Quick reviews on Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories that frighten, disgust and awe me

Reading Edgar Allan Poe’s short stories is never easy. It doesn’t matter that his short story that I read is only several pages long or more than 10 pages, his works present before me new challenges. From understanding his investigative method to reading the minds of his characters, Poe’s works are very worthy of further personal researching.

In Tales of Mystery and Imagination that I bought a few weeks ago, I skipped his famous detective fictions; Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Mystery of Marie Roget. I was trying hard to get his ideas but his style was too complicated for me. I didn’t understand what he was conveying. Probably I will get back to them later on when I feel my brain is smart enough.

In the meantime, here are some titles that I read (some are with hard efforts):

  1. The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar (1845)

This was my first experience of knowing that Poe is indeed a very creepy author. M. Ernest Valdemar, as the main character in the short story foreshadows, suffered from severe illness that he was dying. On approaching his death, he asked for the narrator to try saving him by conducting mesmerism. Mesmerism was the name given by German doctor Franz Mesmer in the 18th century to what he believed to be an invisible natural force (Lebensmagnetismus) possessed by all living things, including humans, animals and vegetables. The doctor believed that the force could have physical effects, including healing and he tried but to no avail for achieving scientific recognition of his ideas.

The narrator put the sick man in a suspended hypnotic state. Seven months passed yet M. Valdemar didn’t get better. Each time the narrator visited him, he neither really awoke nor slept. He replied the narrator’s questions by saying “I have been sleeping – and now- now- I am dead”, among the things. Until the very last visit, M. Valdemar instead asked for the narrator to end the practice, saying, “For God’s sake! – quick!- quick! Put me to sleep -or quick! Waken me- quick! I say to you that I am dead!”

What disturbs me is when the narrator halted the practice and the sick man eventually dead. This is because M. Valdemar’s body was changed, decayed into loathsome putrescence. Two things that attract me are the term mesmerism and the disgusting description of M. Valdemar on his way to death.

  1. MS. Found in a Bottle (1833)

The plot of the short story is very simple. An unnamed narrator sailed from Batavia (now Jakarta) but then faced horrible circumstances that made him and other passengers sinking into the sea in a series of disasters. MS means manuscript, which in this short story means the manuscript that the narrator wrote to have described his experiences before the ship he was in was sinking while reaching Antartica.

Poe fascinates me with his narration style here. He vividly describes scenes, facial changes of the narrator and other passengers he came across. The way Poe depicts when the ship sinks, the narrator’s fear and his struggle to get back on waters bring me strong pictures on tremendous, horrific situations that the narrator faces at that time. There isn’t any better technique of inviting readers to closely feel what characters in fictions experience than the one like in MS. Found in a Bottle.

  1. A Descent into the Maelstrom (1841)

The core of this short story is quite similar to the second I mentioned here. Poe presents a man who recalled his life-and-death experience with his brother when a whirlpool and shipwreck suddenly struck them. Unlike the unnamed narrator in the second story, the man in the third story survived so that he was able to have described the deadly and frightening moment in his life.

I really like how Poe, again, describes the man’s experience here. Much like the second story, Poe details every single process when the disasters occur. He is so skilled at building tension that the climax reaches my nerve. Poe successfully makes me feeling the tense and the suspense of the shipwreck and the whirlpool. I can’t imagine if I were experiencing them.

  1. The Purloined Letter (1844)

I honestly didn’t follow details of the story because of the intricate story full of clues, suspicions, guesses and political relations. This is the third part of the three detective stories other than The Murder of the Rue Morgue and The Mystery of Marie Roget with fictional C. Auguste Dupin as the detective.

As the title suggests, the short story revolves around a letter that went missing from the boudoir of an unnamed woman done by Minister D. Dupin and the narrator of the story were joined by one of their friends called as G from Perfect police unit. He told them on the missing letter that was believed to contain important information. But the Perfect couldn’t find the letter even after they searched the apartment of the minister. Dupin applied his tactic that eventually earned him the letter and the reward the G gave to him.

I am awed by Poe’s complicated story-telling style and (after I read Wikipedia) doubly mind reading applied by the minister and Dupin. Despite Dupin is said as amateur, his strategy of getting the letter is brilliant.

  1. The Fall of the House of Usher (1839)

I had known the title long, long time ago and last night I finally read it. I was enjoying the story very much despite the fact I am a coward. I couldn’t help being hypnotized by Poe’s smooth, beautiful way of describing the atmosphere, the scenery, the night mode and many small elements that were leading to the climax of the story. Add to that was Poe’s depiction of Roderick Usher as dying man. And of course Usher’s only sister, Madeline, who was severely ill then dead. Better not to provide details of the story. You have to read it by yourself then feel horrific, hysterical mode in it. A sense of supranatural, metaphysical is well-combined into major theme on loneliness, isolation and madness.

I intentionally didn’t complete reading the story last night then resumed it this morning because of very powerful scary mode that I felt when the story hadn’t reached the peak. I was afraid I couldn’t sleep imagining how the finale scene would be. That’s how influential Poe’s writing style left me with.




The boring secret of getting ideas


“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.”

Those are one of my favorite quotes from John Steinbeck, one the writers that I admire the most. I can’t agree more.

One of the hardest thing working in a creative industry is how the hell am I gonna get good ideas. The word ‘creative’ itself is like a two-sided coin. On one side, it is an honor for me working in this field. In a fast-changing world like nowadays, if you want to survive, you have to be creative. You have to work smarter than most of your peers. You have to think outside the box, so as many modern people say. Working in this sector is thrilling, challenging.. making me part of this world, which moves so fast, busy, hectic.

Especially I also have to deal with social media era where people can speak up whenever they want. Problems, social phenomenons come and go in a matter of days. So being a part of this industry encourages me to think and behave in line with what happens everyday. This makes me living as a youngster despite my current age.

Being a creative industry laborer means I have to work in different patterns compared to most of my friends’.

While for those who work as civil servants or in administrative offices doing their jobs from this task to other tasks under certain requirements, my work patterns can tell different stories.

Because as a matter of fact, ideas are the core of all. And to get good or even great ideas, most often I don’t have to think hard, or force myself thinking hard. I almost always find the ideas when I slow myself down, take a good time for relaxing and such.

Since I mostly write, translate and edit on a daily basis, my best tool to ignite ideas is by reading. Reading and writing are two things that I really love since the day my other has successfully taught me how to read well. I love you mom for making me able to read!

The mystery of discovering ideas, let us separate them from good, bad or average, is simply practising often and more often. In my theory, I read a lot. Sometimes I read just a little. I read articles that sometimes don’t directly relate to my job, that is about books, literature or creative world or politic or fiction.

Believe me or not, I read a lot of sources about self-development, psychology and motivation. If you ask me why do I read things that don’t correlate with my jobs? Then, I simply say because the words in the articles are artsy. See, artsy, LOL!

The way the writers say what they want to say is amazing. The way they present their ideas is what makes me gluing at the computer of smartphone reading their words. I steal from them about this, on how to craft their ideas.

I learn how they think. I learn how I can be consistent with what I do despite the fact this blog hasn’t earned me any rupiahs or something worthy of money.

On a day-to-day basis, reading articles about personal development is quick and easy. On the longer term, I have a good book by my side. Through reading this novel I don’t only absorb ideas contained in the book but also I am channeled to other ideas while enjoying the book.

For instance, when I read Olalla my mind races back in times when I studied about Gothic literature at the university. That is how one idea can lead me to another one.  And for me, that is so wonderful, on how things can coexist, that on the long journey that you take you meet this person on this route then you meet another individual when the trip goes on further. Much to your surprise, the two strangers that you meet en route know each other.

That is the secret of getting ideas. By working, practicing, reading even when things get boring. Keep enjoying words that don’t necessarily relate to your jobs or favorite fields of study. Keep doing that things because you’ll be amazed how your brain suddenly lights up with new ideas you have no clues where do they come up from.

Your brain is a really fantastic tool that Alloh swt has given to each of us. It works, restores information from what year you can even barely remember. And when you need certain ideas at most, it is like ‘ting’. And there you go.. you get what you need.

The picture is taken from this.