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January 19, 2011

Edgar Allan Poe gravesite tribute: let it die

edgar allan poe grave

For the second straight year, the mysterious visitor failed to show up at the Baltimore grave of Edgar Allan Poe.

Since 1949, the "Poe Toaster" had marked the great author's Jan. 19 birthday by leaving roses and cognac at the grave outside Westminster Hall. But that tradition ended last year, amid speculation that the toaster had died.

Jeff Jerome, curator of the Poe House, dutifully opened the burial grounds gates last night, and several would-be toasters showed up, but none fit the profile of the real one, the Baltimore Sun reported. Jerome said he would open the gates one more year, and if the toaster didn't show up, he would let the tradition die. "If it is over, let it die a noble death."

Well said, Jeff. the worst thing that could happen, in this era of reality-TV stunts, would be for the tradition to become a made-for-prime-time spectacle.

AP photo

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 10:20 AM | | Comments (5)
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December 20, 2010

Edgar Allan Poe movie stars John Cusack, not Baltimore

edgar allan poe movie john cusack

Filmmakers are shooting "The Raven," a new movie about Baltimore's most celebrated author, Edgar Allan Poe, but don't expect to see star John Cusack wandering around the city. To cut costs, the movie is being filmed in Europe, notable Belgrade and Budapest. Nothing at Baltimore's Poe House, the neighborhood where he died, or his gravesite? Heresy!

Baltimore Sun reporters Mary Carole McCauley and Michael Sragow note that the fictionalized movie, scheduled for a 2011 release, is set during the last five days of Poe's life — a period when he disappeared before turning up dazed and incoherent. He died shortly thereafter.

The film begins with Poe's return to Baltimore for the second and final time, according to the Sun article. A serial killer is terrorizing the local citizens, and it is apparent that he is being inspired by Poe's stories. Initially, the novelist is a suspect. After he clears his name — and after his fiancee is kidnapped — the author works with a Baltimore police inspector to solve the crimes.

The circumstances surrounding Poe's death in Baltimore have always been unclear. He died Oct. 7, 1849, at Church Hospital, a building that has been converted to housing for the Washington Hill neighborhood. Here's how the Sun wrote about the event: DEATH OF EDGAR A. POE -- We regret to learn that Edgar A. Poe, Esq., the distinguished American poet, scholar and critic, died in this city yesterday morning, after an illness of four or five days. This announcement, coming so sudden and unexpected, will cause poignant regret among all who admire genius, and have sympathies for the frailties too often attending it. Mr. Poe, we believe, was a native of this state, though reared by a foster father at Richmond, Va., where he lately spent some time on a visit. He was in the 38th year of his age.

For more Read Street postings, including those marking the 200th anniversary of his birth, check out our Edgar Allan Poe section.

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 12:56 PM | | Comments (8)
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January 19, 2010

Edgar Allan Poe's grave: ode to the toaster

edgar allan poe grave

As we noted on Read Street this morning, for the first time since 1949, the mysterious toaster did not visit Edgar Allan Poe's grave in Baltimore. By tradition, the unnamed visitor left roses and cognac on Poe's birthday, as is shown here from 2008. But this year: nothing. The Baltimore Sun's Mary McCauley wrote today about the toaster's identity, while adding this verse, entitled "The Raving."

Once upon a midnight dreary/Long we waited, weak and weary,

To see the quaint and curious/Poe toaster who has come before.

“Come dark visitor,” we chattered,/“Leave us not with hopes a-tattered.

“Lay cognac on the gravesite floor.”/Though the wind took up our sighing,

No answer came back to our crying:/Is a grand tradition dying?

Will you haunt us nevermore?

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 6:43 PM | | Comments (4)
Categories: Edgar Allan Poe
        

No cognac and roses for Poe this year

For the first time since 1949, the Poe Toaster failed to visit Edgar's grave on the writer's birthday.

Every year, a mysterious visitor has made the pilgrimage to Poe's grave, while visitors look on to witness the  tradition, but this year's group was disappointed. From the Associated Press article:

"But early Tuesday, [Poe House and Museum Curator Jeff] Jerome announced that the visitor, who had always appeared between midnight and 5:30 a.m., never showed. He had no explanation why."

I've always meant to go see the toaster myself, but a cold January night is pretty intimidating, especially when the next day dawns early. But to think that I missed my chance makes me pretty unhappy.

Have any of you ever seen the Poe toaster? And was anyone there last night waiting for the anonymous man to arrive?

Regardless, happy 201st birthday, Mr. Poe! Please forgive us for forgetting your gift.

UPDATE: Check out this Ode to the Toaster.)

Posted by Nancy Knight at 8:25 AM | | Comments (3)
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January 17, 2010

Keep Edgar Allan Poe in Baltimore, relatives say

edgar allan poe graveSome distant relatives of Edgar Allan Poe weighed in Saturday on the question of whether his body should be moved from its resting place in Baltimore. The Baltimore Sun's Chris Kaltenbach reports that their view -- which came as part of Poe birthday celebration at the Richmond, Va., museum -- is a sane one. Namely, Poe should stay here. Here's an excerpt from Kaltenbach's report:

Noting that distant cousin Edgar already has been subjected to four funerals, most recently two organized by Baltimore's Poe House and Museum back in October, Harry Lee Poe said enough was enough. After all, he noted, none of the author's living descendants have been buried even once.

"In the spirit of fairness, the family simply cannot agree to move the body just yet," Harry Lee Poe, whose great-grandfather was Edgar Allan Poe's cousin, told an audience of about 80 in Richmond Saturday. "Not until the rest of us have had our turn."

Harry Lee Poe, however, took no position on which American city has the most legitimate claim to Poe's legacy - a question that was at the heart of a pair of debates last year between representatives of Boston, where Edgar Allan Poe was born; Philadelphia, where he wrote many of his most famous stories; and Baltimore, where he died and was buried. Representatives from Richmond, where he grew up, did not participate in either debate.

Continue reading "Keep Edgar Allan Poe in Baltimore, relatives say" »

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 6:11 PM | | Comments (1)
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January 10, 2010

Edgar Allan Poe's Richmond bash -- and homecoming?

Edgar Allan PoeAs part of a birthday bash at The Poe Museum in Richmond, a distant relative will finally weigh in on the debate over which city can righfully claim the great author. Here in Baltimore, we know the answer. He lived here, wrote here, died here and is buried here. Case (and casket) closed.

But as Chris Kaltenbach writes today in the Baltimore Sun, the debate surrounding competing claims from Richmond, Philadelphia, Boston and other cities "may go on forevermore." Here's an excerpt from his story about the Richmond event on Saturday, Jan. 16:

Poe’s actual descendants — perhaps the only group whose claim to Poe’s legacy is indisputable — will announce which city they side with. ... Then again, given that the Poe descendant who will be making the announcement is president of Richmond’s Poe Museum — well, maybe next weekend’s decision won’t be as unbiased as it might seem.

“Most of all, I’m concerned with the legacy,” says Harry Lee Poe, a professor of faith and culture at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., and president of the Poe Foundation, which owns and operates the Richmond museum.

Of course, during last year’s bicentennial celebration of Poe’s birth, that legacy question was at the center of a spirited, if good-natured, war of words between Poe partisans from Boston (where Poe was born), Philadelphia (where he did much of his writing) and Baltimore (where he died and is buried). Debates were held in Boston and Philadelphia, and while nothing was resolved, all the buzz surrounding Poe made him part of the national pop culture consciousness to a degree no other 19th-century writer can match.

Continue reading "Edgar Allan Poe's Richmond bash -- and homecoming?" »

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 12:45 AM | | Comments (3)
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January 4, 2010

"The Ravens," with apologies to Poe

Since Dave is decidely lukewarm in his hometown love, I'm going to have to pick up the slack.

And so for a bit of fun, I headed over to Mad Glibs to celebrate my team in poetry rather than prose, in the spirit of Edgar Allan Poe himself.

OK, it may not be pretty, but I think I get my point across. Go Ravens!

Mad:)Glibs - free online Mad Libs
The Raven - Edgar Allan Poe
Once upon a midnight winning, while I pondered the best and unstoppable,
Over many a quaint and curious Joe Flacco of forgotten champion,
While I trounced, nearly napping, suddenly there came a Ed Reed,
As of Ray Lewis gently rapping, rapping at my M&T Stadium door.
``Tis some Ray Rice,` I muttered, `tapping at my M&T Stadium door -
Only this, and nothing more.`

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the playoff December,
And each separate scoring ember wrought its Heeeeeeap upon the floor.
Eagerly I conquered the morrow; - finally I had sought to borrow
From my Ravens surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the explosive Lenore -
For the hungry and relentless maiden whom the angels named Willis McGahee -
Nameless here for evermore.
Posted by Nancy Knight at 11:00 AM | | Comments (0)
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December 8, 2009

Poe show at the Baltimore Museum of Art

edgar allan poe by felix vallottonI finally got a chance to see the Baltimore Museum of Art's show  Edgar Allan Poe: A Baltimore Icon, and it was well worth the trip. The show nicely mixes images of Poe himself with those that illustrate macabre writings such as "The Black Cat" and "The Raven."  It's interesting to see the range of famous names drawn to Poe: Manet, Vallotton (shown here) and Motherwell among them. It's a tribute to the timelessness of Poe's works -- and to their ability to stimulate the imagination. If you have time, you can relax in the gallery's comfy chairs, read some of Poe stories at hand and let your own imagination soar. 

I would have liked to see more commentary explaining the artists' fascination with Poe. And it was odd to have the show, which is not all that big, split into two rooms -- that took away from the  sense of continuity. But overall, I enjoyed it. 

You can still catch the BMA show, part of the city's Poe celebration; it runs through Jan. 17.

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 9:00 AM | | Comments (1)
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December 4, 2009

Paging Tom Clancy: Bring rare Edgar Allan Poe home

edgar allen poe Tamerlane

UPDATE: "Tamerlane and Other Poems" sold for $662,500, according to Christie's; no word on the buyer.

This afternoon, Christie's will auction a rare first edition of Edgar Allan Poe's first book, "Tamerlane," but don't hold your breath for a Baltimore buyer to claim it. The Baltimore Sun's Chris Kaltenbach explored the possibility of a local buyer emerging, but the cash-strapped Enoch Pratt isn't likely to bid for the book, estimated to cost at least $500,000. And the Johns Hopkins University's Sheridan Libraries, which has a Poe collection, also appears out of the running for "Tamerlane" -- one of only 12 copies known to exist. But maybe a local philanthropist will emerge.

Hey, I bet Tom Clancy could buy it, and donate it to a  library, if he just cut back on the carpet quality in his new $12.6 million penthouse. How about it, Tom?

Here's an excerpt from Kaltenbach's article: "You could probably say it's the Holy Grail of 19th-century American literature or American poetry," says Francis Wahlgren, a rare-books specialist who will serve as the auctioneer at the sale.

So rare, in fact, that there's not a single copy in Baltimore, the city where Poe began his professional writing career, where he died in 1849 and was buried, and which has spent the past year celebrating one of its favorite sons at every available opportunity. The nearest copy is in Philadelphia, in the collection of the Free Library there; the University of Virginia in Charlottesville used to have a copy, but that one was stolen in the 1970s.

Continue reading "Paging Tom Clancy: Bring rare Edgar Allan Poe home" »

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 9:37 AM | | Comments (1)
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December 1, 2009

Got a half-mil? Buy Edgar Allan Poe's earliest poems

edgar allan poe's tamerlaneFriday, Christie's auction house in New York is selling a rare first edition of Edgar Allan Poe's first book: "Tamerlane." It's of only 12 known copies, and is expected to fetch $500,000 to $700,000.

The book was published in Boston in the summer of 1827, when Poe was 18, and only 50 copies likely were printed, according to the Christie's catalog. It was published anonymously, with the authorship attributed to "A Bostonian." Here's how the catalog explains it: "Poe may have chosen not to give his name so that his foster-father John Allan would not know where he was. His choice to embrace his Bostonian heritage may have been an attempt to distance himself from the Allan family in Richmond."

You can read more about the book at the Poe Society of Baltimore. And even if you can't spring for "Tamerlane," you can read the poem. (You can also browse the Christie's catalog for other interesting Poe items -- and dream.)

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 6:39 PM | | Comments (0)
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November 29, 2009

Edgar Allan Poe: a fresh look on film

edgar allan poeBaltimore's celebration of Edgar Allan Poe continues this week with a film festival at the Baltimore Museum of Art (which also has an exhibition of Poe-inspired art). The Baltimore Sun's Chris Kaltenbach detailed “A Cinematic Celebration of Edgar Allan Poe,” a free event that features works by more than a dozen area filmmakers and begins at 8 pm. on Dec. 4 and 11. Here's an excerpt from his article:

Put together in cooperation with the 48 Hour Film Project, a competition that regularly challenges participants to make short films with an emphasis on speed and ingenuity, BMA officials saw this as a handy film component for their exhibition, “Edgar Allan Poe: A Baltimore Icon.”

Given Poe’s reputation as an early master of the short story, using him and his work as the inspiration for an evening of short films seemed a natural.

“This gave us the opportunity to engage some really significant people in the Baltimore art scene,” says Preston Bautista, the BMA’s director of public programs. “I think Poe is sort of right for this material. My goal is that this would be a local, contemporary take on Poe.”

Continue reading "Edgar Allan Poe: a fresh look on film" »

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 12:28 AM | | Comments (1)
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October 30, 2009

Edgar Allan Poe: a box office flop

edgar allan poe the Tell-Tale HeartNew horror movies roll off Hollywood's assembly line at a frightening rate. So why hasn't anyone been able to make a decent adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe's work? The Baltimore Sun's Chris Kaltenbach looks at that issue, noting that it "would be hard to name a prominent literary figure worse served than the estimable Mr. Poe."

Among the possible reasons: Poe wrote short stories that are hard to adapt to a movie-length treatment (note to the directors of "Where the Wild Things Are").

In the Sun story, Mark Redfield, a Baltimore-based actor and director, also notes that Hollywood loves a winner, and the lack of great Poe movies discourages others from taking a chance. "Nobody is doing it because the other guy has not made a fortune doing it. That's the way Hollywood works....All filmmakers try to find their commercial niche, to make their money back and to reach an audience. But to do something that might be true to somebody like Poe...the risk-takers might be in TV, but it's not going to be in Hollywood."

For more on Poe-inspired movies, including The Tell-Tale Heart (show above), check out this photo gallery. And here's even mo' about Poe.

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 12:30 AM | | Comments (3)
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October 12, 2009

Edgar Allan Poe's funeral

poe funeralIf you didn't get the chance to see the re-imagined funeral for Edgar Allan Poe yesterday in Baltimore's Westminster Hall (I was watching my beloved Red Sox being buried), this story by The Baltimore Sun's Robert Little will take you there. An excerpt:

Billed as a proper reburial of Poe, the funeral was part of a series of events commemorating the bicentennial of Poe's birth, in 1809. With the sale of 700 tickets to two funeral performances yesterday, the celebrations have attracted several thousand people, Jerome said.

People milling about the Westminster yard, some in widow's veils or other funereal garb, said they had come because they are fans of Poe's famously macabre body of work, and of the genre he pioneered.

"He was a brave trailblazer," said writer and actor Michael N. Langford, who arrived from his home in Atlanta in top hat and cravat. "He wrote the first science fiction stories, the first real American horror stories, he created the detective genre - he was like a fountainhead of American literature."

For another report on the event, here's a version from NPR. And here's the first news report of his death in the Sun, on Oct. 8, 1849, the day after he died in Baltimore, as well as more photos, stories and other material about Poe.

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 9:32 AM | | Comments (12)
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October 8, 2009

Edgar Allan Poe anniversary -- a wake

 
As Baltimore kicked off its celebration of the anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe's death, the local Poe house/museum hosted a wake for the late, great author. There are more events planned this weekend, including Sunday's memorial service. You can read all about it here.
Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 12:17 PM | | Comments (0)
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October 3, 2009

Edgar Allan Poe anniversary celebration

edgar allan poe graveThis is the week to celebrate the death of Edgar Allan Poe. That sounds weird, but in the case of the macabre master, it's somehow fitting. The week is full of Poe-themed events in Baltimore, including a mock wake and a memorial service; here's the place to find details.

Meanwhile, in a story in The Baltimore Sun, Chris Kaltenbach notes that while many cities can lay claim to having inspired and nurtured Poe, only one -- Baltimore -- has his body. Here are some excerpts about Poe's lasting influence:

“His stories, they go right to your heart and right to your mind,” says Jeff Kortman, Poe fan and manager of the Maryland Department at Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library. “I don’t know how demented one would have to be, to dream up some of those twists in those stories that he wrote. And that kind of stuff really lives on.”

There’s also the continuing fascination with Poe’s life, which seems to have been as mysterious and macabre, not to mention tragic, as anything Poe himself ever wrote. Poe was orphaned at age 3. At age 27, he married his 13-year-old cousin, who would die less than seven years later — perhaps one reason why the specter of early death shows up in so much of his work (including “The Raven”). He struggled to earn a living throughout his life and never achieved the kind of success he thought he deserved. And he died young, only 40, under circumstances never explained.

Continue reading "Edgar Allan Poe anniversary celebration" »

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 12:30 AM | | Comments (9)
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September 7, 2009

Edgar Allan Poe anniversary events

edgar allan poeEvents marking the 200th anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe's birth take an artistic turn this fall. The Baltimore Museum of Art will open a show on Poe-inspired artwork, such as Edouard Manet's "The Raven" (shown here). The National Museum of Dentistry will host a performance of "Berenice," described as "one man’s maniacal obsession with his betrothed’s gleaming white teeth." Baltimore Theatre Project will have a one-man show called "Poe In Person." And a fanciful funeral for Poe will be held at Westminster Hall. So save the dates; for details on these -- and more -- Poe events, go to Nevermore2009.

-- Sept. 21 to Oct. 4, Poe in Person at Baltimore Theatre Project. Actor David Keltz presents his one-man show, described as a multi-character recreation of Poe’s tales of humor and horror, his poetry, and his literary criticism.

-- Sept. 25 Berenice at the National Museum of Dentistry. In addition to watching Poe’s horror story, visitors can see an exhibit about 19th century dentistry and take an after-hours tour of the museum.

Continue reading "Edgar Allan Poe anniversary events" »

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 12:30 AM | | Comments (10)
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January 31, 2009

Review -- Poe: A Life Cut Short

Review -- Poe: A Life Cut ShortSunday in the Sun, get a review of Poe: A Life Cut Short, a new biography by Peter Ackroyd. Here are excerpts from Allen Barra's review:

Every life and reputation could use some buffing up now and then, and Edgar Allan Poe, his influence obscured by legions of bad imitators, more than most. Peter Ackroyd, in this short, sharp and immensely readable little biography, is just the man to do it. ...

One of the few biographers with equal standing as a critic, Ackroyd is the first writer in decades to bring Poe’s life and work into sharp focus and impress urgency on an appreciation of his oeuvre. (He also profiled Chaucer and the painter J.M.W. Turner in his Brief Lives series and has splendidly dealt with, among others, Shakespeare, Dickens and T.S. Eliot at greater length.)

Relying heavily on Edgar Allan Poe, Modern Critical Views, edited by Harold Bloom, and Kenneth Silverman’s 1991 Edgar A. Poe, Ackroyd rescues Poe from the layers of cliches and misinterpretations built up over generations. For instance, Poe did not invent Gothic literature; he "reinvigorated the Gothic tradition of horror and morbid sensationalism by centering it upon the human frame," Ackroyd writes. ... Poe was "the most calculating of authors, never to be confused with his disturbed and even psychotic narrators. Poe the writer arrived carefully after the most extreme effects."

"Anxiety," though, "was his childhood bedfellow," Ackroyd says. Born in Boston in 1809 to Southern parents — traveling actors "whose status was just a little higher than that of vagabonds" — Edgar was orphaned at age 2 when his father abandoned the family and his mother died of consumption; he was taken in and raised by friends of his mother. As a youth, he was described by some as having "a very sweet disposition ... always cheerful." It did not last long: "Young Poe harbored a grudge against the world," Ackroyd says. ...

Continue reading "Review -- Poe: A Life Cut Short" »

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 12:00 PM | | Comments (6)
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January 24, 2009

Poe's 200th anniversary: A year-long party

Edgar Allan Poe 200 ProjectThough the anniversary of Poe's birth fell this week, the celebration will continue with events all year. Some websites to help you keep track of all things Poe: Nevermore2009 (for Baltimore events), The Edgar Allan Poe 200 Project, Poe Stories, the Poe Decoder, the local Poe society, and the museums in Baltimore, Richmond and Philadelphia. And, of course, we'll keep you posted about important events. Have a creepy year!
Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 6:00 AM | | Comments (2)
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January 23, 2009

Poe's 200th anniversary: A teacher's perspective

Poe t-shirtMartha Womack faces a challenge: making a 19th Century writer meaningful to her students in Farmville, Va. Luckily she's a Poe enthusiast and contributor to the Poe Decoder. She even drove to Baltimore for this week's celebration (and sold some t-shirts with her bicentennial design; info, womackme@fuquaschool.com). Her take on teaching Poe:

The first author studied in my English 9 class is always Edgar Allan Poe. I tell them that it is a terrible thing to have an enemy in life, but it is even worse to have one in death. Such is the case of Edgar Allan Poe. From the very first word (just like in a Poe story), I have captured their attention and imaginations. From there, I explain to them how one man is responsible for the character assassination and the misconceptions that we have about this author, and that my mission is to set the record straight. Together, we create an accurate biographical sketch as well as discuss the mystery and theories surrounding Poe's death. By then, they are more than ready for a Poe story.

Poe is not an "easy read," and ninth graders sometimes are confused by Poe's use of language and vocabulary. That's why I start with an easier story like "The Tell-Tale Heart," and work into "The Black Cat" and "The Cask of Amontillado." These are stories that offer a "safe scare" to the students, and soon the difficulty with words seems to disappear as the mystery and the gore come to the surface. Teachers can find vocabulary words/lessons right there in the story - who needs another book? (One of my favorite Poe words is "sagacious"; it's a great word!) Also, Poe provides the teacher an opportunity to show how our language and word meanings can change over time. For example, "singular" in Poe's stories quite often means "strange" or "unusual" not just "one."

 So, as we approach Poe's birthday, my ninth graders are more than ready to begin reading their first Poe story as well as await the news about the Poe toaster visiting Poe's grave on the bicentennial of his birth. Happy Birthday, Poe! You are still going strong after all these years!

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 2:00 PM | | Comments (0)
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Poe's 200th anniversary: David S. Reynolds

David ReynoldsFor historical perspective on Poe, we turn to David S. Reynolds, a Distinguished Professor of English & American Studies at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. His latest book is Waking Giant: America in the Age of Jackson. Here, he writes about The Two Poes (click here for all guest posts):

In American memory, there are two Edgar Allan Poes: the popular writer who penned “The Raven” and tales of terror that thrill readers of all ages; and the highbrow aesthete whose ideas about literary art influenced intellectuals from the French symbolists to the Modernists. These Poes seem contrary, but they are not. Poe was an aesthete largely because he was a popular writer.

Poe emerged at a time when popular culture experienced a dramatic transformation. Changes in printing technology between 1830 and 1850 permitted rapid production of cheap newspapers designed for the masses. American publishers could now satisfy the public’s craving for news that was racy and sensational. A Mysterious Disappearance, a Double Suicide, Incest by a Clergyman, or an Awful Accident—anything zestful or intriguing was considered fit to print. James Gordon Bennett, the editor of the era’s most popular paper, the New York Herald, found that Americans “were more ready to seek six columns of the details of a brutal murder, or the testimony of a divorce case, or the trial of a divine for improprieties of conduct, than the same amount of words poured forth by the genius of the noblest author of our times.” Ralph Waldo Emerson commented that Americans spent their time “reading all day murders & railroad accidents.”

Newspapers, which had formerly sold for six cents, were now widely available for one cent. Newspaper production and circulation surged. Poe claimed that the influence of the penny papers was “probably beyond all calculation.”

There were plenty of sensational stories for the penny papers to report, including the Maria Monk scandal, involving the alleged ex-nun who reported whoredom and infanticide in a Montreal nunnery; the trial of Richard Robinson for the murder of the prostitute Helen Jewett; and the diverting case of teacher John C. Colt, who in September 1841 axed to death the printer Samuel Adams and stuffed the corpse into a crate later found in the hold of a New Orleans-bound ship.

When juicy stories were lacking, the penny papers invented them. The most famous example was the moon hoax, a story that ran in the Sun in the summer of 1835 and was widely reprinted. Capitalizing on the public’s growing interest in curiosities, the reporter Richard Adams Locke wrote as fact the story of a powerful telescope through which a scientist, Sir John Herschel, could see society on the moon, featuring talking man-bats, a golden temple, blue unicorns, biped beavers, and odd birds and trees. The public gobbled up this fantastic story, sustaining interest in it even after it was revealed as false. Poe called the moon hoax “decidedly the greatest hit in the way of sensation—of merely popular sensation—ever made by any similar fiction either in America or Europe.”

Poe’s wording here—Locke’s story was a “merely popular sensation”-- speaks volumes about Poe, the one American of the period who produced sensational writings with lasting appeal.

Continue reading "Poe's 200th anniversary: David S. Reynolds" »

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 11:00 AM | | Comments (0)
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Poe's 200th anniversary: Jonathan Hayes

Jonathan HayesTo start our final day of Poe tributes, here's Jonathan Hayes, an author and a senior New York City medical examiner. His first novel, Precious Blood, will be followed this year by A Hard Death. (For more Poe, including all guest posts, click here.) His topic is "Now That You've Gone":

For the record, I'd like to state that neither Poe's detective stories nor his horror stories had anything to do with my becoming a forensic pathologist (the blame falls squarely on Conan Doyle and Donald J. "Encyclopedia Brown" Sobol). Moreover, while I recognize Poe's mysteries as the foundation on which the genre has built, I feel they've become lessened over time, both from familiarity and from the dilutional effect of so many minor – and major – works which bear their mark.

No, as a kid, and even now as a medical examiner and crime fiction writer, it's always been the creepy stuff that got to me, Poe's luxuriantly over-the-top sense of horror. His great gift is his uncanny ability to take a straightforward story and, with a couple of deftly revolting twists, reinvent it as something nightmarish and visceral.

Those twists stem from Poe's obsession with the perverse: his characters are compelled to do things they fully know are wrong, to do them just because they are wrong, even though their actions fly in the face of their own professed beliefs and personal interest. The traditional struggle between Wrong and Right is largely foreign to Poe's protagonists – they will murder and mutilate, and they will do it because they are perverse.

This resonates with my professional experience. In the real world, most murders are pathetically trite, the fall-out from miserable little squabbles over money, "love", pride. If Poe read the Sun today, I don't see him particularly intrigued by the murder of a drug dealer, for example: the killing of a dealer is too tragically legible, too prosaic. I suspect that Poe would be drawn instead to the bestial lyricism of the serial killing, as much for the opacity of motive as for the macabre obsession with details.

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Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 6:01 AM | | Comments (3)
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January 22, 2009

Poe's 200th anniversary: The cryptographer

RSA ConferenceEdgar Allan Poe's talent for horror, detective stories and poetry is well-known. But cryptography? Yes, his genius extended there too -- and will be noted at the 2009 RSA Conference, touted as the world's largest tradeshow for information security. General manager Sandra Toms LaPedis explains why:

Each year the conference determines a new creative theme, focusing on a time period or person who represents an aspect of information security or cryptography. In 2009 the influence and cryptography interests of Poe will be celebrated.

Poe may seem to be an unusual choice for an information security theme but as some may know, he was fascinated by cryptography. An American poet, short-story writer, magazine editor and literary critic, Poe often concealed anagrams and hidden messages in his works. His famous story – “The Gold Bug” – centers on the solution of a cipher, which turns out to be a map to hidden private treasure.

Poe amazed his magazine readers with a seemingly mystical ability to solve their submitted cryptograms; he even unmasked cheaters who sent in nonsense entries. In 1839, Poe conducted his own cryptographic contest, challenging readers to submit their cryptographs to him.

Poe ended the contest claiming to have solved all of the 100 ciphers sent to him. From April 20-24 at Moscone Center in San Francisco, RSA Conference 2009 will remember and celebrate Edgar Allan Poe’s life, work and his powerful and enduring legacy to furthering the field of cryptography.

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 12:05 PM | | Comments (0)
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Poe's 200th anniversary: S.J. Chambers

S.J. ChambersFlorida writer S.J. Chambers, whose work has appeared in Fantasy, Up Against the Wall and The Hiss Quarterly, sees many links between Poe and modern culture. She considers herself an independent Poe scholar, and her plans for the bicentennial include a trip to Baltimore. She writes of Poe's lasting influence (here are all guest posts and more on Poe):

I was introduced to Poe by The Simpsons’ first Treehouse of Terror, which I watched a few days after a close family friend died. First aired in 1990, the episode has Lisa, with a little help from James Earl Jones, read “The Raven” to a blasé Bart and an eavesdropping Homer. Bart is unimpressed, of course, whereas Homer goes to beds in chills, and even thinks he sees Poe’s raven outside his window. So did I. The ideas of memory and haunting that the Bart-beaked raven showed spellbound me. I remember lying in bed having jejune thoughts about being haunted by Mrs. Larrimore, of a parentless future, of devils spying on me from the headboard, and goblins under the bed. It was all suffering from an overactive imagination, but all of those night terrors came from Poe’s power of suggestion--the source of his lasting appeal.

He is the first pioneer of the imagination. He never left the U.S., never completed university, and never held down a job for more than a year--yet, he wrote about medieval Europe as if he had been there, he could calculate with frightening accuracy the delicate geometry of the Inquisition’s pendulum, and he used all of the scientific theories of his day to try to unravel death. Everything that came from his pen was filtered or completely invented by his imagination. As a result, his work has an odd and indescribable tone. The only thing I can compare it to is the difference between painting from life or from memory. If you paint from life, you have the hard precision of an Ingres or Pouissan; if you rely on memory, you have the smears and oscillations of a Monet or a Munch. The reality looks a bit warped, a bit strange. The smears and oscillations leave gaps within the images’ meaning, gaps for the viewer’s mind to fill in. Poe’s work is full with these ambient gaps, which artists, writers, directors, even Fox television animators have been trying to spackle with their own inventions.

Continue reading "Poe's 200th anniversary: S.J. Chambers" »

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January 21, 2009

Poe's 200th anniversary: Michael Sears of Michael Stanley

Michael SearsHere's Michael Sears, the other half of the mystery writing team known as Michael Stanley:

There is a sense of menace in the way each of the horror-style stories develops right from the first line. You know that whatever appears on the surface, something awful is going to happen. That build up of tension and expectation keeps the reader glued to each sentence, each word. I can’t remember ever needing a bookmark for any of those stories! Take for example "The Fall of the House of Usher". There’s no doubt where this is going after the first sentence. One strives for this as a writer. Poe achieved it.

The other aspect I recall is the cleverness of plot twists. My favorite is "The Purloined Letter". Here the detective must see the obvious and beyond the obvious. Something precious is disguised as something valueless but, more than that, as itself. In our novel A Carrion Death the detective is smart enough to see this and pays appropriate credit to Poe’s story. In fact a letter is stolen too, which turns out to be pivotal. I hadn’t even realized that part of it might be due to Poe until writing this piece!

Finally, of course, as with most great writers, Poe adds phrases and meanings to the English language. We couldn’t describe our villain after a murder more shockingly or in less words than to say he was " … a nightmare from the Mask of the Red Death".

Thanks, Edgar.

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 1:30 PM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Edgar Allan Poe
        

The perfect gift for your Poe enthusiast

nevermoredownload.jpg

Have I mentioned lately how much I love the Internet? Because I do, so very much.

My friend Mary pointed out this beautiful embroidery download to me yesterday, and if any of you happen to both ove Poe and know your way around a sewing machine, I knew you'd appreciate it.

Even better? It's free till the end of January.

My advice? Go ahead and download it now, and worry about making it later. Chances are, if you're reading this blog, you or someone you know would love it as much as I do.

(Photo from urbanthreads.com)

Posted by Nancy Knight at 12:00 PM | | Comments (0)
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Poe's 200th anniversary: Stanley Trollip of Michael Stanley

Stanley TrollipBoth members of the South African-born mystery writing team known as Michael Stanley (A Carrion Death, The Second Death of Goodluck Tinubu)were inspired by Edgar Allan Poe's ability to wring emotion out of readers. Here is Stanley Trollip's account (later today, we'll hear from writing partner Michael Sears):

[I] often used to read after “lights out” at my home in Johannesburg, South Africa -- a naturally scary time for an impressionable teenager. For my personal reading, I devoured a lot of boys’ books, such as the Hardy Boys from the USA and Teddy Lester from the UK. In addition to traditional readings, I would also venture into the books of rebellion, such as Marx’s The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital, Hitler’s Mein Kampf, and Mao’s The Little Red Book, and books on sex and love, like the Kinsey Reports and D. H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover.

Of everything I read, I only recall a few vividly. The one that had perhaps the greatest impact on me was Poe’s "The Pit and the Pendulum". After I turned the bedside light out, darkness brought vivid mental pictures of impenetrable cell walls and a gaping hole in the middle of my bedroom floor. The swish of curtains nearly caused cardiac arrest as I imagined a great scythe swing ever closer to my shaking body. I knew that creaks in the house meant that the walls were closing in. Mice running across the pressed metal ceiling of my room convinced me that rats were swarming all around my bed. My active imagination took its toll, and I was terrified for weeks after finishing the short story.

What writer would not want such reactions? The power of words! Poe played on my innate fears by triggering my imagination – a death sentence; red-hot walls that were closing in; the sound of the blade. Aaaargh! Poe must have smiled as he witnessed the impact he had on me.

Now I am a writer, I constantly strive to emulate Poe’s ability to conjure up vivid mental pictures and spark strong emotions. I want readers to know how the places we write about look and smell and how our characters feel about each other. I want readers to become emotionally involved, to be happy, angry, or scared with our characters. Poe set high standards and it’s a constant challenge to try and attain them.

Happy birthday, Edgar.

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 6:02 AM | | Comments (0)
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January 20, 2009

Poe's 200th anniversary: Rob Velella

Poe calendarRob Velella, who describes himself as a "devourer of Poe," is among the organizers of the Edgar Allan Poe 200 Project and created the Edgar Allan Poe 2009 Bicentennial Desk Calendar. He also blogs about Poe. In this guest post, he describes Poe's timeless appeal:

I first read Edgar Allan Poe when I was in my seventh grade English class. It was 1992 and I was 13 years old. I don’t remember the teacher’s name or the name of any of the other authors I read that year. But I remember Poe.

We read "The Tell-Tale Heart" and "The Raven" and probably others. I was moved enough to write my own "Gothic" story, so close in concept to "The Tell-Tale Heart" that the Poe estate could have legitimately accused me of plagiarism (and not even Longfellow could deny it). Poe was the first author that I wasn’t ashamed to enjoy – and I remember what pulled me in were his sights and sounds. I heard the tremor in the narrator’s voice when he told me how "calmly" he would tell me the whole story. I saw the old man’s evil, vulture-like eye, blue film and all. I heard the sound of the old man’s heart, beating like the ticking of a watch when enveloped in cotton.

What appealed to me then is still what appeals to me now: his ability to take words that do more than tell a story, but show one. He was a writer of sensation, creating images that are impossible to forget – a writhing black tongue in "The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar," a shackled man in jester’s motley appealing "for the love of God!" in "The Cask of Amontillado," and the one-eyed black cat sitting triumphantly on the head of a murdered wife in "The Black Cat," just to name a few.

During Poe’s time, just as today, horror writers were a dime a dozen; anyone can write a horror story. But, rather than just presenting us a few scary images, Poe writes stories that are not only terrifying, but shockingly possible – or, at least, he convinces us as much. His rich words pull us out of our rational selves for a moment and into these fictional worlds that are beyond reality. We listen to the murderous narrator as he inadvertently proves his insanity to us. We fear for the man doomed to die either by pit or by pendulum despite his best efforts as his captors mock him at every step. We lament our lost Annabel Lee in that kingdom by the sea and truly believe it was the love that was more than love that caused her death.

Continue reading "Poe's 200th anniversary: Rob Velella" »

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Poe's 200th anniversary: Stuart Kaminsky

Stuart KaminskyToday's guest poster is Stuart Kaminsky, a Mystery Writers of America grand master and editor of On a Raven's Wing -- a compilation of new mysteries marking Poe 's 200th. Among the featured authors: Mary Higgins Clark, Thomas H. Cook and S.J. Rozan. Kaminsky's post, adapted from the book's introduction:

A little while ago I was looking up at the pale-faced and closed eyed bust of Poe which I received as Grand Master. It resides on a bureau just across from the desk at which I work. There is a continuing problem with the bust, however. The paint on Edgar's head is slowly peeling away. As I’ve done before, I went to the garage, got some black paint and dabbed at the several places in his hair showing white where black should have been.

I was careful, but the paint began to drip across Edgar’s face forming a startling set of black tears which ran from the outside corners of both of his eyes down his cheeks. Was I reading something into the moment that was not there?

My answer to the last question was a tentative "yes". Edgar was no more weeping black paint than I was the only person who will be left after the Rapture.

Still, I felt that chill, the one that makes my shoulders shiver. It is also the shiver that I feel and have felt when I read one of Poe’s tales of terror.

I have felt it stepping into Poe’s preserved dormitory room at The University of Virginia. I have felt that shiver sitting at the desk at which Poe sat at The Southern Literary Messenger. The desk, part of the Koester Collection at The University of Texas, Austin, was in a well-guarded tower on an upper floor, against a wall in a room that reminded me of the vast warehouse at the end of Citizen Kane.

You can go to the internet to find an odd list of Poe artifacts the very reading of which reminds me of something one of Poe’s morose characters might compile: locks of Poe’s hair, fragments of Poe’s original coffin, a pen holder made from a fragment of Poe’s original coffin, the bed in which his child bride Virginia died, Poe’s rocking chair, Poe’s bible and much more.

Things we know about Poe and often say and hear include the assertion that, in his forty years of life, he created the short story, the detective story, the modern horror story. As far as I am concerned, it does not matter if he was first or if he created any literary genre. What matters is that he had the power to send me into a near syncope with his stories and poetry.

Continue reading "Poe's 200th anniversary: Stuart Kaminsky" »

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 6:00 AM | | Comments (0)
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January 19, 2009

On Poe's 200 anniversary: Charles and Caroline Todd

Charles and Caroline ToddCharles Todd, the mother/son mystery writing team of Caroline and Charles Todd, drew inspration from Edgar Allan Poe. Their latest work in the Inspector Ian Rutledge series, A Matter of Justice, will be released. Here is their guest post:

I met Edgar Allan Poe while hanging over the arm of the sofa as my father read "The Gold Bug" aloud to us. We’d gone to Hatteras, rented a creaky old house among the dunes, and it had poured rain for the first two days. So my father—ever prepared—read to my sister and me. She wandered off after a while to play with the house cat, but I was well and truly hooked. The treasure was hidden in much the same seaside, as far as I was concerned, and I could picture men just out of sight, digging away. Working out the code was intriguing, and I never forgot that e was the most common letter in the English alphabet. When the rain went on another day, we got "The Purloined Letter" and "The Murders in the Rue Morgue", true mysteries. These were a little beyond me, but with my father’s voice changes and explanations, they kept me enthralled. I didn’t know what an Ourang-Outang was, then, but many years later, I got to touch one’s hand in Indonesia, and the memory of "Rue Morgue" came back to me.

At the Brandywine River Museum just over the line into Pennsylvania from Delaware, there is a small painting by one of the Wyeths, the father who did so many wonderful illustrations for children’s books. It’s one I’d like to have—you can see the hole, but not what’s in it, and the men stand there in astonishment, the lantern they’ve lowered casting a golden glow over their faces as if the treasure itself is reflected there. It’s just what I pictured, there among the Hatteras dunes.

In the years to come, I got to know Poe in other ways. First came "The Raven," which we had to memorize in school, and all the other glorious poetry that used words in ways that whetted my appetite for more. They danced and sang and stayed in the mind. One of the reasons I’ve always loved poetry comes from Poe — "Eldorado", "Annabel Lee", "To One in Paradise", and of course, "The Bells". How can you resist lines like “And all my days are trances, And all my nightly dreams Are where thy gray eye glances, And where thy footstep gleams—”?

Continue reading "On Poe's 200 anniversary: Charles and Caroline Todd" »

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 12:00 PM | | Comments (2)
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On Poe's 200th anniversary: Marilynne Robinson

Marilynne RobinsonWhat better way to begin the 200th anniversary celebration of Edgar Allan Poe's birth than the words of author Marilynne Robinson, who won the Pulitzer prize for Gilead. Her wonderful guest post describes how he inspired her to think about the written word (for more on Poe, see the Read Street archives.):

There were times in my girlhood when an engrossing need to write poetry arose in me. The occasion and the subject were usually a storm. These episodes never yielded anything of much interest. In fact the dozen lines I could manage before the mood passed always disappointed me, and I hid them from myself and never looked at them again. But the impulse to write them, which might linger the whole of an afternoon, was as intense an experience as I have ever had, akin to but lonelier and more wonderful than the experience of reading a very good book.

I don't know when Edgar Allan Poe entered my imagination and took his place there, a place that somehow seems to have been waiting for him. At school we might have been reading Carl Sandburg and Paul Dunbar and Vachel Lindsay, all very forthright and American. But at home I was reading Poe--strange, arcane and melancholy Poe.

The poetry I was given to admire sounded to me like information. I accepted as fact that Chicago was hog butcher to the world, but I was moved by the unworldly territories of Poe's imagination--"In the fairest of our valleys, by good angels tenanted"--perhaps because in those days worlds made of words were vastly more real to me than Chicago, and the encounters of the mind with itself were closer to my sheltered experience than any social realism could have been.

Poe made me think about words. Which is the loveliest word, the loveliest letter? I believe I may have known that these are the kinds of almost idle questions one poses to oneself when a night seems to be unending, when the weight of sorrow is so great as to be dangerous. His stories rehearse grief and guilt, betrayal and accusation, and they are contained in a skin of language that is too elegant, too precise, as if their burden could be distanced by refinements that made art of them, by the wry attentiveness to cadences and sonorities that let the teller seem to think art was the whole point of the tale.

Continue reading "On Poe's 200th anniversary: Marilynne Robinson" »

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January 18, 2009

On Poe's 200th anniversary

Edgar Allan poeHappy birthday, Edgar! Tomorrow is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe, the great writer who for a time called Baltimore home. Some call him America’s first literary critic. Some say he wrote the first detective story (and established sleuthing characteristics made famous by Sherlock Holmes). Some credit him with creating the horror genre.

We've put together a photo gallery of his Baltimore connections. And we asked authors, scholars and others to describe Poe’s influence on them — and on the world. What was the source of his genius? Why do his works seem so timeless? We’ll publish these guest posts all week on Read Street. Actor John Astin, who is featured in Poe tribute shows at Westminster Hall, will weigh in. So will author Marilynne Robinson, who won the Pulitzer Prize for Gilead. Some excerpts:

Robinson: Poe made me think about words. Which is the loveliest word, the loveliest letter? I believe I may have known that these are the kinds of almost idle questions one poses to oneself when a night seems to be unending, when the weight of sorrow is so great as to be dangerous.

Stuart Kaminsky, a grand master of the Mystery Writers of America: Things we know about Poe and often say and hear include the assertion that, in his forty years of life, he created the short story, the detective story, the modern horror story. As far as I am concerned, it does not matter if he was first or if he created any literary genre. What matters is that he had the power to send me into a near syncope with his stories and poetry.

Charles and Caroline Todd (A Matter of Justice): I think if Charles and I had to pin down books that sparked our creative instincts as youngsters, it was Poe’s "Gold Bug" and "The Murders in the Rue Morgue"/ "The Purloined Letter," Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island, and Conan-Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes stories. Why? Because they speak to a child’s imagination and these are the stories that set your tastes in reading early on. Stories that are exciting and suspenseful and a feast for a young reader just discovering the magic of words on a page.

To read the complete posts — and see many more — come back to Read Street. We’ll feature Poe all week — including The Sun’s 1849 front-page article on his death. Four measly sentences!

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 6:00 AM | | Comments (2)
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January 11, 2009

Happy 200th Edgar Allan Poe!

Edgar Allan PoeWhile your 2009 calendar is still fresh, starts saving the dates for the area’s top literary events. One year-long celebration kicks off next weekend, as Baltimore marks the 200th anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe’s birth, but there are many other events for book lovers. Here’s a sampling:

Poe bicentennial: Start the party Saturday at 7 p.m at Westminster Hall in Baltimore, where Poe is buried. The event features a tribute by John Astin of The Addams Family, -- check him out reading The Raven -- music and a theatrical performance. Tickets are $30 in advance, $35 at the door. (Similar events will be held Jan. 18 at 4:30 p.m., and on the weekend of Jan. 31/Feb. 1).

On Jan. 19, the actual anniversary, visit Westminster Hall for the 1961 movie Pit and the Pendulum and a performance of The Black Cat. The event is free and open to the public, but registration is required. It starts at 7 p.m.

Baltimore Reads gala. The adult literacy organization marks its 20th anniversary with a celebration Jan. 24 at the Radisson Plaza Lord Baltimore Hotel. Tickets cost $175 per person or $300 per couple.

Booklovers’ Breakfast. James McBride (The Color of Water) and Nikki Giovanni (Love Poems) are featured Feb. 7 at the Enoch Pratt event at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel. Tickets cost $40; advance registration is required.

Frank McCourt. The author of Angela’s Ashes, ‘Tis and Teacher Man is the speaker for the Howard County Poetry and Literature Society’s annual Evening of Irish Music and Poetry on Feb. 20. Tickets cost $35.

Later in the year come some perennial favorites – and they’re all free! The CityLit Festival, April 18 at the Enoch Pratt on Cathedral Street, features Junot Diaz (The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao). The Baltimore Book Festival is Sept 25-27 in Mount Vernon Square. And the One Maryland One Book program, sponsored by the Maryland Humanities Council, will have a statewide series of book discussions in the fall.

You’ll find many more events in the calendar on Read Street’s home page, along with daily updates on book news and reviews. Have a great year of reading!

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 6:00 AM | | Comments (1)
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November 12, 2008

Congrats to Edgar Allan Poe Society and House

Edgar Allan Poe houseGreat news for the folks in Baltimore who maintain the memory of Edgar Allan Poe. Today, the Mystery Writers of America named the local Edgar Allan Poe Society and the Poe House as the 2009 recipients of the organization's Raven Award.

The award, to be presented at an April awards dinner in New York, is for outstanding achievement in the mystery field outside the realm of creative writing, the MWA said. Among past recipients of the award are the Library of Congress, Center for the Book, and President Bill Clinton.

According to MWA's President Harlan Coben, choosing the Poe Society and Poe House is doubly appropriate: "Not only does 2009 mark the anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe's 200th birthday, but Mystery Writers of America has long-considered Poe a patron saint. In fact, the Raven Award, itself, is named after Poe's famous poem, and our Edgar® Awards -- or 'Edgars,' as they're more popularly known -- are awarded annually to authors of distinguished work."

Continue reading "Congrats to Edgar Allan Poe Society and House " »

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October 31, 2008

Too late to help poor Edgar

poe%20book.gifAs attention builds toward next year's 200th anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe, prices of his books are likely to rise, too. They already fetch a nice price -- money that he would have liked to see (though he probably would have squandered it).

The priciest Poe books ever sold on AbeBooks, the online bookseller: The Raven - $5,000. Contained in the original publisher’s box this 23 page book includes Poe’s classic poem with commentary by Edmund Stedman and 26 full page plates by Gustave Dore.

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket - $4,500. Leaf ads dated May 1838 and rebound circa 1920s this first edition prose book is his only book-length work of fiction.

Eureka: A Prose Poem - $2,000. First edition limited to 500 copies written in 1848. Poe’s last major work and his longest non fiction work which attempts to explain the universe.

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 1:00 PM | | Comments (4)
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SWAK from Edgar Allan Poe

Poe stampNow that Baltimore has announced its celebration of the 200th anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe's birth, I feel better. But I was perturbed that the U.S. Postal Service would choose to issue a new Poe stamp in Richmond, Va., of all places. Bad enough that we have to protect our northern flank against grave-robbers; now we have to bolster the Southern flank, too?

Here's how the USPS describes the Poe stamp, to be issued Jan. 16: "For more than a century and a half, Poe and his works have been praised by admirers around the world, including English poet laureate Alfred, Lord Tennyson, who dubbed Poe 'the literary glory of America.' British author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle called him 'the supreme original short story writer of all time.' "

The stamp portrait of Edgar Allan Poe is by award-winning artist Michael J. Deas, whose research over the years has made him well acquainted with Poe’s appearance. In 1989, Deas published The Portraits and Daguerreotypes of Edgar Allan Poe, a comprehensive collection of images featuring authentic likenesses as well as derivative portraits.

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 6:00 AM | | Comments (1)
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October 30, 2008

Baltimore's party for Edgar

Edgar Allan PoeDon't look so gloomy, Edgar, it's party time! 

In Baltimore, 2009 will be one long celebration of Edgar Allan Poe, who gave birth to the detective story and was a master of horror. This morning amid the treasures of the Enoch Pratt's Poe Room, local officials outlined a long list of events -- from lookalike contests to a funeral re-enactment -- marking the 200th anniversary of his birth. (Mayor Sheila Dixon was so enthusastic she mistakenly claimed Poe was born in here. Sorry, mayor, Boston holds that claim.)

Among the events: A Poe tribute in January by actor John Astin (The Addams Family); a Pratt exhibition of memorabilia, including a handwritten poem and lock of hair; and a Cask of Amontillado-themed wine-tasting in the Westminster Hall catacombs. There will also be Poe-related performances, including a one-man show by David Keltz.

Details and ticket information are at Nevermore2009. Baltimore's Poe House and Museum has its own calendar at PoeBicentennial.

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 10:43 AM | | Comments (0)
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October 24, 2008

Philly's claim to Edgar Allan Poe

Ed PettitWe started the week by saluting Edgar Allan Poe and his Baltimore connections. Today, we get a competing view from Ed Pettit of The Bibliothecary -- billed as "my adventures in the cult of Poe." Pettit, a Philadelphian, says that city can lay claim to the writer's best works:

Baltimoreans, lend me your ears. I come not to bury Poe, but to unbury his legacy. The words he wrote live after him. They are not interred with his bones. So let his body return to Philadelphia.

I know you’ve been told all your life that Poe is a part of the fabric of Baltimore. But this was not the case during his life. Poe had family connections in Baltimore. Poe lived there a very short time and began his writing career there. Poe died in Baltimore. However, when we look at his entire life and the works he produced, we learn that Philadelphia was the most important place for his writing career. This does not mean that Baltimore didn’t play a role in helping form Poe’s creative genius. It just pales in comparison to what Poe did after he left your city.

The doomed family of the House of Usher was conjured by Poe in Philadelphia. William Wilson and his evil doppelganger took form there. The Tell-Tale madman made his murderous confession under the dark skies of the Quaker City. The Black Cat roamed his Philly home. C. Auguste Dupin, the prototype of Sherlock Holmes and all fictional detectives to follow, sprung from Poe’s fertile pen while the author was reading the daily criminal mysteries that plagued the city. The detective/mystery story was invented in Philadelphia! 

Continue reading "Philly's claim to Edgar Allan Poe" »

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October 23, 2008

Edgar Allan Poe's detective

Edgar Allan PoeAs we discussed Edgar Allan Poe, and in the aftermath of the Bouchercon conference, I went back to read his detective mysteries. Poe is credited with creating the detective story with his character C. Auguste Dupin, an amateur sleuth who lives in Paris and is featured in "The Murders in the Rue Morgue," "The Purloined Letter" and "The Mystery of Marie Roget."

As others have noted, many characteristics of today's fictional detectives can be found here: a sidekick/straight man, short-sighted police, and seemingly airtight cases exploded through deductive reasoning.

"The Mystery of Marie Roget" is a particularly good example, and my favorite of the three. It deals with a believable and straightforward case of a missing woman, but there are feints and blind alleys to be dealt with. Dupin's unraveling of newspaper reports -- and of each piece of physical evidence -- is remarkable.

But I confess that I enjoyed the Dupin stories in the way that I might fondly recall a rotary dial, party line telephone -- as an artifact that led to something infinitely better (my BlackBerry). Poe and Dupin are partial to lengthy, tedious flights of erudition such as the opening of Rue Morgue. ...

Continue reading "Edgar Allan Poe's detective" »

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October 21, 2008

Poe's obituary in The Sun

Church HospitalEver wonder how Edgar Allan Poe's death was handled by The Sun?  He died Oct. 7, 1849, at Church Hospital (shown here; it is now housing) in the Washington Hill neighborhood. The note on his passing is very modest by today's standards. With thanks to Paul McCardell, who dug it out of the archives, here it is:

DEATH OF EDGAR A. POE -- We regret to learn that Edgar A. Poe, Esq., the distinguished American poet, scholar and critic, died in this city yesterday morning, after an illness of four or five days. This announcement, coming so sudden and unexpected, will cause poignant regret among all who admire genius, and have sympathies for the frailties too often attending it. Mr. Poe, we believe, was a native of this state, though reared by a foster father at Richmond, Va., where he lately spent some time on a visit. He was in the 38th year of his age.

The page itself makes for great reading. The Poe article was wedged among dozens of tidbits of  news (including reports BY MAGNETIC TELEGRAPH) and ads. Among them: DREADFUL CALAMITY ...

 

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Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 5:49 PM | | Comments (6)
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Creep factor ONE BILLIONTY

walken.jpg 

 

What's creepier than Edgar Allan Poe? How about Christopher Walken reciting The Raven?

Add in a few appetizers from Vincent Price's gourmet cookbook, and we're talking nightmares for weeks!

And for a more subtle spook, check out this video of Poe reciting The Raven himself! Or, at least a picture of Poe digitally manipulated to seem like it. Yikes!

Posted by Nancy Knight at 2:00 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Edgar Allan Poe
        

Trick or treat with Poe

Poe papercraftStill undecided on your Halloween costume? If you're very, very tiny you can wear this paper-doll version of Edgar Allan Poe. If it doesn't fit, you can decorate your home with mini-Poes. It's the perfect time, as we near the 200th anniversary of his birth.

To get this paper Poe, got to Paper Toy'z blog, and scroll down until you see him. Click on the download link for a pdf cutout. 

And don't forget to scare the kids by reading some of his horror stories, such as "The Cask of Amontillado" or "The Tell-Tale Heart."

Posted by Nancy Knight at 11:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Edgar Allan Poe
        

October 20, 2008

The Poe-loponnesian War

This week, as so often seems to be the case, is all about Poe.

Baltimore is proud to call Edgar one of its own, as so many cities up and down the East Coast do. Whether you're from New York, Boston, Richmond, Philadelphia or Charm City, you can recognize his great genius and marvel at his ability to remain fresh, even modern, 200 years later. It is no surprise then, that so many locales claim him.

We've touched on the subject of Edgar Allan Poe's final resting place many times in the past few months. But today, we bury (insert groans here) this discussion once and for all. Does the great writer's body belong in Baltimore, or Philly?

Poe belongs in Baltimore. And we've got the video to prove it:

Continue reading "The Poe-loponnesian War" »

Posted by Nancy Knight at 2:00 PM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Edgar Allan Poe
        

Marilynne Robinson loves Poe, too

Marilynne RobinsonToday's Washington Post has an entertaining look at Marilynne Robinson, one of America's great novelists. Though she teaches at the Iowa Writers' Workshop, she's not an avid reader of modern fiction. The story describes her eclectic reading tastes -- including theologian John Calvin's Commentaries and, in her own words, "all this other crazy stuff".

Robinson, the author of Gilead and Home, also is a big fan of Edgar Allan Poe. Growing up in Idaho, she was obsessed with his writing, and still can quote his poetry.

No word on whether she favors his peaceful rest in Baltimore, or a grave-snatching to Philadelphia.

 

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 11:03 AM | | Comments (3)
Categories: Edgar Allan Poe
        

October 19, 2008

Edgar Allan Poe's big birthday

Poe graveBouchercon, the conference of mystery writers and fans that drew well over 1,000 people to Baltimore, is over. But we have another event to look forward to: the 200th anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe’s birth.

The noir master (and father of the detective story) was born in Boston on Jan. 19, 1809, and first came to Baltimore in 1829 to live with relatives, according to a timeline of the local Poe House and Museum. After a stint at West Point, N.Y., he returned here and lived on Amity Street in West Baltimore with his widowed aunt and other relatives. Poe wrote a number of short stories here, before moving on to Richmond, Va., and Philadelphia. He died in Baltimore in 1849.

Philadelphia blogger Edward Pettit has been clamoring to have Poe’s body disinterred from the Westminster Burying Ground and hauled north. He even had the gall to make that claim at a Bouchercon panel about Poe. The audience was unmoved. (See for yourself on a video posted on Read Street tomorrow.)

We all know Pettit’s argument is absurd. Poe belongs to Baltimore, where his memory is respected. Our pro football team is the Ravens; theirs is the Eagles. Our Sheraton hotel has a Poe Room; Philly’s has Salon 1. We’ve even named public housing — the Poe Homes — after him. And his passing is honored each year with graveside roses and cognac. In Philly, he might get a cheesesteak and some Yuengling. At best.

Continue reading "Edgar Allan Poe's big birthday" »

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 6:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Edgar Allan Poe, Marylandia
        

October 16, 2008

Help a Read Street reader

Edgar Allan PoeGlynn Marsh Alam, author of the Luanne Fogarty mysteries, left Baltimore a little disappointed this week. She wrote: "I was at Bouchercon and expected to find lots of Poe memorabilia in the hotel gift shop among many other places. I actually found nothing, not even a postcard or a t-shirt. We walked to the grave site and found nothing there or on the way. I wondered why Baltimore or someone living there hasn't picked up on the money maker? Surely there are items made in China. I guess I [didn't expect] something on the scale of Elvis, but to find zero was a surprise."

I don't know any Poe shops. (I consider Ravens football jerseys to be Poe memorabilia, but that may be a stretch.) I have a call out to our Poe museum; I could point her to Richmond and Philadelphia, but I'd rather keep the business here.

So please help Glynn. Where's a good place (online or bricks-and-mortar) to buy Poe merchandise? 

 

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 6:00 AM | | Comments (9)
Categories: Bouchercon/Charmed to Death, Edgar Allan Poe
        

October 13, 2008

I'm back, and I've brought Edgar with me!

I hope everyone had a great weekend, and you're ready for a book-filled week ahead! Today, I've got an update on that Poe flash mob scheduled for the Baltimore Book Festival.

Well, the flash mob met flash flooding, and the water won the battle. But that can't keep a good mob down! They regrouped during the Fells Point Fun Festival, and fun was had.

So 2009 is the year of Poe; I can't wait.

Posted by Nancy Knight at 6:00 AM | | Comments (0)
Categories: Edgar Allan Poe
        

September 8, 2008

Hell no, Poe won't go!

PoeRemember the recent Read Street debate over whether Poe was a Northern or Southern writer? Folks in Baltimore, Richmond and Philadelphia claimed their city was the macabre master's source of inspiration.

Now, the New York Times reports on a campaign by Ed Pettit, (the chief Philly lobbyist in the Read Street debate) to wrest Poe's remains from Baltimore. Pettit, who writes The Bibliothecary blog about all things Edgar, says he wouldn't mind leading an old-fashioned grave-robbing mission to take Poe from the Westminster Burying Ground in downtown Baltimore.

Jeff Jerome, curator of Baltimore's Poe House, was quoted in response: “Philadelphia can keep its broken bell and its cheese steak, but Poe’s body isn’t going anywhere." 

I say, bring it on Philly. We'll just enlist Ray Lewis and his burly teammates to defend Poe -- who, after all, was the inspiration for the Ravens name.

 

 

Posted by Dave Rosenthal at 2:00 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Edgar Allan Poe
        

August 12, 2008

You leave Edgar out of this.

EAPoe.jpg So while I was doing a little research for this week's topic, I came across an article proclaiming Edgar Allan Poe as a Southern writer.

And I immediately started laughing. OUR Poe? The guy who writes about torture and stuffing corpses beneath the floorboards, the guy who spent his life romanticising death to the point that he is widely considered to have been a major contributor to the Romantic and Gothic movements, and a little bit crazy besides? (My favorite quote in the above article blames his "instability" on his chosen profession, journalism. Don't even get me started on THAT.)

What about that says Southern?

And that's when my dear friend over at Baltamour, Maryann James, got a little bit heated. See, she's a Richmond girl, and she insists that yes, Mr. Poe is a Southern writer. And p.s., he's from Virginia, not Maryland.

Well, I'm here to tell you that's just ridiculous. Yes, the man may have spent 15 (that's being generous) of his 40 years on Earth in Richmond, but simply spending time in Virginia does not make you a bonafide Southern author.

Continue reading "You leave Edgar out of this." »

Posted by Nancy Knight at 11:30 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Edgar Allan Poe
        
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About the blogger
Dave Rosenthal came to The Baltimore Sun as a business reporter in 1987 and now is the Maryland Editor. He reads a wide range of books (but never as many as he'd like), usually alternating between non-fiction and fiction. Some all-time favorites: A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole; Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupery; and anything by Calvin Trillin or John McPhee. He belongs to a book club with a Jewish theme.
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Edgar Allan Poe is 200!
All you need to know about the macabre master including Poe-themed events, photos, video and a trivia quiz.

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