Ed & Edgar

my adventures in the cult of Poe

and other literary endeavours



Philly Poe tour rolls on

I'll be speaking about Edgar Allan Poe and his Philadelphian Literary Legacy tomorrow night at Camden County College in New Jersey, as part of a Thursday night series they're hosting for Poe's Bicentennial. Last week's lecture by long-time CCC prof Robert Lorenzi was excellent. And I'm especially looking forward to Grover Silcox's performance in a few weeks. Here's the schedule:

● March 5 – “Poe’s Ambiguous Narrators: Reliable or Unreliable?” with Robert Lorenzi, professor emeritus, Camden County College.

● March 12 – “The Great Poe Debate: Burial in Baltimore or Philly?” with Ed Pettit, Poe scholar and Philadelphia journalist.

● March 26 – “Reliving Poe Through His Literary Works” with Liliane Weissberg, professor, University of Pennsylvania.

● April 2 – “Edgar Allan Poe and the Flip Side of Comedy” with Grover Silcox, comedian and broadcast personality.

● April 9 – “Seeing is Believing: Meet Edgar Allan Poe” with Karl Babij, Poe impersonator 

All events are free and open to the public and take place at Camden County College's Blackwoodcampus at 7PM in Civic Hall (in the new Connector Building), except for Silcox. His show is in the CIM Auditorium.


One julep too many

I'll try not to take these long breaks from posting, but you know, life does get busy sometimes.

Drink up, EddyWhile I was away, an Edgar Allan Poe letter made the news. Turns out Poe once wrote that Baltimore was a dump and he wished that he would one day be buried in Philadelphia. What?! Well, that's the letter I wish would be unearthed some day. In the meantime, a lot was made out a letter Poe wrote to an editor in which he apologized for his drunken behavior:

Will you be so kind enough to put the best possible interpretation upon my behavior while in N-York? You must have conceived a queer idea of me – but the simple truth is that Wallace would insist upon the juleps, and I knew not what I was either doing or saying.

Nothing remarkable here. There are several letters by Poe apologizing or "explaining" his drunken binges. This letter was recently purchased by the University of Virginia for their stellar Poe collection. You can download an image of the letter at the Press Page (scroll down, it's in the right hand column) for UVA's new exhibition, "From Out That Shadow: the Life and Legacy of Edgar Allan Poe."  Some of the items on display are from the Free Library of Philadelphia's collection.

Matt Athitakis, on his excellent blog American Fiction Notes, posts about the new letter.  And the AP article is here.  The London Telegraph calls it a "grovelling missive."

Man, I could really go for a julep right about now. 


Poe Calendar Winner

Harry Clarke illustration for BereniceJeff Wilson has won the Edgar Allan Poe Bicentennial Desk Calendar.  He correctly answered the trivia question, What are the thirty-two things that fall from the box at the end of Poe's story, "Berenice"?

The answer, of course, is "her teeth."  Eeww.

Congrats, Jeff.  Rob Velellla will be sending you a copy of his calendar. 


Philadelphia Gothic podcast

My speaking gig last Thursday at the Library Company of Philadelphia, "Edgar Allan Poe and the Philadelphia Gothic Tradition," is now available as an online podcast (there's also an excellent podcast of Christopher Looby's lecture, "The Paradox of Philadelphia Gothic"). The event went very well.  around 60 in attendance.  Frank Wilson was there and had some good words to say about it.  Thanks to everyone else who attended.  It's always exciting to me to find other readers who are also enthusiastic about the things I like to read.  Herb Moscovitz was there and took the photo of me in action.


Win a Poe Calendar

Today's the last day to enter to win an Edgar Allan Poe Bicentennial Desk Calendar.  Details here.  I'll announce the winner tomorrow.


Panned in Boston

You can watch a short video of Boston's Poe Birthday celebration here

First to speak is Paul Lewis, the BC prof who came in second (ahead of Baltimore) at the Great Poe Debate.  I wish I could have attended this event last month. 

And I wish there was some video footage of Matthew Pearl and Scott Peeples who both spoke, as well. 

The BC newspaper report is here.


Philly Poe Guy is now on the case

It's a good thing I'm on the case with all things Philly Poe because before the Philly Poe Guy there were these guys:

 Not to be confused with the actual National Park Service Rangers who do a stellar job at the Philly Poe House.


Poe Calendar Blog

Realizing I need to get back to my intermittent series on the best Edgar Allan Poe websites, today I'll not only feature a site, but also offer a prize to a lucky reader (see the end of this post for the contest).

Rob Velella's Edgar Allan Poe Calendar Blog is the best Poe site out there right now. Every post is full of wonderful details about Poe's life and works. Rob has been annotating his Poe Bicentennial Desk Calendar for the last few months with some great posts about all things Edgar. The past week alone has seen posts on Poe's political ambitions, his mother-in-law/aunt, Rufus Griswold, George Lippard,Lenoreand several Poe valentine poems. This is a blog to be visited every day.

Rob Velella is an independent Poe scholar and the author of the "Edgar Allan Poe 2009 Bicentennial Calendar." After a stint leading tours at the Poe Historic Site in Philadelphia, he currently works as a guide at the Henry Wadsworth Longfellow National Historic Site in Cambridge, MA and frequently lectures on various topics relevant to 19th century literature.

A little Q&A with Rob:

How did your Poe Calendar blog come about?

The blog sprung from my own desire to celebrate Poe-related anniversaries year-round, not just on his bicentennial birthday. It being his 200th birthday, however, serves as a great springboard to seek out more dates worth celebrating. It also allows me the opportunity to present the many facets of Poe and, hopefully, remind people he is a complex character and not just his own stereotype.

What's your favorite work by Poe (could be any genre)?

My favorite Poe work always fluctuates, but I've never grown bored of "Berenice." Even Poe admitted it is an incredibly violent story, though It doesn't actually have a single scene of violence - which, really, just shows the genius that is Poe.

Can you recommend an interesting piece by Poe that most readers wouldn't be familiar with? What makes it interesting?

I like to promote his comedies and a recent gem I've fallen in love with is "X-ing a Paragrab" which, quite literally, leaves me blurting out with laughter every time I read the end. Many of his comedies are just as dark as his horror, but not this one - which sort of flies in the face of that Poe stereotype I mentioned earlier.

Favorite writer besides Poe?

I really love the 19th century in general but I have to count Nathaniel Hawthorne as one of my favorites, especially his short stories. Lately I've also been boning up on the poets from the era, including James Russell Lowell.

Last book you were reading?

I recently finished "The Dante Club" by Matthew Pearl (which was great, by the way) and needed to wash the 21st century fiction aftertaste out of my mouth. So, I turned to 1838 and am now re-reading Poe's only novel, "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket." It's such a unique work!

Why should we visit the Longfellow House?

The Longfellow National Historic Site is like no other historic site. Absolutely 100% of the house is original to the Longfellow family and the overwhelming majority of it was used by Longfellow himself. These aren't recreations or replicas - the family really planned ahead and left everything untouched.

Where should Poe be buried?

I plead the Fifth.

Thanks, Rob.  And now on to the contest.  Send an email to ed@omnigatherum.com with the answer to the following trivia question and "Poe Calendar Contest" in the subject line.  Do NOT put the answer in a comment to this blog post.  I'll draw a winner from the correct answers received.  The winner gets one of Rob's Poe Bicentennial Desk Calendars mailed to his or her home free of charge.  And it's a great calendar.  I read mine every day. 

The question:

Rob mentioned his love of Poe's short story, "Berenice,"  a disturbing and chilling story from early (before Philly) in Poe's writing career.  What are the thirty-two things that fall from the box at the end of the story?

Deadline Monday, Feb 23.  I'll post the name of the winner on Tuesday.


Charles, Robert, George and Edgar

George Lippard's gothic masterpiece Stephan Salisbury writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer about the Library Company's Philadelphia Gothic exhibition, where I'll be speaking on Thu night:

In the sallow afterglow of E. A. Poe's Jan. 19 bicentennial birthday, in the dim reaches of the centuries-old Library Company - where readers still nod over brittle pages as Poe once did - lie tales of murder and blood and horrors, stories crafted here, in the Quaker City, the city of gentility, peace, and ghastly death.

Here, in exhibition cases still as open tombs, the shroud has been slipped from a dark Philadelphia.

"Philadelphia Gothic: Murders, Mysteries, Monsters, & Mayhem," an exhibition on view at the Library Company, 1314 Locust St., from 9 a.m. to 4:45 p.m. weekdays through April 14, is a reminder that shadows veil the face of the City of Brotherly Love, like tangles of poisonous weeds.

Come to hear more about a long-overlooked American literary tradition, Philly Gothic, tomorrow night.  Check out the Lib Co site for info on how to RSVP.


A Poe lecture that Griswold would love

Came across this listing for a lecture in Baltimore tonight:

Michael Largo, author of "Genius and Heroin" and who observed in the 1980s how creative geniuses are prone to destructive behavior, speaks at the Maryland Historical Society on Edgar Allan Poe. In a talk titled "Feeding Poe's Muse: The Secret Obsessions of Edgar Allan Poe," Largo will entertainingly show how Poe's genius was entwined with self-ruin. Poe's favorite cocktails will be served. 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday; The Maryland Historical Society, 201 W. Monument Street, Baltimore; $30 to $50.410-685-3750 ext. 319; www.mdhs.org

This is the kind of thing that serves only to perpeutate the untrue myth that Poe was a self-destructive drunk and drug addict. Listen up: Poe was NOT a drug addict. He did NOT smoke opium. Poe did have a drinking problem. However, he was certainly not a raving drunk, nor did he drink himself to death. Many of the accounts of Poe's drunkenness describe him as being UNable to function after drinking just a little bit. Take a look at Poe's corpus. He was constantly writing. He would have been unable to write had he been a souse. I know the description of Largo's talk does not say that Poe was a drunk and drug addict, but it certainly implies it. These are the kinds of lies that Rufus Griswold published about Poe after his death. And the stories just won't seem to go away.

Poe was a dedicated professional writer who never got a break.  His genius as a fiction writer, poet and literary critic challenged the way we read literature. "Self-ruin" wasn't Poe's problem. Poverty was. Had Poe made a third of what the hacks around him were making, perhaps he could have taken better care of his health and lived a longer, even more productive life.

Or you can believe the crap that Poe was some kind of destructive rock star whose "genius was entwined with self-ruin."  Poe was not Jim Morrison, folks. 

Wish I could go to Largo's talk, just to heckle, but check out that price: it'll cost you $30-$50 to hear this bullshit. That's some pricey crap.  Figures it's in Baltimore. 

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