, despite the fact that as an object, the novel itself seems like an impossibility…indeed the very artifact itself seems like it could only have been lost in the final section of the novel. But it’s about a young Nantucket man who hides aboard a boat, gets caught, get free, gets stranded, get hungry, eats a man, gets rescued, gets impressed, gets traveled to the antarctic (where they inexplicably have polar bears), gets trapped with natives, gets violent, gets boated, and gets dead.
It’s got the same good things and bad things about most of Poe: outlandishness, bombastic writing, confabulation, overwrought, too much, and too little. You decide which is which.
But it was the first I’d read it, so that was nice.