Image sourced from: https://www.smithsonianmag.com/history/still-mysterious-death-edgar-allan-poe-180952936/
From time to time, Bas Bleu’s editors will share with you some of the books that have had a profound impact on our lives. They won’t necessarily be grand literary classics or hard-hitting political tomes. They will be books that have stayed with us over the years and shaped who we are. If you’d like to share a significant title from your own life, feel free to do so in the comments section below.
As an English major, I had done plenty of academic reading by the time my second semester in senior year of college approached, so being in a course titled “Detective Fiction” wasn’t out of the ordinary. I skimmed through the syllabus and amongst the expected “Sherlock Holmes’” were some more surprising reads. We began the semester by reading a literary criticism that focused on the mechanics that define detective fiction. I was so fascinated by this in-depth analysis—so mind-boggling, thought-provoking, and intelligent—that my notes on the piece were almost an exact regurgitation of the original reading because I could not dare leave out even one element of that masterful evaluation.
I logged into class on Zoom, notes in hand, ready to fangirl about this reading to my eighteen-person honor’s seminar, for it to finally be my turn to speak, and practically forgot how to say my name. Since I was second to last in ascending alphabetical order, my mind was clinging to everyone else’s words—all of them focusing on the same point, a point from the piece that I seemed to miss.
Slightly scathed from this experience, I was less enthusiastic about the prospect of trying to present polished thoughts in our following recorded Zoom lecture which would focus on Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” Hopelessly, I pleaded to the universe to enlighten me with the point that others would discuss, the point that was perhaps obvious, the point I didn’t want to miss.
I adored the chaotically brilliant “The Murders in the Rue Morgue.” I filled up three pages of my yellow, partly crumpled but no less loved, water damaged legal pad. My handwriting was so disheveled that a forensic linguist would squint, arrows pointing up, down, backward, to different questions, comments, and discoveries. I thought that feeling of adrenaline must have been how it felt to be the first-ever to pop a kernel of corn. Anxiously sitting on a kitchen stool in my outdated college apartment, my sea of notes and discoveries became flooded with nervous doodles and fragments of my peers’ observations. As the ascending alphabet approached D, I thought I might pass out or explode from everything I needed to say about this story, but was so scared to botch.
I heard my name and words practically fell out of my mouth—I lost track of what I was saying, overthinking myself into the yonder, my notepad unable to keep up with my frantic babble. Once I recited every word I possibly could in a disorderly soliloquy, I saw my colleagues’ blank faces. It wasn’t until that moment that I realized how engrossed I was in this story: I researched every possible historical reference that appeared in “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” translated every one of Dupin’s French quips, and fell into an endless goose chase rummaging through database records of Edgar Allan Poe’s life in hopes of somehow discovering the meaning of the story. I also realized that I had never been that possessed, at least not to that level of desperation. Desperate to make some sort of renowned discovery, one that would, at the very least, allow me to sleep at night. Or one that, in my Poe-addled deranged brain, would uncover a grave pedagogical discovery and change the world of detective fiction as we know it (reading literary criticism convinced me of this option).
This unrequited Poe passion led to months of research (emphasizing the new and emerging field of literary animal studies), countless hours of reading, thousands of written words, and, finally, to producing the most extensive paper I have ever written. My thesis proposed that Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” reflected and somewhat criticized the emergence of zoos, specifically, the Paris Zoo.
With each proposition I managed to support, another one emerged. I sat on my couch like a hermit for a week, snacking off of a whole baguette that I didn’t even bother to cut, ingesting unspeakable amounts of coffee while growling at my roommates—begging them not to disturb me.
I turned four separate versions of the paper in, each more elaborate than the last. Feeling content about a conclusion was a pipe dream and I had to accept that. At least at that moment, I had to surrender the paper for grading. However, even now, I still plan on finishing the paper—someday.
To say I highly recommend that every person residing on earth should read “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” would be an understatement. And, to say this story changed only me would be a lie…it influenced the identity of the furry four-legged foster who I ended up permanently inviting into my home, aptly named Poe. (HC)