iPoe Challenge review: The Balloon-Hoax

With only 6 days to go until the 200th anniversary of Edgar’s birth you may have thought I’d forgotten all about my iPoe reading challenge, but I haven’t. Way too many commitments pushed my progress through this to the back, but today I managed to read my way through The Balloon-Hoax, and to be honest I wasn’t overly impressed. Of course, I was reading this story way out of context as this short’s whole purpose was to create a hoax in the New York Sun, reporting the successful balloon crossing of the Atlantic in 1844. It apparently proved to be a successful hoax too (at least until the story was retracted a couple of days later) with Poe being quoted himself as claiming he’d “never witnessed more intense excitement to get possession of a newspaper”.

In respect to the hoax the story is well-written, containing enough scientific ‘mumble-jumble’ and facts and figures to induce a degree of believability, but for the detached contemporary Poe fan (unless he’s a science geek :o)) there is little in this story that really entertains.

The highlight, if there is to be one, comes from the fictional diary entries of the two aeronauts – Mr. Monck Mason and Mr. Harrison Ainsworth, made during the ‘crossing’. These ‘entries’ are rather eloquent at times as the ‘notable quote’ below from Mr. Ainsworth nicely illustrates.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Notable Quote: “I am more struck, just now, with the supreme silence which reigns in the sea beneath us, notwithstanding its agitation, than with any other phenomenon presenting itself. The waters give up no voice to the Heavens. The immense flaming ocean writhes and is tortured uncomplainingly. The mountainous surges suggest the idea of innumerable dumb gigantic fiends struggling in impotent agony. In a night such as is this to me, a man lives—lives a whole century of ordinary life—nor would I forego this rapturous delight for that of a whole century of ordinary existence.”

About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn't bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books).