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Tuesday
Jan192010

Boston the whetstone

WBUR radio on Boston aired a piece by Andrea Shea today on Paul Lewis' claims for a Boston Poe.  Seems as if the last Great Poe Debatehas emboldened the BC prof's quixotic quest.  I, of course, weighed in (even if they did misspell my name):

Lewis argues that Poe’s time in Boston influenced his development as a writer. But advocates in other cities where Poe lived are also laying claim to his legacy, including Edward Petit, the self-appointed “Philly Poe Guy.”

“Philadelphia was really the place that honed and helped shape Poe’s craft,” Petit said. “You know, the kind of works that we still read, that stuff happened in Philadelphia.”

Then Petit listed off Poe’s greatest hits: ” ‘The Black Hat,’ ‘Murders in the Rue Morgue,’ ‘Fall of the House of Usher,’ ‘Pit and the Pendulum,’ ‘William Wilson,’ ‘The Gold Bug’ — and he began writing ‘The Raven’ while he was still living in Philadelphia.”

Let me add just a little more.  I actually learned a lot about Edgar Allan Poe's Boston connections at our debate last month and at the new exhibition in the Boston Public Library.  Poe was not just accidentally born there (his mother lived there) and the writers of that city did help him hone his craft because he hated most of their literary values (except fame).  But this still doesn't make a good case for Boston as the central place for Poe's literary legacy. 

Poe may have sharpened his skills on the whetstone of Boston's literary traditions, but he forged his sword in Philadelphia.

Or how about another sports metaphor: Should the Philadelphia Flyers claim Bobby Orr's Boston Bruin hockey legacy because he played so well against the Flyers?  No, fierce opposition makes a player/writer stronger, but it doesn't outweigh the tradition that helped create it.  In Paul Lewis' logic, Bobby Orr is a Flyer (or Canadien or Black Hawk). 

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