Poe Unreadable

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How many years from now will Poe be unreadable by most people?

With the level of literacy becoming lower and lower, there are a great many people today who can't understand even one page of a story by Poe.

Notice how many people request a simple summary of a story. His style is not suited to this 21st century--'n' I ain't tryin' to diss ya, dog! He cool, but I cain't dig 'em.

-- Anonymous, September 07, 2004


Overstated but a good question.

Take Shakespeare- a much harder problem. Still accessible even without translation of lost words and idioms, lost references(to the casual reader). The visual drama carries the meaning of the words and vice versa. The REAL hidden problem is that in Shakespeare's OWN day people had trouble following the deep speeches and complexities- a fact ignored too often. People didn't get the deeper stuff or know what was hitting them.

Poe's American language is still much more accessible, though the style of his times is a bit more expansive than in ours. The SAME problem is that then even as today people miss what Poe is doing and fight too hard to master obtuse scholarly references, etc. The story was crafted as dramtically as Shakespearian plays to carry and be enhanced by these suggestive "difficult" things whether you got them or not though the underlying phiosophical and symbolic connections lead to a deeper appreciation of more profound things than mere plot line or "scary effect".

Poe is as hard to read as any poet. In fact his simple, short poems are much the same minus the length and musings of the stories(although these too are remarkably pared down for 19th Century Romanticism.)

Poe will thus last longer to unrestrained and less connective writers such a Longfellow, a good example since his own memorable simple stories are pretty much reduced to comic book level or tedious untouchability despite an EASIER language and much simpler artistic depth. Poe's reliance on suggestiveness and restraint in length and wordy devices keeps his murk emotionally effective and available. The irksome stuff we don't see clearly is still a trap for the unwary, a mine for the student.

That does not make Poe easy. He never really was despite the popularity of his emotionally gripping plot lines ignoring the poetic(The Raven is a good example). He never was a comic book scary writer for kids.

-- Anonymous, September 11, 2004

The few pages on "the analytical power" at the beginning of "Murders in the Rue Morgue" are torture for many but a delight for some.

Many readers, I assume, would have to force themselves to finish "Mystery of Marie Roget." It was subtitled as a sequal to "Rue Morgue." It is probable that there was widespread diappointment.

Poe completely redeemed himself with the excellent "Purloined Letter." Conan Doyle was smart enough to recognize what was readable and crafted his Sherlock Holmes stories without difficult passages.

To generations who are accustomed to hearing speech, instead of seeing it in print, Poe is a closed book.

-- Anonymous, September 13, 2004

"Sequel" was misspelled in my previous post.

Many young students are assigned "The Cask of Amontillado." In the very first paragraph, they encounter a sentence such as "A wrong is undressed when retribution overtakes its redresser." This means nothing to them. They think: "If this is what the first paragraph is like, how am I going to read this whole story?" The next thought is: "Where can I quickly obtain someone's summary of this story?"

Poe's mind was extraordinary. This is especially evident in "Maelzel's Chess Player." An intellect that could solve a mystery that puzzled many excellent minds was not a common intellect. Today's schools cater to students who have grown up watching MTV and listening to rap music. They must have summaries. They cannot read the stories themselves.

-- Anonymous, September 13, 2004

Poe is understood on many levels. His use of language does the thinking for us. One merely has to buy into the narrative techniques of the various story tellers.

Solitary readers have always been in the minority.

Poe will always be read. His style is not remarkable. His fasination with the workings of the insane mind is remarkable. Readers will seekout authors that have talent for describing, as Kafka observed, "the space between the yes and the no."


-- Anonymous, October 09, 2004

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