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Edgar Allan Poe invented the detective story, perfected the horror tale, and first articulated the theory of the modern short story as well as the idea of pure poetry. No author stays internationally popular for years by accident. Poe is one of the classic authors of American literature—a master of the short story, a magician of the short poem, and a critic of brilliance and originality.
And no small part of his artistic sleight of hand is that he appeals to readers from childhood to old age.
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Let us underestimate him nevermore! Few writers have pioneered so many forms of escapism as Edgar Allan Poe, and fewer still have sought escape so desperately themselves. Again and again he dodged poverty through overwork, but never for long. He fled loneliness into an ill-fated, loving but likely chaste marriage to a frail cousin.
And drink promised an oblivion that kept luring him back, with increasingly destructive consequences.
The SFFaudio Podcast #098 – NEW RELEASES/RECENT ARRIVALS
His sheer versatility continues to astonish. Without Poe, the literary arts of horror, adventure, detective, and science fiction—and, arguably, the short story itself—would have developed very differently. In addition to fiction in several genres, he wrote as famous a poem as American literature can claim.
He practiced literary criticism as fine art, blood sport, and, with a series of female poets, the highest form of flirtation. If the movies had existed in the nineteenth century, he might have written screenplays as well—and bedeviled his producers as reliably as he did most of his editors.
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At the same time, another side of Poe remained relentlessly logical. In his criticism as well as his detective stories, he could make a case and prove it with mathematical inevitability. Often lost in any study of Poe, too, is his sense of humor. Though their victims would hardly have agreed, his hoaxes, essays, and especially his negative reviews retain their wit even today. Even the most macabre of his stories impart a certain ghoulish tickle. He resembles scarcely anybody before him but, at least a little, almost everyone after.
If melodramatic organ chords could talk, they would sound like the narrator of a Poe story. Few students of Poe can resist the temptation to group his stories into subsets, like teams.
What these categories all have in common is the self-dramatizing loneliness of genius. Poe almost always relies on a first-person narrator.
Many of his narrators marry, but none ever achieves a lasting connection with his bride.
Even his most self-satisfied character, the peerless amateur detective C. Auguste Dupin, has but one friend and no equal. No serious writer today could get away with all this hyperventilating.
The other would be Nathaniel Hawthorne, who, interestingly, also wrote more than a few horror stories. Like many fledgling writers, American fiction itself started out with a fascination for ghosts and gore.
Media in category "Edgar Allan Poe"
Melancholy is thus the most legitimate of all poetical tones The death, then, of a beautiful woman is, unquestionably, the most poetical topic in the world—and equally is it beyond doubt that the lips best suited for such topic are those of a bereaved lover.
A master of rhythm, Poe's syllable-by-syllable approach to sound yielded some of the most memorable lines in American poetry. His ear for mimicry is unparalleled.
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Excluding "The Raven," Poe's poems are mostly short lyric pieces—meditations on death or beautiful women or the death of beautiful women—almost always less than a page long. He believed that a poem should be readable in one sitting and objected to what he saw as the epic "mania" among such contemporaries as Longfellow, whom he felt valued Truth and moral didacticism over the exaltation of Beauty.
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For all the time he spent writing about it, Poe left behind a rather slim corpus of poetry. Perhaps because his standards were so high, a remarkable share of Poe's poems are excellent in their technique and unity. His poems remain popular in and outside the classroom, and are assured a place in the minds of readers forevermore.
David was the son of a Revolutionary War hero and a drinker; Elizabeth, a popular stage actress. Two-year-old Edgar was taken in by John Allan, a wealthy Richmond tobacco merchant, who lent Poe his middle name. Poe spent a single year at the University of Virginia. After John Allan refused to pay his second-year tuition, and gambling debts kept him from paying his own way, Poe joined the army.
He did well there and, when his enlistment was up, attended West Point for officer training.
He was soon expelled for failing to attend class and skipping mandatory chapel services. The next year, Poe, 27, and Virginia, 13, married. Poe resigned from the Messenger in over a salary disagreement and moved the family to New York where financial troubles continued to haunt him.
He met with some success in , when he released Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque , including all his stories up to that point. In Virginia ruptured a blood vessel, the first sign of the ill health that plagued her short life. To cope with her illness and the stress of his failing finances, Poe occasionally turned to alcohol. He repented after each binge, but his employers and friends took note.
Always prone to self-destructive behavior, Poe attacked Henry Wadsworth Longfellow on grounds of plagiarism, greatly damaging his own reputation. Two years later, Virginia died of tuberculosis.
The cause of his death remains uncertain. On October 3, , Poe was found at Ryan's 4th Ward Polls, a tavern also known as Gunner's Hall, in Baltimore, disoriented and wearing tattered clothing.
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He was admitted to Washington College Hospital, where he never regained full consciousness and died four days later. His death was attributed to "congestion of the brain," though no autopsy was performed. Due to conflicting testimonies from his doctor and a libelous obituary written by his literary nemesis Rufus Griswold, the nature of Poe's death has remained in question.
Doctors and scholars have theorized that Poe died of epilepsy, hypoglycemia, beating, rabies, alcohol, heart failure, murder, or carbon monoxide poisoning. One of the most compelling scenarios is that Poe, found on election day, was a victim of "cooping," a form of voter fraud in which a person is dressed up, beaten, drugged, and forced to vote multiple times—the term is related to a "chicken coop," as victims were often held captive in a small space while abused.
Not one of these theories has been proven, and Poe's death remains a mystery. What was it -- I paused to think -- what was it that so unnerved me in the contemplation of the House of Usher?
And if you do read it, read it before the sun goes down. And if you read it late at night I won't be responsible for the dreams you have. Welcome to Art Works, the program that goes behind the scenes with some of the nation's great artists to explore how Art Works. I'm your host Josephine Reed. Born in , Edgar Allan Poe is a pioneer science fiction and detective fiction as well most famously in gothic fiction.
While today, we tend to overlook his considerable ability as a poet; in his own time, he was best known as the author of "The Raven" which had the same popularity as a hit song. Poe's mastery of the short story is often overlooked because of his ability to terrify his readers with his macabre tales. But Poe's influence on modern fiction is pervasive. As one critic wrote, "Poe came along and made literature safe for ghosts and murderers and crime-solving know-it-alls This is Roderick Usher.
Roderick lives in the wilderness in a grand and decaying house alone with his sister Madeline. But Madeline is not dead and the horror of that premature burial intensifies until the house literally can no longer contain it. With Halloween on the horizon, it seemed a particularly good time to revisit "the House of Usher.
5 thoughts to “The SFFaudio Podcast #098 – NEW RELEASES/RECENT ARRIVALS”
Aside from being a great mystery writer, Laura lives in Baltimore, the city perhaps most associated with Edgar Allan Poe. Like many of us Laura first read Poe in high school, but a decade or so ago, she began to re-read Poe in a very different light than she had as a young reader.
There are things that Poe did with language, particularly his poetry, that someone who's not trained as a literary critic. I don't have the vocabulary to describe it, but I certainly could recognize it and appreciate it. Poe is a really wonderful poet. I think that gets a bit lost. I think people who only know "The Raven" tend to not recognize that, but I found the poetry quite wonderful.
And what I found interesting in the stories that I read and reread, I didn't reread everything. I haven't read everything, to be fair. But in the stories that I read and reread, I began to notice that Poe is not particularly interested in motive.
Book talk:Edgar Allan Poe
Motive is a much more modern concern in the crime novel. I mean, he did create one of the great, original detectives in "Murder in the Rue Morgue," and he would write these horrible tales of violence and crime, almost always from the point of view of the killer.
And he seldom provided any reason or rationale for why the killers behaved as they did.
In "The Cask of Amontillado" the line is "I had borne many insults, and he knows them well. And I thought, well, that's very interesting. The stories are, of course, often concerned with the supernatural, a sense of the Gothic that is not always part of modern crime fiction. And those are all the things that I noticed as I went back into them.
And yet I found them remarkably accessible to a modern reader and reading something like "The Fall of the House of Usher," the only thing that sets it aside from a modern tale of horror may be the length at which Poe describes certain things.
There is a lot of information given about the house. So things perhaps are in this, what you would think of as a pre-cinematic age, there is more attention paid to creating a visual sense of what is happening, more description. But other than that, it's really easy for a modern reader.
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I don't think most people would- would find it difficult at all to read Poe, even now. During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country, and at length found myself, as the shades of the evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher.
And I think there's something that is so key to Poe and his mindset, because he adds that, and- and there was no pleasure in it, as there often is with that kind of feeling.