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8 September 2012

A Descent into the Maelström (1841)

Warning - this is a short post... but I think that it may be my oldest review to date!

A Descent into the Maelström

I’ve read Edgar Allan Poe before. I couldn’t tell you what or when... it mustn’t have made that much of an impression. Whilst doing my last review on H P Lovecraft and his novella At the Mountains of Madness I learnt that Lovecraft took a lot of inspiration from Poe. That was all the incentive I needed to search out Poe’s 1841 short story A Descent into the Maelström. I have a few others to try too, but first let’s talk about Maelström. No, first, let’s talk about Poe...

Poe died in 1849 at the young age of 40. A certain amount of mystery surrounds his death but officially it was “congestion of the brain”. He’d been found wandering the streets in some sort of delirium. After a quick trip to the hospital he was dead. Statistically speaking, if you can avoid hospitals, I reckon you can look forward to a long and healthy life.

Edgar Allen Poe
"Poe's best known fiction works are Gothic, a genre
he followed to appease the public taste. His most recurring
themes deal with questions of death, including its
physical signs, the effects of decomposition, concerns
of premature burial, the reanimation of the dead, and mourning."

At the tender age of 26 Poe married his 13 year old cousin Virginia Clemm. There are a couple things about that last sentence that I struggle with. Poor Virgina was to die only 9 short years later. I’ve read speculation that her death fuelled Poe’s fascination with more macabre topics, but from what I can tell, he was already on that trip long before she passed away.

A Descent into the Maelström is one of the first short stories written by Poe. It is considered to be a forebearer of modern Science Fiction. I’m not so sure about that. It is also considered to be one of Poe’s tales of “ratiocination”. If I knew what that meant I would tell you. My best guess is that this refers to the style of storytelling which goes to great pains to try and explain why things are as they are. I could be wrong. What do I know?

Yep - I'm struggling for picture inspiration...

Maelström is a story told to us by the survivor of a fantastic and mysterious event out at sea. An old fisherman recounts his near-miss inside a whirlpool of death. And that’s it. It was over before it really began. I enjoyed some of the archaic language; It did remind me a bit of Lovecraft, but in my opinion it really is a step removed from Lovecraft. I could take or leave the story itself. As fantastic as it was, it’s all a bit tame by today’s standards

So, are you getting that I’m luke warm about this tale? Yep, unfortunately, it isn’t floating my boat (pun intended). I think it’s important to check out the old stories from time to time; I haven’t finished with Poe forever, but I’ve finished for now. On the Triple-B I’m going to navigate around 4 Nordic islands looking for adventure. Bring on the whirlpool!


  1. Talking about young girls and boats,I ran into Jessica Watson (OK...I bought her book and asked her to sign it) at the Byron Bay WF and not wanting to know about her adventure at the time because of all the media hype surrounding it,I finally sat down and watched her DVD of the 210 day trip a few weeks ago and I have to say this girl must have no fear.I would have called the coast guard the first day out and said game over and please get me a bucket,thank you.
    At one stage her boat went completely underwater to at least the depth of 3 metres over the top of the boat.Talk about
    "A Descent into the Maelström".

    Her parents are from
    New Zealand,too.So she's from your tribe King,but since she lives in Australia I'm going to do the Aussie thing and make her our tribe now,but you can still have Rus.-)

  2. That's not a fair swap! As they say in Ramsey Street... She sounds like a spunky chick. (I'm sure that they don't say that in Ramsey Street at all) :-) I should track this down... it sounds like it would be straight up my street... Ramsey Street...

  3. I've never watched "Neighbours" so I couldn't tell you if they said that or not,but my money would be on bet that they did.
    I met Ailsa Piper at the BBWF and she did a stint on that show...I guess even talented people have to start somewhere.
    I just hope Jessica doesn't turn up in "Neighbours" or "Home and Away" now.-)

  4. Yeah right. Next you'll be saying that you've never tried a witchetty grub ;-)

  5. Re:
    "Next you'll be saying that you've never tried a witchetty grub"

    No,I haven't.
    But you've just got to try roast koala...yummmm.-)