Thanks for listening! To request a short story or poem, comment on this post.
“Whoever fights monsters should see to I t that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you.” Friedrich Nietzsche
“Jabberwocky” by Lewis Carroll [text read from PoetryFoundation.org]
This poem is complete nonsense.
Well, maybe not complete nonsense, but many of the words are made up. Why does it matter? Because it’s a successfully creepy poem, even though it’s mostly nonsense! Lewis Carroll was like an early Dr. Suess, on a lot more hallucinogenic drugs.
Carroll does a few interesting things with this poem – many of the made-up words imitate old Anglo-Saxon language (sounds a bit like modern day Welsh – lots of Ys) which was a relatively harsh language. That adds to the solemnity and weight of the adventure story.
The rhythm of the poem is purposeful – it’s written in ballad stanza. This kind of meter originated in old folksongs about heroes and quests. So even though we don’t understand many of the words, we understand the meaning and intent just based on the rhythm – this is a story about beating the bad guys.
Carroll is an interesting guy. He wasn’t a writer – he was actually a logician “in real life.” More information on his life and work is available in a biography by Morton Cohen: Lewis Carroll: A Biography.
“The Cask of Amontillado” by Edgar Allan Poe (by request) [text from ProjectGutenberg.org]
Has any North American writer managed to write horror quite as well as Edgar Allan Poe? If so, Poe is certainly one of the masters, up there with only a handful of other gifted writers. Today’s story is one of my all-time-favorites, mainly because the narrator sounds so sane…
Published in 1846, “The Cask of Amontillado” is classic Poe because it tells the story from the point of view of the mentally disturbed. Like other Poe stories, readers are dropped right in the middle of an unstable mind, and Poe takes us along for the ride. It was his last short story and one of his best.
The opening line of the story introduces a question for the reader that is still present when the story closes. The question is this: just what did Fortunato say or do that Montresor considered “a step too far”? This question shapes the way we think of the narrator. And how many stories have you read (or heard) where the opening question isn’t answered and the story is still complete.
You’ll hear some words that aren’t common in American English these days:
A “pipe” of wine is a cask of wine that holds 126 gallons. Nitre is a type of salt, it appears in old caverns where water flows (or seeps) and leaves deposits of nitre behind. Mason is either a freemason or someone who works with stone.
Interesting Reads about Poe:
Coffee with Poe: A Novel of Edgar Allan Poe’s Life by Andrew Barger
The Raven and the Whale: Poe, Melville, and the New York Literary Scene by Perry Miller
In the Shadow of Edgar Allan Poe by Jonathon Scott Fuqua
Opening music: “Gypsy Swing Ting” from Little Dark One via SoundCloud [Creative Commons Commercial-Attribution License]
Other music: “Gypsy Honey Trio” by Fingerstyle_guitar via SoundCloud [Creative Commons Commercial-Attribution License]