Our understanding of the nineteenth-century reception of Edgar Allan Poe's only novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (1838), is illuminated not only by considering the reviews but also by examining the handwritten comments that appear in three copies of the first American edition of the work. Two copies feature handwritten comments that strongly support the argument of some reviews that the book is fraudulent, that it deceitfully presents unbelievable details as if they were true. The tone of these comments is angry and annoyed. A third copy features handwritten comments that effectively support the contention of some reviewers that the book is a remarkable achievement, a narrative of exceptional interest. The tone of these comments is appreciative and admiring. The polarized responses of these ordinary readers reflect those of the contemporary reviewers. The more astute readers and critics of Pym understood well that verisimilitude may well intensify the fantastic in literature.
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