This post was written by guest blogger Carrie Frye.
A weird true fact: Argentines are cuckoo about Edgar Allen Poe.
I discovered this when I was living in Buenos Aires a while ago. I found it illuminating of the national character, tango and Poe both being melancholic passions. And I’m not talking about book talk among writers, either. I’d just be at the gym, chatting with the chicks in my aerobics class* and they’d bust out with the Poe love.
The hands-down Poe favorite was The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, in which the young boy Pym stows away on a whaling ship from Nantucket. I checked it out of the U.S. library in Buenos Aires (since closed down) after everyone kept recommending it. I can’t remember much of the book now except for the ending in which the boy finds himself floating in some sort of open launch near a very sci-fi Antarctic.
I found this intriguing as some Italian Argentines emit a very tragic air of having been marooned in South America. I’ve always suspected that the book’s focus on shipwreck and the South Pole was why it resonated in Argentina long after it stopped being the most famous of Poe’s tales in the United States. (What does it mean about the American character that “House of Usher” is required reading in high school — that we’re hypochondriacs with an unhealthy interest in incest and home maintenance? It all seems very telling somehow.)
This is a good Edgar Allen Poe site. And the Edgar Allen Poe Society of Baltimore has an admirable amount of Poe’s written works online. I also fancy this Poe website, though perhaps that’s because of the spooky tinkly music on the home page.
* The idea of me chatting in Spanish is misleading in the sense that it implies fluency. Imagine a two-year-old in a high seat burbling away. Yeah, she’s chatting too.