Monday, March 14, 2005

Revisiting the Rue Morgue

Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” published in 1841, is considered literature’s first “modern detective story.” Have you read it? Until recent decades, it was almost standard fare in high school lit classes. Today, most youths learn something of Poe -- but not necessarily of his leading character Dupin, arguably the first “fictional detective.” (Our 18-year-old reports having read “The Pit and the Pendulum,” but she’s never heard of “Rue Morgue.”)

“Rue Morgue” is a challenge to enter, its opening pages dragging us through Poe’s discourse (talk about horror literature . . .) on the distinctions between calculation and analysis, chess and whist. It gets interesting once we meet Dupin, the author’s brilliant co-lodger whose deductive powers seem to exceed those of Sherlock Holmes or any other latter-day sleuth of literature. You definitely should meet him, if you haven’t yet.

Suggestion: Skip down to the sixth paragraph and begin at “Residing in Paris. . . .” You have my permission to cheat. (You no longer need the permission of Poe.)


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