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 Post subject: Contemplating Fiction
PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2016 10:45 am 
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Here's the idea...

We agree upon a short work of fiction, short story, flash fiction, articles, etc... provide a link, we all read it over the weekend, then we come back here and talk about it starting the next Monday. It can be almost anything, but more serious or 'deeper' stuff would probably make for better discussions.


I'll nominate the first one...

The Imp of the Perverse - Edgar Allan Poe

If interested, please nominate your own.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2016 10:48 am 
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I'm so totally fucking in. The Imp of the Perverse is my favorite Poe story!

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2016 10:51 am 
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Kimfair wrote:
I'm so totally fucking in. The Imp of the Perverse is my favorite Poe story!
Sweet, it's one of mine too. I've read it plenty of times, but have listened to the Vincent Price reading about 20 or 30 more times than that.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2016 12:08 pm 
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I was lucky enough in college to take a course entirely on the works of Poe. I also took one on Kurt Vonnegut, both were some of my favorite college courses.

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PostPosted: Fri Jun 03, 2016 12:23 pm 
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Those would be some fun credits.

My introduction was around 12 or so from my grandmother, who was an English teacher in her younger days, after I had told her we were reading and discussing The Tell Tale Heart in school. She gave me a Poe collection book printed in the '40s that had seen much love over the years, and I read through it eagerly. Still a prized possession of mine, but now I usually read from the complete works I had purchased many years later. I've also purchased that copy for my friend's kid that is a horror and macabre fan. He lived with it for a few weeks.

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 04, 2016 7:38 am 
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Oh man, this is a great idea. Unfortunately, I have a stack of manuscripts I have to do exactly this for, with a deadline.

Keep doing this on the regular, though, 'cause once this stuff is cleared I'm in.

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PostPosted: Sat Jun 04, 2016 10:46 am 
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So... are we waiting until Monday? Doesn't seem like a weekend-long read.

And how do we pick who picks the next one? Because I've got something in mind that's sort of related.


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PostPosted: Sat Jun 04, 2016 4:00 pm 
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Eric wrote:
So... are we waiting until Monday? Doesn't seem like a weekend-long read.

And how do we pick who picks the next one? Because I've got something in mind that's sort of related.

I figured we'd give a weekend to make it loose and easier for people, but if you want to start talking about sooner, feel free.

I also figured we would just nominate and then maybe vote if there are enough nominations. Of course, whoever runs it gets super-delegate abilities :wink:

So, first week, this week, is The Imp of the Perverse, by Edgar Allan Poe

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 05, 2016 8:46 am 
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One thing worth mentioning is the joke that Poe is having with (or perhaps on) his readers: the narrator, in the long discussion of perversity that precedes any real plot, gives three examples, but the first is that we may feel the urge to torture an audience with "circumlocution" and the second is that we delay a necessary action until it's too late. This comes as part of a pages-long argument that could be summed up in a line ("Sometimes, people do things just because they know they shouldn't"), and the point at which he gives the example of delaying too long is probably, for some, around the point where a reader might say, "Screw this. There's no blood and nobody's getting buried alive. I'm out."


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 05, 2016 12:28 pm 
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I have always seen that as being in the character he is writing from. It helps to build and flush it out.

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 05, 2016 1:46 pm 
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I suppose it could be read that way. Probably better that than Poe screwing with his audience. Of course, that supposes a lot of self-knowledge on the narrator's part, and he's not entirely solid on that front, since he claims never to have been able to resist the ideas that pop into his head after saying that one of them has been to jump to his death.


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 05, 2016 7:23 pm 
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I remember first reading this story in my youth, and needing a dictionary to understand it. That may be one reason I enjoy the story so much, as Poe uses such flowery and obtuse language. Mostly, though, it's the general idea of the story that I love, that we have this part of us that tells us to do bad things, and that it is a weak man who gives into those impulses. The impulse is so great that it causes the protagonist to confess his sins, the sin of the perfect murder. I don't thin Poe is fucking with the reader, either, though that line of thought certainly makes a lot of sense.

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PostPosted: Sun Jun 05, 2016 7:32 pm 
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Those two examples seem so out of left field (as opposed to the urge to jump from a high place, which I think everybody's felt), and so applicable to the story, that it has to have been intentional. Whether the other Eric is right and it's intentional on the part of the character or whether it's Poe joking around in his own person, I think, could be argued either way.

But here's what I wonder (and I've got a theory): toward the end, the narrator asks "But why shall I say more?" What more is there to say?


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 06, 2016 7:00 am 
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What more is to say? He's confessed, been arrested, and is awaiting execution. He has nothing else to add, apart from where his soul would end up afterwards, though he states in the paragraph previous that his words have sentenced him to the hangman and hell. Of course that "But why should I say more." could just be Poe stating that the whole story is just an elaborate ruse.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 06, 2016 7:00 am 
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Eric wrote:
Those two examples seem so out of left field (as opposed to the urge to jump from a high place, which I think everybody's felt), and so applicable to the story, that it has to have been intentional. Whether the other Eric is right and it's intentional on the part of the character or whether it's Poe joking around in his own person, I think, could be argued either way.
Both can be true. I've always read this story as the most introspective of Poe's work. Him studying himself. Knowing that he was an alcoholic, and had given into impulses he knew were not good for him, but not fully understanding why he would do that, this story flows from that line of thinking. During his lifetime there was no idea of addictive thinking or even the ideas that he laid out in this story.

Eric wrote:
But here's what I wonder (and I've got a theory): toward the end, the narrator asks "But why shall I say more?" What more is there to say?
He's not only completely re-confessed his crimes, but also attempted to understand himself and shared those thoughts before his execution. He was simply done with what he wanted to do.


Also... in the character, he is gleefully acknowledging the murder, but contemplating not the part of his mind that allowed him to commit murder, even referring to it in the beginning of the 'story' portion as 'murder', but delving deep into why he was so compelled to confess. That is the part that he sees as a flaw in himself.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 06, 2016 7:31 am 
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Eric wrote:
One thing worth mentioning is the joke that Poe is having with (or perhaps on) his readers: the narrator, in the long discussion of perversity that precedes any real plot, gives three examples, but the first is that we may feel the urge to torture an audience with "circumlocution" and the second is that we delay a necessary action until it's too late. This comes as part of a pages-long argument that could be summed up in a line ("Sometimes, people do things just because they know they shouldn't"), and the point at which he gives the example of delaying too long is probably, for some, around the point where a reader might say, "Screw this. There's no blood and nobody's getting buried alive. I'm out."

Thinking about this further...

You may be more right than I had thought originally.

He sets up the 3 examples, 1. over explaining, 2. procrastination, 3. jumping.

Assuming this story is self examining, which I'm going to go ahead and do, perhaps he is attempting to do more than write what he is known for and is wanted by his fans, a horror story. A 1st person murder tale. So, he starts off over explaining an idea, goes into putting off writing the story portion but trying to write something different, and in delving into those ideas he sees it as more important, but then goes ahead and writes the murder story anyway. Or maybe I'm just trying to see something that isn't there.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 06, 2016 7:38 am 
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Going back to the original idea of self examination.

The main character is discussing freely how smart I am, how much I've studied and know, and how good I am at doing this deed, and now watch me fuck it all up. The story culminating in his self-destructive behavior, then sitting there without any real understanding of why he did it, except for the imp of the perverse, which, he claims, stems from the primitive mind, and left over as a flaw in himself that he has no real control over. It is just this thing that is there, in him, that he has to deal with.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 06, 2016 9:24 am 
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Damn. Sorry I missed this thread. Lots going on here but I'll definitely try to jump in on it. What's the next selection?

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 06, 2016 10:22 am 
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caryc wrote:
Damn. Sorry I missed this thread. Lots going on here but I'll definitely try to jump in on it. What's the next selection?

The thread was just started, so you can feel free to jump in on this week's.

The Imp of the Perverse - Edgar Allan Poe

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 06, 2016 12:06 pm 
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Ericubus wrote:
Assuming this story is self examining, which I'm going to go ahead and do, perhaps he is attempting to do more than write what he is known for and is wanted by his fans, a horror story. A 1st person murder tale. So, he starts off over explaining an idea, goes into putting off writing the story portion but trying to write something different, and in delving into those ideas he sees it as more important, but then goes ahead and writes the murder story anyway. Or maybe I'm just trying to see something that isn't there.


Given Poe's life, it's certainly fun to read it that way. I wasn't thinking as much about the audience wanting a murder story when I suggested the joke, but it does fit.

Ericubus wrote:
Also... in the character, he is gleefully acknowledging the murder, but contemplating not the part of his mind that allowed him to commit murder, even referring to it in the beginning of the 'story' portion as 'murder', but delving deep into why he was so compelled to confess. That is the part that he sees as a flaw in himself.


That's part of what makes it interesting: the guy confesses, not out of guilt, but because he can't get the idea of confessing out of his mind. There's NO guilt. He just thinks, "Hey, I could confess to this!" and can't stop thinking it until it's done.

Now here's what might be interesting: did he do the murder? Simple (and probably correct, at least in Poe's intention) answer is yes, but think about:

1.) The fact that we know the narrator isn't entirely reliable, as he notes that he's thought of perversely jumping to his death, claims he's never been able to resist those urges, and yet is still alive.

2.) The fact that he implies, with the last paragraph, that there might be SOMETHING more to say.

3.) The narrator's assertion that he's disposed of the poisoned candle--there's literally nothing beyond his confession that indicates he did the murder.

4.) The theme of the whole piece. Yes, it's perverse to confess to a murder after you've gotten away clean, but how much MORE perverse is it to confess to a murder you never committed?


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 06, 2016 12:21 pm 
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Eric wrote:
...but how much MORE perverse is it to confess to a murder you never committed?
That is an interesting thought. I really do not think that was Poe's intent, but who knows, maybe.



Has anyone else ever listened to Vincent Price's reading of this?

If not I can't recommend it enough, actually any reading of Poe by Price is brilliant and near perfect. Price loved Poe and his dramatic elocution fits so perfectly with the material it makes listening to them sometimes better than reading them, in my mind at least.

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 06, 2016 12:29 pm 
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Ericubus wrote:
Eric wrote:
...but how much MORE perverse is it to confess to a murder you never committed?
That is an interesting thought. I really do not think that was Poe's intent, but who knows, maybe.

Thinking about this more, I REALLY do not think it was. It is a twist ending of Shyamalanian* proportions. I believe Poe was content with the actual subject and line of thinking brought up. He has used that same idea in a few stories, most obviously and notably The Tell Tale Heart, but in a much more deranged character.

So, is Poe saying that even the most sociopathic person has guilt, but it manifests differently?










*This word needs to enter our language. Shyamalanian, it's beautiful

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PostPosted: Mon Jun 06, 2016 6:17 pm 
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Ericubus wrote:
Thinking about this more, I REALLY do not think it was. It is a twist ending of Shyamalanian* proportions. I believe Poe was content with the actual subject and line of thinking brought up.


I'm not going to go to bat for it. I tend to agree with you, and I think that had Poe thought of the twist I'm suggesting and meant it to be there, it'd be a bit more telegraphed. But I think there's a bit of ambiguity. I tend to agree with you, but I'm not absolutely certain.

Ericubus wrote:
So, is Poe saying that even the most sociopathic person has guilt, but it manifests differently?


He certainly seems, from other writings, to have liked the idea of guilt, but not always. The one I always taught in 9th grade was The Cask of Amontillado, and that's a character that doesn't seem to have any guilt at all. I don't really see any here, either. I suppose we could read the urge to confess as a twisted sort of guilt, but I think it's more interesting that it springs from self-destruction unrelated to and separate from guilt rather than guilt itself (and Poe goes to lengths, GREAT lengths, to explain it that way).

I think your autobiographical reading is interesting, but other than putting himself into the story, I think he's doing what he says he is: showing us somebody who confessed, but not because of guilt. It's more interesting that way, I think. Novel.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 06, 2016 6:22 pm 
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ALTHOUGH--what does me mean by "To-day I wear these chains, and am here! To-morrow I shall be fetterless! -- but where?" I tend to read it as metaphysical--is there an afterlife at all, and what could it possibly be? But Poe may have been viewing the question in a more limited sense, with Heaven and Hell as the only options. And how could there possibly be a question if the narrator actually committed murder and is unrepentant?


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 06, 2016 9:22 pm 
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Eric wrote:
ALTHOUGH--what does me mean by "To-day I wear these chains, and am here! To-morrow I shall be fetterless! -- but where?" I tend to read it as metaphysical--is there an afterlife at all, and what could it possibly be? But Poe may have been viewing the question in a more limited sense, with Heaven and Hell as the only options. And how could there possibly be a question if the narrator actually committed murder and is unrepentant?

He did say right before that, "...sentences that consigned me to the hangman and to hell", so, I'm on the metaphysical side and saying Poe was just throwing out a 'cool' ending line.

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PostPosted: Tue Jun 07, 2016 8:12 pm 
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Ericubus wrote:
He did say right before that, "...sentences that consigned me to the hangman and to hell", so, I'm on the metaphysical side and saying Poe was just throwing out a 'cool' ending line.


There's arguably a bit of ambiguity to that phrasing, in that "they say" the sentences condemned him. And if it were absolutely so, why would he have a question as to where in the next paragraph?


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PostPosted: Wed Jun 08, 2016 6:41 am 
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Eric wrote:
Ericubus wrote:
He did say right before that, "...sentences that consigned me to the hangman and to hell", so, I'm on the metaphysical side and saying Poe was just throwing out a 'cool' ending line.


There's arguably a bit of ambiguity to that phrasing, in that "they say" the sentences condemned him. And if it were absolutely so, why would he have a question as to where in the next paragraph?
Or the character is just going onto his next topic of contemplation. What happens when you die is a pretty big question.


If anyone wants to start nominating next weeks fiction, please do.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 09, 2016 4:05 am 
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To be clear: I think Poe intended that the character was guilty. I just think there's enough there that one could make an argument for the other interpretation.

As for the next one, I'd suggest:
"Winter Dreams" by F. Scott Fitzgerald


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PostPosted: Thu Jun 09, 2016 5:23 am 
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I don’t think I can add anything to what has already been discussed so I’ll merely comment on two things that I thought of while reading the story. I love the phrase “Death by the visitation of God” I think that’s a wonderfully poetic way of saying natural causes. Also I’m currently reading Neal Stephenson’s book “The Confusion” it’s the second book in his Baroque Cycle trilogy and one of his main characters refers to his propensity for acts of self-endangerment for no good reason as being influenced by the “Imp of the Perverse”.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 09, 2016 7:22 am 
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My suggestion is:

Paladin Of The Lost Hour by Harlan Ellison

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 09, 2016 9:12 am 
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One last word on Poe, for now, it constantly amazes me how well his stories hold up. He was a true innovator in style and genre, and in genres that somewhat depend on the readers sensibilities and comfort levels. Those sensibilities would normally be so changed and watered down over time, and yet his work still lives on, and is enjoyable to the youngest and oldest reader today, over one hundred and fifty years after his death.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 09, 2016 10:44 am 
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Ericubus wrote:
One last word on Poe, for now, it constantly amazes me how well his stories hold up. He was a true innovator in style and genre, and in genres that somewhat depend on the readers sensibilities and comfort levels. Those sensibilities would normally be so changed and watered down over time, and yet his work still lives on, and is enjoyable to the youngest and oldest reader today, over one hundred and fifty years after his death.


I have nothing really to add to the earlier conversation but wanted to chime in on this. I agree wholeheartedly about his innovation in the genre and that his style holds up, but as someone who never took a class on Poe or read anything but The Raven and The Tell-Tale Heart while in school, I found Poe hard to read when I picked up a complete works book about ten years ago. It turned me off to the point where I put it down and it wasn't until a year or so later that I made the decision to really dig in to an annotated version. I still haven't read everything I that book, but I have read the "hits" so to speak.

My daughter will be taking an honors English course this year and will be reading Poe for the first time. It'll be interesting to see what she thinks of it.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 09, 2016 10:56 am 
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Well, no one thing is for everyone, all the time. But I have seen kids, and was a kid, that got right into it and blew through many stories.

Lovecraft had kind of the same impact, but after reading much of him, I started to realize how much of an elitists and racists he was, so I got kind of turned off to him, for a while, then got right back in. I did not read anything about the man before getting into his work, that came later.

With Poe, the more I learn about him, the more I like him, and am impressed by him.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 09, 2016 3:52 pm 
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I'd agree with that about Lovecraft. I love the world he created and many of the stories he wrote are favorites of mine, but I have to look past the racist pieces. I can do that and still admire what he was doing. With Poe, there's no need to do that and that's admirable, especially considering that in the time he was writing racism was just as prevalent (if not more so) than when Lovecraft was writing.

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PostPosted: Thu Jun 09, 2016 5:27 pm 
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Posts: 4330
Location: Detroit
To be honest, I like Poe's poetry better than his fiction. Guy's got an ear. His predilections get in the way of his plotting, though.


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