POE’s Novel

I’m not usually big on messages from the universe, but shortly after I downloaded Edgar Allan Poe’s one long-form work of fiction — The Narrative of Arthur Pym of Nantucket — I returned to the “Mystery of the Ordinary” Magritte show at the Museum of Modern Art (for my third visit). Each time I see this particular collection of paintings, I’m struck by something else. Different paintings capture me and different paintings inspire me. On this last visit, I became captivated by the part Poe played in one of Magritte’s great works of surrealism.

It’s called “Not to Be Reproduced” and the painting is a man standing in front of a mirror over a mantelpiece, but the reflection in the mirror shows the same back of his head as you see in the foreground. Magritte’s joke is startling and wonderful at the same time.

This time I was drawn to the book on the mantelpiece beside the man and his reflection — it was Poe!

The first time I went to see this particular exhibit I went alone and was drawn to Magritte’s word games. He plays a series of brain games with the viewer — mislabeling ordinary objects or tickling you with titles that undermine what you are seeing. His ‘This is Not a Pipe’ is a painting of a pipe and the ‘The Landscape’ is a painting of an empty frame with a hunting rifle. His clever, literary games are catnip for writers.

On my second visit, I went with my friend Wendy — a sculptor. I love seeing art with a visual artist. She makes me look at art from a different perspective. Wendy helped me understand how Magritte flattened color while he played with illusions about space and time. The Dadaist collages and the paintings that screamed ‘science fiction’ scenarios, were jumping out at me.

My third visit, the Poe visit, was with my old friend/brother Tom. His theory about all the crazy, inspiring images was unique. “It’s the beer,” he concluded. The Belgian beer is behind all the wonderful insanity!

Between Poe and Magritte — I think he may be right! Now, I have to read that novel.



  1. Now you’re talking! I think beer lubricates the wheels of just about everything here in Australia, so those two gentlemen would have felt quite at home.:)

    • Candy

      Who knows what Magritte’s landscape of chair legs and bells would have looked like had he lived in Australia instead of France and Belgium. Poe… I think Poe would have enjoyed an Australian adventure. And my friend Tom, I KNOW he’d love to go there. He’s a traveler and originally from Thailand.

      Taking art breaks from this flood of year end deadlines has been very helpful. It opens up the mind when it’s getting to focused on ‘gotta get this draft out to the client’ and ‘I want to write fiction’ thoughts.

      • I don’t think i have heard of the artist but the paintings you described did sound like the crazy stuff i like. The website has an i teractive tour that works great on my ipad. The paintings i saw were all within the scope of the stuff I like.

        • Candy

          I’ve always been a Magritte fan! Yes, there are other famous surrealists, but every one of his paintings is a writers prompt for me.

  2. I’m mostly acquainted with Magritte because the professor of an aesthetics class I took was obsessed with him. I’m still making my way through Poe’s short stories. You’ll have to let us know how his novel compares to his shorter works.

    • Candy

      I thought I knew the extent of Magritte’s Poe-ishness from the works in MoMA’s collection, but seeing the extent of the wild and scary and playful images in the broader show, has astonished me. Truly Poe/Puckish!

      I’m planning to read the novel of over New Year’s. I’ll report to you about it.