Friday, December 18, 2009

Poe Fridays: X-ing a Paragrab

Welcome to the last Poe Fridays story of 2009! We're going to take the next two weeks off for the holidays and come back in January for a couple more weeks until Poe's birthday.

The short story for this week was X-ing a Paragrab. You can read it here.

This is quite the silliest story I think I have ever read. A man heads to a new town where he believes there to be no newspaper. There is, of course, a newspaper and the man (by the ridiculous name of "Mr. Touch-and-go Bullet-head", no less) sets up shop across the street from the established rag. In his very first issue, he prints the following bizarre passage --
'Oh, yes!—Oh, we perceive! Oh, no doubt! The editor over the way is a genius—O, my! Oh, goodness, gracious!—what is this world coming to? Oh, tempora! Oh, Moses!'
The "editor over the way" is not amused and makes fun of this rant and its overuse of our jowly vowel O. Bullet-head at first wants to write a rebuttal that does not use the letter O at all but instead heads the other way and writes a paragraph in which almost every word contains the letter O. He leaves the paragraph with the typesetter who shortly finds that an employee of the rival paper has relieved them of all of their upper case and lower case O's. What to do? Why, replace them with x's of course -- hence the "X-ing" of the paragraph.

I'm hoping Rob can tell us whether this is a criticism of journalism in general or was inspired by a specific grudge. Either way, it has Poe's sharp-tongue but also his light humor in it. The paragraph itself (with all of the O's intact) is hilarious and even if you aren't interested in the story, I recommend heading over and reading just that part. It reminds me of British humor.

Our next Poe discussion will be on January 8th and so I thought that we could tackle Poe's only novel--The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket--in the coming weeks. This is apparently not an easy work to get through but I hope someone will brave it with me! You can read it online here but it will probably be easier to read as a print copy or an actual e-book.

Expounding on our astounding Poe (or Expxunding xn xur astxunding Pxe),


  1. Well, this was one of Poe's last stories before his death and I think of him sort of looking back at all of the ridiculous rivalries in the print business. Ultimately, it's a very plausible story, considering the climate of journalism at the time. Every newspaper had an enemy (or two) in those days.

    It's nice to see a silly side of Poe. It shows that he too was just a normal guy!

    We recreated part of "X-ing a Paragrab" for our exhibit at the Boston Public Library, which opened yesterday. "Txld yxo sx!"

  2. Well, I'm not sure I can agree with Rob's assessment that Poe was just a "normal guy"....=)

    But this was certainly an interesting tale.

  3. Rob - I wish I was heading to Boston to see that exhibit! That's one thing I regret about being on the west coast. We have so little history here.

    Elizabeth - Haha! Maybe we could say that he had some elements of normalcy in his personality at least? ;)