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REVIEW A New Annotated Edition of Pl~m Richard Kopley, ed. The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. New York: Penguin Books, 1999. 245pp. $8.95. This new edition of The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym is a welcome addition to the Penguin Classics series. The novel appears in a Penguin imprint for the first time since the edition prepared by Harold Beaver for the publisher’s English Library in 1975 (reprinted as a Penguin Classic in 1986). It is a pleasingly presented book, printed in large clear type, the front cover decorated with an atmospheric scene from Frederick Edwin Church’s 1891 painting “The Iceberg.” The text selected for this edition, to paraphrase the editor, is that established by Burton Pollin for volume 1 of the Collected Writings of Edgar Allan Poe: The Imaginary Voyages, originally published by G. K. Hall in 1981 and reissued with minor revisions in 1994 by the Gordian Press. It is basically the American first edition text published by Harper and Brothers in 1838 (which was the only complete text Poe had any control over) with a handful of minor corrections by Pollin. In addition, there is a twentyone page introduction plus “Suggestions for Further Reading” and twenty-three pages of “Explanatory Notes” by Professor Richard Kopley. The introduction and notes serve a variety of purposes for the general reader. They place the composition and publication of Pyrn in relation to Poe’s life and early literary career, document the text’s major sources, discuss its reception and influence, and much more briefly refer the reader to the wide range of critical approaches that Pym has invited (see, for example, the listing in the introduction, xvi-xvii, of discussions dealing with race and the sixty-six item “Suggestions for Further Reading,” xxxi-xxxvi) . Clearly another of Professor Kopley’s objectives in his editorial material is to explain and justify what are, in my view, idiosyncratic readings of Poe’s adventure story as both a private allegory about his dead brother and mother and a religious allegory centered upon the Fall of Jerusalem. These views were first advanced by Professor Kopley in a series of essays written in the 1980s, notably in two substantial scholarly articles-“The Hidden Journey of Arthur Gordon Pym” and “The ‘Very Profound Under-current’ of Arthur Gordon Pym”-published in Studies in the American Renaissance in 1982 and 1987 respectively. These articles have now been reworked, and the ideas in them form the basis for Kopley’s arguments in his introduction and notes. Poe’s inability to interest a publisher in his “Tales of the Folio Club” led inadvertently to the writing and publication of Pym. Harper and Brothers turned down the “Tales” on the grounds that they had a “degree of obscurity in their application , which will prevent ordinary readers from comprehending their drift,” but through an intermediary (the novelist James Kirke Padding) Harpers did suggest that if Poe would “lower himself a little to the ordinary comprehension of the generality of readers,” they would be pleased to consider his work and “make such arrangements with him as will be liberal and satisfactory ” [Dwight Thomas and David K. Jackson, The Poe Log: A Documentary Life of Edgar Allan Poe, 1809-1849 (Boston: G. K. Hall, 1987), 1931. Both Padding and Harpers advised Poe to turn to novel writing, and Harpers reminded him in a letter of 19 June 1836 of the importance of directing his writing toward the popular market [Poe Log, 2121. Poe responded to this advice by writing what he must have hoped would be an entertaining and financially rewarding fiction ; his synoptic subtitle provides a summary of the promised sensational contents: “Incredible Adventures and Discoveries,” “Mutiny and Atrocious Butchery,” “Shipwreck and Subsequent Horrible Sufferings from Famine,” “Capture,” “Massacre,” and “Distressing Calamity.” However, critics going back at least as far as Marie Bonaparte [1933/ translated 19491 have also detected autobiographical hints and trends in Poe’s narrative. For example , they have drawn attention to the similarity in rhythm between Edgar Allan Poe and Arthur Gordon Pym; to the self-advertising introduction of the name “Edgarton” into the first chapter; and to the violent deaths of two...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1754-6095
Print ISSN
1947-4644
Pages
pp. 74-76
Launched on MUSE
2014-01-07
Open Access
No
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