1853


The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket: Poe shines in his only novel

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket by Edgar Allan Poe

Note: This public domain title is free on Kindle.

In his short story entitled “Ms. Found in a Bottle” (1833), author Edgar Allan Poe told a tale of shipwreck on the high seas, following the mother of all storms. Along with one other survivor, our narrator drifts helplessly on the surface of the water, later encountering what seems to be a ghost ship, on which he climbs aboard, only to be swept toward the south polar regions and to an unknown fate. Flash forward five years, and Poe has now enlarged on some of this story’s set pieces and themes, and turned them into the long-form work known as The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. Although Poe would ultimately write 50 poems (Poe-ems?), 68 short stories, and reams of literary criticism before his... Read More

Frankenstein: A classic for a reason

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Mary Shelley’s first novel was written in 1818 when Shelley (then Mary Godwin) was only 20. She was staying with her husband-to-be, the married poet Percy Bysshe Shelley, on Lake Geneva. As a kind of game, Lord Byron, their friend and companion, proposed that each person in the party write a ghost story. Byron wrote the third canto of Childe Harold; another friend, Polidori, was inspired to write the first vampire novel, “The Vampyre.” But Mary Shelley’s response to the prompt would ultimately become the most famous: Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus (betcha didn’t know about that subtitle, huh?).

If you’re mostly familiar with the plot of Frankenstein from the 1931 film or various parodies of it, you might have missed a lot about this particular book. Or, more likely, have ideas or mental images that don’t Read More

Phantastes: The first fantasy novel for adults

Phantastes George MacDonald

George MacDonald’s Phantastes is generally regarded as pivotal in the development of fantasy literature: it is the first ever fantasy novel written exclusively for adults. Now of course we have fantastic literature intended for an adult audience going back centuries before that, to epic poems like Thomas Chestre’s Sir Launfal in the 14th Century, or — leaving English literature behind — to the Iliad and suchforth. MacDonald, however, does bear the distinction of being the first to introduce the world to the adult fantasy in its most common present form. C.S. Lewis further cemented MacDonald as the Godfather of Fantasy by calling him “my master” and harping on at length in Surprised by Joy Read More