Introduced by Marilynne Robinson
Illustrated by David Lupton
Poe’s curious and macabre novel, presented in a compact format and introduced by Marilynne Robinson.
‘In Pym and after it Poe explores the thought that reality is of a kind to break through the enthralling dream of innocence ... and confront us – horrify us – with truth’
Holding you in its eerie grip from the first, Edgar Allan Poe’s only completed novel tells of a fantastical voyage to the southern seas, on which Arthur Gordon Pym is beset by a series of terrifying near-death experiences. Quasi-supernatural, it echoes the phantasmagorical terrors of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and informed the imaginative feats of Moby-Dick and Twenty Thousand Leagues under the Seas. Simultaneously it is framed as a ‘true’ account, with exacting descriptions of seamanship which imitate genuine nautical memoirs, acquiring what Poe aptly called ‘the potent magic of verisimilitude’.
Winner of the British Book Design and Production Awards in the category of Literature
Pym begins his journey as a stow-away on a whaler, the Grampus, determined to follow in the footsteps of his friend Augustus. Hiding in the dank recesses of the hold until such time as he can make his presence known, he almost perishes. But this agonising experience is as nothing to the horrors to come, for the ship is under mutiny and Pym will soon encounter every imaginable threat to life, from the mouths of cannibals to the jaws of sharks, and from murderous pirates to delusion-inducing dehydration and starvation. The story moves at a vigorous pace, mirroring the turbulent motion of the ships that propel the young narrator from one calamity to the next, each suspenseful episode seeming to spell certain death. Meanwhile, the sublime and sepulchral vision that ends this mysterious tale is so unexpected that even the most imaginative reader could not begin to predict its form. Poe’s audacious plot, hanging together by the frailest of threads, stops as if the thread has finally snapped. In her introduction to this compact volume, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Marilynne Robinson considers Poe’s ability to confound, challenge and delight, as well as the racial and political context of his novel. David Lupton’s darkly captivating artwork evokes its nightmarish mood.
‘Poe's greatest book’
The word that recurs most crucially in Poe’s fictions is horror. His stories are often shaped to bring the narrator and the reader to a place where the use of the word is justified, where the word and the experience it evokes are explored or by implication defined. So crypts and entombments and physical morbidity figure in Poe’s writing with a prominence that is not characteristic of major literature in general. Clearly Poe was fascinated by popular obsessions, with crime, with premature burial. Popular obsessions are interesting and important, of course. Collectively we remember our nightmares, though sanity and good manners encourage us as individuals to forget them. Perhaps it is because Poe’s tales test the limits of sanity and good manners that he is both popular and stigmatized. His influence and his imitators have eclipsed his originality and distracted many readers from attending to his work beyond the more obvious of its effects.
Edgar Allan Poe was born in 1809 in Boston, Massachusetts, and grew up with an adoptive family in Richmond, Virginia. He was educated in Scotland and London before returning to America for university, followed by a brief spell as a private in the United States army, during which he published his first poetry collection, Tamerlane and Other Poems (1827). he subsequently worked as an editor, and wrote poetry, short stories, literary criticism, and essays on topics ranging from horror to physics. His only complete novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, was published in 1838. Poe struggled financially throughout his life, and died in 1849. The circumstances of his death remain a mystery.
Marilynne Robinson is the author of Gilead, which won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for fiction and the 2004 National Book Critics Circle award for fiction. Her 2008 novel, Home, won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for fiction and the 2009 Orange Prize for fiction. Robinson is also the author of the modern classic, Housekeeping (1980), which won the PEN/Ernest Hemingway Award for First Fiction, and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize. her most recent novel is Lila (2014). She is also the author of four books of non-fiction: Mother Country (1989), The Death of Adam (1998), Absence of Mind (2010), and When I Was a Child I Read Books (2012). In 2013 President Obama awarded her the National Humanities Medal. Dr Robinson teaches at the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
David Lupton is a London-based illustrator. He studied Illustration at Portsmouth before completing an MA in Sequential illustration at the University of Brighton. his work, rich in melancholy and the macabre, is hand drawn and painted with only the slightest of digital manipulation and enhancement. He has created work for many commercial briefs including editorial illustration, picture book design, music video promos and record cover artwork.
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