Friday, October 9, 2009

Poe Fridays: Some Words With A Mummy

This week's Poe Fridays short story was Some Words With A Mummy. You can read it here.

This story reminded me of one we read a few months ago -- The Angel of the Odd. It is another humorous tale that begins with an overindulging narrator. In The Angel it was a heavy drinker who has "odd" things happen all around him. In the current story it's a narrator that overindulges in food and stout. After he heads to bed with this large meal in his belly, he is woken by a message from a friend who intends to dissect a mummy that very night. A group of observers break through the many layers of papyrus coverings to find a very well preserved mummy. They decide to postpone the dissection until the next night until someone mentions trying some galvanic experiments (electrocution). You can imagine what happens in order to fulfill the title and for them to have "some words" with the mummy. In fact, the mummy shocks and humiliates the men with tales of Egyptian superiority to modern culture.

Refreshingly, Poe didn't spend the first page or two of this story setting up with a cryptic or dull background passage. The story starts immediately and is really funny and a nice satire of the elitist culture at the time. The men were so sure of their superiority and didn't take it well when the mummy reminded them of the proficiency of the Egyptians in so many scientific and mechanical fields. I can see though why this story didn't make it into any mummy short story anthologies. There's not a lot of scare behind a well-spoken yet somewhat smug ancient who might be in the dreams of a man who ate a few pounds of Welsh-rabbit and drank five bottles of stout for supper.

Next week's Poe Fridays selection will be the poem Ulalume.

Also, if you are near Baltimore this weekend, you can attend Poe's funeral on Sunday. There will be a limited number of tickets available at the door and a faux Poe will be in the coffin. He died at the age of 40 on October 7, 1849. Rest in peace, Mr. Poe.

Mentally preparing my own questions for a mummy (just in case),


  1. A faux Poe? Boy, that sounds entertaining. =)

    I'm discovering that I don't really enjoy satire. Even modern-day satire. The humor just doesn't connect with me. I like Poe's scary stuff better.

  2. Great review! I am a huge fan of Poe!

  3. Whoa, didn't realize I was born on the anniversary of Poe's death. I've enjoyed the Poe reviews, I didn't realize he wrote such a variety of genres and themes.

  4. Elizabeth - Yeah, I couldn't tell in the picture if he was wax or papier-mache but it was a good likeness.

    I think that you definitely have to have a taste for satire. It's not enjoyable for everyone.

    Passionatebooklover - Glad you like it!

    Corbett family - Every year I notice more major events and shared birthdays on my date. :) Better than just going with the standard "Hitler's birthday"!

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  6. The dummy was neither paper mache nor wax - it was much higher-end, made by a Hollywood special effects guy (no word if they tried any galvanic tricks on him). Regarding Poe's many genres: what we call "horror" was less than one-third of his prose (the majority of his works, then, are something other than horror).

    Good job in choosing "Some Words With a Mummy." It definitely qualifies as one of his "something else" stories. Not a fan personally, but I have colleagues who swear by it. I'm looking forward to your post on "Ulalume"!

  7. Rob - I'm glad to hear that it was a first-class effort. After Poe's original funeral, this was well-deserved.

    I think that Some Words With a Mummy was interesting to me because I read a lot about the Egyptologist craze and also about Victorian science. It was an interesting viewpoint on those issues.