A Tale of Jerusalem by Edgar Allan Poe

A Tale of Jerusalem Edgar Allan PoeRating: 

Like with Le Duc de L’Omelette, I needed a translation, and not from French this time. Once again the Examiner saved my bacon.

Apparently this is a spoof of Zillah; a tale of the Holy City (1828) set in Jerusalem 6,000 years ago when animal sacrifices were in vogue. I haven’t read Zillah and my knowledge of this Biblical time and place is virtually non-existent, so I had no idea what the clan names meant or their significance. As a modern reader, when it came to Pharisees, Israelites, Ammonites, Philistines – I pretty much drew a blank, and I didn’t particularly feel like researching them for what is, essentially, a nonsensical short story about a handful of Israelites guessing the species of animal they’ve purchased to be sacrificed. (Spoiler: It turns out to be an ‘unclean’ pig so they throw it back over the wall.) But back in 1832, when A Tale of Jerusalem was published – at the very beginning of Poe’s writing career – a few more readers had probably come across the source material. A little context would’ve been appreciated. On the other hand, considering the quality of writing, I very much doubt it would’ve inspired me to increase my rating.

Again, as a writer, don’t assume your audience is as educated as yourself, and reception of your work may be partially based on whether it stands the test of time.


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