Deal Me In, Week 19 ~ “Poe Posthumous”

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Hosted by Jay @ Bibliophilopolis

“Poe Posthumous; or, The Light House” by Joyce Carol Oates

Card picked: Nine of Hearts
From: Wild Nights! by Joyce Carol Oates

Thoughts: At week 19 of the year, I’m finally reading the first story from Wild Nights!, a Joyce Carol Oates collection subtitled “Stories About the Last Days of Poe, Dickinson, Twain, James, and Hemingway.” A note at the end of the collection says that this story was suggested by a manuscript fragment found among Poe’s papers after his death.

“Poe Posthumous” proposes that instead of dying in October of 1849, Poe travels to an island in the South Pacific where he intends to spend the summer as a lone lighthouse keeper. His only companion is a terrier named Mercury. His patron is a doctor named Shaw who is interested in how animals (and man) deal with isolation. Poe insists in his diary that alone is how he *should* be leading his life. He is convinced that being man, Homo sapien , will save him from the insanity that has plagued the animals in Shaw’s previous experiments. After all, Poe gave up many wants for his wife, including physical lusts and eating meat. But, of course, Virginia is dead and Poe is alone. He insists that this isn’t a problem…

Obviously, things aren’t going to go well for Poe. What I didn’t expect was the fairly Lovecraftian turn of events. I half expected to find that Dr. Shaw is part of the Cthulhu Mythos. I often use discomfiting to describe Oates’ stories. This one was just sort of befuddling.

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3 thoughts on “Deal Me In, Week 19 ~ “Poe Posthumous”

  1. What an awesomely tantalizing Poe fragment. Thanks for linking to that. I hadn’t heard of this JCO collection either, but I love the subtitle.

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