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Edgar Allan Poe Audiobook Collection 5: Eureka Audio CD – September 15, 2007
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About the Author
Writer of essays, stories, and poems, Edgar Allan Poe is one of the most influential authors in American literature.
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The narrator takes some getting used to on this audio CD. The narrator tries to hard to sound like he thinks Poe should sound. So we may forgive that. I have listened to this through twice, and read Eureka several times. You can read the text from the "Edgar Allan Poe Society Baltimore" website, or download the free kindle book Eureka!
Once you get used to the narrator, you can fall into the poem. Poe actually performed this poem live a number of times. He considered it his best work. Try to imagine what he would have sounded like!
There is a reason I am posting my review ten years after buying the discs.
New Scientist just reported in its Oct 1, 2014 issue that instruments on Antarctica have just proven our universe did not have "inflation" as has been believed for about fifty years. The next-best-theory, the article says (search for the words, "bouncing universe" or "cosmic inflation is dead") is that our universe expands for a time, then contracts, probably in an ongoing pattern.
Amazingly, Poe predicted this in his poem, Eureka. He called it the heartbeat of the universe. How could he have known this 166 years before the evidence arrived?? Well, the beginning of the poem does talk about a letter he received from people in the future...
Though the poem deals with science, he says in the prologue that he wishes for it to be considered a poem, after he is dead. He says that the universe is best understood poetically.
By the way, Eureka! tells us the meaning of life, the universe and everything. I won't give it away in case you haven't read it yet.
PS Warning--Poe's prose uses the longest sentences you may ever read. Many paragraphs are just one long sentence. Some of the sentences have clauses within clauses. This is easier to navigate in the written text where he uses m-dashes. It is best to study this poem with both the audio version and reading a written version at the same time. Your brain will get a workout if you finish it. I had to read it several times over two decades to really "get it." It is like reading philosophy. But with a sense of humor and an appreciation for intuition, imagination and art.
PPS The text makes many references to philosophers and astronomers of his time. There is a hardback version that came out about ten years ago that footnotes all these references for you, if you feel you need them.
In the latter, we learn such pieces of advice as: "Never ask a lady any question about anything whatever, unless it be the all-important one of `popping the question,' which is the star of the mind and heart from seventeen to thirty-two." Whether Poe meant this ironically or we laugh at it in cultural hindsight is irrelevant. The reader is having great fun with its delivery, as we should in its receipt.
To listen to the narrator, Christopher Aruffo, in his rendering of Poe's "The Philosophy of Furniture,' the piece's humorous absurdity becomes crystal clear. Here he lampoons one nation after another for their bad taste and worse decor. Having read this previously for literature classes, I had been unaware of its full comic potential until listening to Aruffo's spirited rendering.
Of course, the prime piece of real estate in this collection is Poe's stunning cosmological essay, "Eureka." A late in life attempt to pull all his theoretical beliefs together into a cohesive whole, Poe's essay is notable for presaging both the Big Bang and Big Crunch Theories, the former by nearly one hundred years. In this view, Poe suggests universal matter to derive from one single "particle absolutely unique, individual, undivided, and not indivisible" and to which, after explosion and division into all other universal matter, all substance eventually contracts.
The piece is fascinating in its own right and is kept so by Aruffo's steady hand on the narrative tiller. An essay on such a weightless topic is easy to narrate badly, to lose the listener in Poe's morass of philosophical speculation and literary digression. Through judicious emphasis and delivery, Aruffo pushes the ideas, managing to get through Poe's rather less than clear arrangement.
Other pieces in the collection benefit from Aruffo's assured performance. "Instinct vs. Reason" will be sure to delight pet lovers who, like me, are convinced that there is a reasoning capacity in their feline companions, while anyone who's ever griped at the weatherman will be sure to appreciate "A Charlatan!" for its timeless observations on faulty prognostication.
I said something similar in my earlier review of the preceding volume. Listeners who want more Poe than is currently on offer through most outlets would do well to pick up Aruffo's renditions. They fill such amazing holes in the general audio collected works that no one else has managed to provide. Having listened and delighted to these more obscure works, I am sure to be entranced by his more traditional pieces.
Even when Poe is wrong (as we can only see in hindsight), his careful thought processes and humble phrasing allow us to think of him as a capable explorer who has momentarily chosen the wrong fork in an uncharted river, rather than as a fool who is missing obvious signposts.
Poe enjoys thinking, synthesizing, speculating, and pondering... and the voice of Christopher Aruffo makes that enjoyment contagious.