Ed & Edgar

my adventures in the cult of Poe

and other literary endeavours



Two Poes for the price of one

A good bookish weekend.  The Doppelganger Poes show went very well.  My friend, Jim Marko, attended and posted a shot on Twitter of me gazing at one of the Poes.  The play opens with two park rangers, Steve Medeiros and Eric Knight, and I discussing Edgar's reputation and his works (we all played ourselves).  We're trying to figure out his greatest work when suddenly, Edgar himself shows up: A convergence of time and opportunity has allowed me to walk around in material form – briefly, to help answer your question.  Then another Poe (this one younger without the now iconic moustache) appears and the two Poes argue and engage in a kind of recital showdown.   Paul Campbell played the yonger Poe and Helen McKenna-Uff, who also wrote the play, played the 40 year old version.  Highlights were Paul's recitation of "The Bells" and Helen's "Raven."  Near the end, the two Poes performed "Annabel Lee" as a duet.  We had a good crowd for the show in the very regal hall of the German Society (which is located right across the street from the Philly Poe House).  About half the audience was a school group (probably middle school aged).  Most of the girls sat on one side and were very attentive.  The boys on the other side behaved like boys, slouching almost to the floor, a few of them asleep, mortified that they had to spend a Sat afternoon listening to poetry.   But the show was good and I hope we get to do it again. 

If anyone else has any photos, send them along and I'll post them. 


Swierczy signing

If you're not yet a reader of Duane Swierczynski's genre-busting novels, now is a good to time to get started.  His latest, Expiration Date is maybe his best yet (Macmillan is serializing the first 50 pages of the novel here). And you have two chances to meet Swierczy this week.  On Sunday, April 11, he'll be at Port Richmond Books signing and talking about Expiration and on Wednesday, April 14, you can catch him at the Hiway Movie Theatre in Jenkintown with me.

Port Richmond Books is a great used bookstore, owned and operated by Greg Gillespie.  A former movie theatre, the store is a real gem in the heart of Fishtown.  Well . . . a gem if you like old books.  Be sure to check out one of the backrooms, full of old pulp paperbacks. The festivities begin at 2PM.  Hopefully Swierczy will bring beer. More info here

But you should also come out to Jenkintown on Wed night at 8PM.  Swierczynski will sign copies of his book, then he's the guest programmer for the evening and he's chosen the Walter Hill scripted 1972 crime flick Hickey & Boggs, starring Bill Cosby and Robert Culp.  I haven't seen this one yet and I'm very excited to catch it for the first time on a big screen.  After the movie, I'll do a Q&A with the author (a good question to ask him is, "Which of us is the best BBQ griller?").  Then we'll all probably get drunk at the VFW post.  You can't beat this for a Wed night at the movies.  More info at the Hiway site.  And there's lots of parking in Jenkintown!

Here's Swierczy on the event and here he is on Hickey & Boggs.  

 (cross posted in My Events)


Spring Cleaning

Finally getting back to my dear old blog, which has been in sore need of an update.  I didn't mean to be away for so long, but school and family often fill up my life. 

First, you'll notice that I've taken down "The Bibliothecary" from my banner and replaced it with my name (I know the design still sucks, but it'll have to do for now).  That's because I've also registered a new domain name: www.edwardpettit.com.  That should make my life easier in the future. 

Other new features on the sidebar: 

My Events, in which I'll be posting my appearances, lectures, etc

In Print (formerly My Book Reviews), featuring my published pieces, as well as book reviews

Philly Poe Events, listing all the Poe-centric events in the Philadelphia area

You can still find all the blogs from this site on the sidebar.  I haven't deleted anything from the past. 

Look for lots more content in the future, especially regarding my other favorite Philly author-- no, not Swierczynski-- George Lippard.


Philly Poe Guy Gives It to Boston

Doing my Philly Poe Guy dance (more photos here)The podcast for the Great Poe Debate II, held on Dec 17, 2009, is finally up at the Boston Phoenix site.  Listen here

The event was very well attended.  We had an audience of over 300 people.  Once again I took to task Jeff Jerome (the cranky guy from Baltimore) and Paul Lewis (the pesky prof from Boston, who is SO pesky he even tried to horn in on the recent Poe Toaster news).  Of course, Boston won the old applause-o-meter, but you can judge for yourselves who really won the debate (hint: it wasn't the other two guys), although I'll have to say that Cranky and Pesky did bring their A games to the showdown. But how can you argue against Philadelphia Gothic?

In light of Hal Poe's comments last Saturday in Richmond, I'm hoping to expand the Great Poe DebateCombsPoe and take it on the road to other Poe cities later this year.  That is, of course, if they have the guts to take me on. 

And stay tuned for my review of this year's Baltimore Poe Birthday celebration.  Tonight and tomorrow Jeffrey Combs is performing his one-man Poe show that received rave reviews in its West Coast run.  I do have my fears that it will be another drunken madman Poe (of which I've seen quite enough, thank you), but hopefully it will be entertaining.  You can read about the show in the Baltimore Sun and the Bmore City Paper.  I'll be driving down to see it tonight (Sat) with the lovely Mrs Philly Poe Guy.  If you're there, say hello. 


Poe Family endorses more Great Poe Debates

The other big Poe news happened on Saturday when Harry Lee Poe, a descendant of Edgar's cousins (Edgar had no children, so he has no direct descendants), made a speech in Richmond at their 24 hour Poe birthday bash (I love the 24 hr idea; Wish I could have gone).  Now, yes, I was a little annoyed at first, mainly because they had advertised Hal Poe's speech as being part of the "Great Poe Debate" and Richmond has all along refused to get involved in any kind of debate.  But I was not at all bothered that Hal Poe was making an announcement as a representative of Poe's family.  This Poe War has been going on for over two years now.  It's about time an actual Poe weighed in. 

You can read Hal Poe's remarks here: The Disposition of Poe's Body

I am especially thrilled that the Poe Family understands the spirit of this debate, that it is good to have fun while discussing literary history.  However after Hal Poe's speech, the news media slant on the story was that "Poe's bones" will remain in Baltimore, as if Hal Poe had declared Baltimore the winner of the Poe War. The headline in the Baltimore Sun reads:

Poe descendants reject moving his body from Baltimore: No position taken on claim of Boston, Philadelphia to legacy of poet-author buried in Baltimore

That's so misleading.  It sounds as if Hal Poe has declared Baltimore the winner.  KYW News in Philadelphia reported that "The Charmed Bones of Poe Stay Put," again making it sound as if Baltimore has won.  What Hal Poe did was place a stamp of approval on the Poe War we've been waging for the past two years (although I'm not sure he likes to think of it as a battle).  Far from declaring a "winner" in the Great Poe Debate, Hal Poe's remarks endorse FURTHER DEBATE, even naming more cities that could get involved in this very productive discussion of the literary history.  How cool is that!

So all you Poe War detractors out there who've criticized our approach to this Poe War: even the Poe Family thinks the Great Poe Debate is a worthy endeavour. 

So get on board, Richmond and New York. . . and Charlotte and Charlottesville and London and any other city that wants to get involved.  Bring it.  I'm taking on all comers and the Poe Family is watching from the stands.



Wow, even ESPN is reporting on the absence of the Poe Toaster this year. 

One of the commenters of the piece notes that maybe the Toaster was pissed the Ravens lost to the Colts this weekend.


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). 


No Poe Toaster!  What?

So, I'm offline all morning (because I had a lot of work to do) and I figure I'll drop a Poe Birthday post on the blog in the afternoon.  So I've only just discovered that the Poe Toaster tradition has ended.  The mysterious Toaster, who leaves a half-filled bottle of cognac and three red roses at Poe's gravesite (actually his former one in the back of the Westminster cemetery), failed to show last night, ending a tradition that dates back to 1949. 

I am flabbergasted.  For those who don't know, the original Toaster (if it was only one person), passed the legacy on to someone else several years ago (it is assumed that the new Toaster is probably a son or sons of the original).  But there was no sign that the tradition would ever end.  I have wondered if the tradition could continue in secrecy much longer because of the crowd that shows up to keep watch every year.  There is only one gate left open for the Toaster to enter, so he needs to wait until there is no one at that gate before he can slip in.  Perhaps there was no chance last night to enter unseen?

Or this may all be much ado about nothing.  Maybe he'll show today or tonight or next week.  Maybe he just wants to do it in privacy and all the attention the event receives nowadays prevented him from doing so.  Maybe he was sick in bed.  Let's see what the next few days brings.  I wonder how this will play out.

And of course, it goes without saying, that if the Poe Toaster wants to come to Philly to leave some cognac and flowers at the Poe House here, then he's welcome (or maybe he did and some passerby found them and thought it was his lucky day). 

More later on the Toaster and on all the other Poe news this weekend (Harry Lee Poe's announcement in Richmond and more).   


Nearing Poe's 201st Birthday

While Richmond pretends to "officially settle" the Great Poe Debate today at their Poe Museum (would have been nice if they had invited the originator of the Great Poe Debate, huh?), I'll be across the street from the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site (that's right, it's the National site) listening to Poe scholar Richard Kopley's lecture, "Secret's of the Purloined Letter":

For Poe’s 201st birthday, delve into “The Purloined Letter”, which Poe himself regarded as his best tale of “ratiocination” (detective story). Join the Edgar Allan Poe National Historic Site for a talk by renowned Poe scholar Richard Kopley. 

Richard Kopley is Professor of English at Penn State, DuBois. He is the author of The Threads of The Scarlet Letter, editor of Poe’s Pym: Critical Explorations, and, most recently, Poe and the Dupin Mysteries. Kopley is the former president and an honorary member of the Poe Studies Association. 

Saturday, January 16th,  2pm

German Society Library

7th  and Spring Garden Streets

Philadelphia, PA 19123


For more information call (215) 597-8780


I met Richard Kopley at the Poe Conference in October and interviewed him for my last Poe piece in the Las Vegas Weekly.  Great guy and a great Poe scholar. 

Next week, looks like I'm heading to Baltimore.  More soon.



David Goodis died on Jan 7, 1967, but he has not been forgotten in Philadelphia.  A few years ago, Lou Boxer organized an event called GoodisCon which brought together hardboiled and noir writers and readers for a three day conference.  That conference has morphed into NoirCon, which was held in 2008 and will reconvene in November of this year.  If you're a fan of dark crime fiction, this is the event for you. 

This past Sunday, Goodis fans from all over the East Coast got together to honor one of the dark lights of Philly for the second annual Goodis Tribute (footage from the one last year).  This year, we took a tour of sites important to the writer: his homes and haunts, as well as places associated with his works (many of Goodis' novels are set in Philadelphia).  The ever tireless Lou Boxer put together a program/tour book (over 60 pp of text and photos of Goodis and his city).  This program alone made the trip worth it to those who came from other states.  Stacy Shreffler from Boston and Steve Pause from Yonkers joined Philly guys Aaron Finestone and Andy Kevorkian in Lou Boxer's touring van, while ENMU prof Daniel Wolkow and some Polish writer named Swierczynski toured in the smoke-filled Pettit minivan.  You can check out lots of great shots at Lou's Goodis blog, The Writer in the Gutter and Duane has posted shots at flickr.  Here I am drinking on the site of Goodis childhood home, since torn down (photo by Lou Boxer).

After the tour we visited the Goodis grave and were joined by Larry Withers, whose documentary about Goodis has just been finished (a clip), Dutch Silver, who taught Goodis and his brother how to shoot pool, and Kieran Shea, who stopped by on his drive back to Annapolis.  We read some selections of Goodis' prose.  Lou Boxer read a letter from Humphrey Bogart about Goodis's work (Bogey starred in Dark Passage from Goodis' novel of the same name).  I read my poem composed only of Goodis novel titles.  And of course, several of us toasted the author.

Then we all proceeded to the Club House Diner for food and conviviality.  Dennis Tafoya joined us at the restaurant. 

I'll keep you posted on developments to screen Wither's doc on Goodis and any other Goodis events.  In the meantime, register for NoirCon 2010 and come hang with us in Goodistown later this year.  You will not regret it.  

Lots of Goodis-related images here.


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