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Fundamental Concepts - Gimmie Trumpin' To Believe In [Weirddave] | Main | Overnight Open Thread (7-13-2015)
July 13, 2015

Book Club Thread: Fall of the House of Usher

Well, I don't really have many structured thoughts about the story.

I liked it. It reminded me, though, of why I'd stopped reading Poe when I was young: Because so much of it is strictly internal drama, or, should I say, draaaama.

Poe's protagonists are very emotional creatures. And tend to hallucinate, or scare themselves silly.

Things happen in the book, but must of it is, in a word I learned from James Lileks (describing a radio production of Guy de Maupassant's The Horla) very tenebrous things -- there are lots of shadows, lots of unsettling little noises, lots of obscuring fog, lots of foreshadowing (hey, those shadows I mentioned earlier had to come from somewhere).

And lots of agita, obviously.

One has to think it would have been a shorter story if someone had just shown up and slapped both guys in the face and said, "Stop spazzing out about everything, gaylords."

Loved the vocabulary, loved the long sentences, each so frequently punctuated, as if by an errant bat slapping its wings on one's forehead, with clauses and subclauses, each ornament of words itself dripped silver in garland, and --

well, you get the idea. You read it.

One thing I was cursing myself on: At one point I knew what "catalepsy" was. By the time I'd read this, I'd forgotten, and just guessed that "cataleptic" had the same meaning as "catabolic" -- consuming one's own tissues, that is, a wasting away sort of condition. This made sense as regards the Ushers, Roderick and Madeline both, but that was not in fact the meaning of cataleptic; had I known its meaning, I would have felt that bit of forbidding about what must happen to Madeline.

A little historical note: Early on Poe speaks of the darkness descending like a vapor. In fact, this was a very old way people really thought about darkness. We now know that darkness is the default state, and light invades it. But in the Middle Ages, people thought that light was the default state, and that "dark vapors" of night -- a gas of darkness that spread through the sky -- invaded the world to blot out the sun and bring darkness down.

They thought that these "night vapors" caused disease, and madness, too.

Oh, I should say: Someone in Poe's age wouldn't have this mistaken idea. But he'd be familiar, I assume, with the past wrong ideas about night.

Well, that's all I've got. On to the comments.


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posted by Ace at 07:37 PM

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