Read Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance by Kenneth Silverman Free Online
Book Title: Edgar A. Poe: Mournful and Never-ending Remembrance|
The author of the book: Kenneth Silverman
ISBN: No data
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Edition: Harper Perennial
Date of issue: 1992
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 985 KB
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Reader ratings: 3.4
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Poe. Ugh! Nevermore! Just kidding. Sort of. I’ll always read the great stories over and over again. They are, to my mind, essential parts of American fiction, and foundational material when considering the history of the Weird Tale. But the life of the man, after reading Kenneth Silverman’s biography, now holds for me little interest. Biographer’s can of course get their subject wrong, or even lose it by making their book a literary hit job (a method Poe would of appreciated – as long as the subject wasn’t himself). But in Silverman’s case, the tone is neutral, leaning sympathetic.
The approach is largely a Freudian one (an approach I’m not crazy about), but in Poe’s case, there’s no denying he represents a target rich environment. His actress-mother (reportedly a very good one), died when Poe was three. His actor-father (a lousy actor, but a roaring good drunk), had already abandoned the family ship – never to be seen again (weird how that fact echoes Stephen King’s childhood). Upon the mother’s death, the children were split up, with young Edgar, now a charity case, raised by the Allans of Richmond, Virginia. The step-mother is sweet enough, but the step-father, a successful businessman, is something of a cold fish, who grew colder as the years went by. Clearly the hyper sensitive Poe craved affection and stability. John Allan wasn’t too good on the affection, and as Poe grew older, Allan was dutiful only up to a point, providing Poe with something of an education at the University of Virginia. But the party life for Poe intervened, and his step-father would never provide him with enough money (according to Poe) to succeed.
What follows is a number of false starts for Poe, where he tried to get traction in life. Meanwhile the relationship with his step-father kept deteriorating. Poe’s boozing, up to this point, is largely speculation. But around page 108, it’s a reality. Poe tries West Point, does fairly well, but again runs up the tabs, while his step-father keeps him on a short leash. Poe deliberately flunks out, and the final break with Allan occurs.
We are now getting to the serious writing part of Poe’s life. He moves to Baltimore (home of the Poes), marries his 13 year old(!!!) first cousin (the “13” part of that was shocking (great balls of fire!) even back then), and starts writing in earnest. This was a time of numerous magazines in America. Poe’s stories and reviews peppered a number of them as he moved from one editorship job to another, but the big money never came. Along the way he made a LOT of enemies. Poe was a savage critic, ripping other writers and poets over such things as bad grammar and plagiarism. Charges, Silverman points out, that could also be leveled at Poe. With Poe there is always a whole lot of projecting going on. In addition, and I found this odd, Poe is always arguing for art and beauty in literature, and yet you have him cranking out these horrific and grotesque tales.
At about the mid way point in Silverman’s book, Poe has written most of his major stories. His wife, Virginia, who he clearly loved, is dying from tuberculosis, and Poe is rapidly disintegrating as both person and literary force. Oh, despite everything he’s done to others, he’s still respected as a writer, but he’s a writer suffering from writer’s block. Throughout this period the Poe family (Edgar, Virginia, and Aunt “Muddy”) are living on the edge of poverty. Silverman lingers over this stretch of Poe’s life (the last four years) for too long. Upon Virginia’s death, the reader is given detailed biographical descriptions of Virginia’s potential replacements, which kind of throws sand into the momentum of the book. And compounding this search is Poe’s never ending literary feuds, his boozing, his scrambling for money. It’s a cycle that keeps repeating itself. He’s a sad figure, true, and horribly unlucky, but not a nice one. On the subject of Poe’s alcoholism, Silverman tries to stick to the facts, which are murky at best. His Aunt “Muddy” maintained that the problem with Poe was that he couldn’t handle much alcohol. I think anyone looking at the pictures of Poe throughout his life can see that he could handle quite a bit. The physical decline is that apparent. His “mysterious” death, in the end, doesn’t seem all that mysterious.
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