I know it’s old  news, but i can’t quite get the lady who stuck the cat in the wheelie bin out of my head.

It reminds me of an Edgar Allen Poe story called The Imp of the Perverse, which everyone should read because the imp of the perverse is such a fantastically useful concept, and also because Poe is brilliant.

Here’s an excerpt:

We stand upon the brink of a precipice.  We peer into the abyss – we grow sick and dizzy.  Our first impulse is to shrink from the danger.  Unaccountably we remain.  By slow degrees our sickness, and dizziness, and horror, become merged in a cloud of unnameable feeling.  By gradations, still more imperceptible, this cloud assumes shape, as did the vapor from the bottle out of which arose the genius in the Arabian Nights.  But out of this our cloud upon the precipice’s edge, there grows into palpability, a shape, far more terrible than any genius, or any demon of a tale, and yet it is but a thought, although a fearful one, and one which chills the very marrow of our bones with the fierceness of the delight of its horror.  It is merely the idea of what would be our sensations during the sweeping precipitancy of a fall from such a height.  And this fall – this rushing annihilation – for the very reason that it involves that one most ghastly and loathsome of all the most ghastly and loathsome images of death and suffering which have ever presented themselves to our imagination – for this very cause do we now the most vividly desire it.  And because our reason violently deters us from the brink, therefore, do we the more impetuously approach it.  There is no passion in nature so demoniacally impatient, as that of him, who shuddering upon the edge of a precipice, thus meditates a plunge.”

I used to think of Poe’s imp on the edge of precipices. Now I think of it every time I pass a wheelie bin.


10 thoughts on “The Imp of The Perverse

  1. Lynne Harris 8 years ago

    I get what you mean … and somehow this piece is made much more real if your inner readers voice speaks like Vincent Price

  2. Gail 8 years ago

    Funny, I cite the imp of the perverse often, especially at work, and no one gets the reference. [sigh] I think Poe just isn’t read anymore.

  3. Meg 8 years ago

    I’m trying to give culture a nudge. Doubt it helps……

  4. Philippa 8 years ago

    Perhaps I should not confess to this, but … I do get ideas like ‘throw the housekeys in the flooded gravel pit’, ‘let the full shopping trolley freewheel down the hill ‘or ‘cut all the nearby telephone lines with the secateurs’. Now I know it’s just the Imp of the Perverse talking. Thank you Meg and a somewhat belated and pointless thank you to Mr Poe.

  5. Meg 8 years ago

    Definitely admit it. That’s what’s so interesting about the phrase — it defines an impulse you didn’t even know had a name. But it’s a common human ‘imp’ — and i’m sure that’s what the cat-in-wheelie-bin lady succumbed to.

  6. Teri Terry 8 years ago

    Is that where the urge comes to run screaming onto the stage in a darkened theatre in the middle of a theatrical performance? clothing optional? I’ve never done it, but still

    1. Meg 8 years ago


  7. Bazza 8 years ago

    Poe was a genius even if only in his specialised niche. I can’t imagine what it must have been like inside his head!
    How wonderful to begin a poem with the lines:
    “Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary,
    Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore”.
    By the way, I have posted something about ‘How I Live Now’ over at ToDiscoverIce (do you know where that name comes from?)

    1. Meg 8 years ago

      Of course I know! But only because I read it on your blog (i didn’t remember it from the book until you reminded me)…..And thank you for the lovely review. I’m going to post it on FB if you don’t mind… Have enjoyed your visits here, and mine to you. The Raft of the Medusa is my husband’s favourite painting, and I don’t think I’ll ever forget standing in front of it at the Louvre. It’s so huge…. I think I remember that Gericault took it on tour to England, rolling and unrolling it at each stop. I love Gericault’s horses (of course I do).

  8. Bazza 8 years ago

    Meg, of course you may post it on Facebook. I wouild be honoured if you were comment on the post!

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