NatHist of a Novel: Poe is a go.

I’ve moved from 87% committed to the Poe novel to “Okay. I’m in.” Here’s why:

1. The first two biographies I’ve read have kept my interest and I’m looking forward to more research.

2. I’m starting this book largely ignorant of Poe’s historical, political and literary context. It’s been fun and fascinating to stretch out into his world.

3. A reader responded to the last blog with a remark about how I seem to be drawn to “dissolute drunks,” and I felt compelled to defend not only John Henry Holliday but also Edgar Allan Poe. This fits my pattern. I am, in fact, drawn to those I feel have been unfairly maligned, and to act as their defense counsel. And I’ve found myself coming to Poe’s defense repeatedly in the last few weeks.

4. DUMB LUCK. A friend of mine (who is a literary critic in Germany) did her graduate research on Poe! I didn’t know that until I mentioned getting interested in him. She likes to pretend that “text is all” and “the author is of no interest.” I’m interested in Poe as a person and as a fellow writer trying to make his way in a fluid, chaotic publishing world. Even so, I now have someone I can talk to about Poe’s own work as a literary critic and she’s agreed to let me bounce ideas off her.

The stars are aligning!

On the plane coming back from Glenwood Springs, I was thinking about the structure of this story. I’m inclined to reverse what I did in Doc. I framed John Henry Holliday’s story as Greek tragedy; in this book I want to show that Edgar Poe’s mysterious death was not ordained by the gods. He has been presented as a genius whose own fatal flaws inevitably led to his appalling end. I am inclined to see him as an energetic and resourceful writer, editor and critic, dedicated to jacking up the quality of the poetry and prose that was being flung — ready or not — under the reading public’s eyeballs. And he did it all while under tremendous emotional and financial pressure.

There was a lot of strength in that man. He was indeed the source of some of his own problems, but aren’t we all?






7 thoughts on “NatHist of a Novel: Poe is a go.”

  1. I agree, and I am so looking forward to this book! When my sister first introduced me to Poe – I was about 10 – I knew next to nothing about alcoholism and dissolution in Poe or anyone else for that matter. I just fell in love with the language, rhythms, and eeriness of “Annabelle Lee,” “The Raven,” and “The Bells.” Sure, Poe’s strange and brilliant mind, as well as his drinking problems, are all tied up in how he lived his life and what he created. But I am glad you are not letting the sensationalism – so appealing at his time and in present times – cloud the importance of Poe’s literary contributions.

  2. Great choice. Poe is a real talent with a fascinating personal story to research. I will look forward to your progress with this one!

  3. oh mary, i’ve always been fascinated by EAP. and to think that you’ll bring your insightful, unique angle to such a writer…how THRILLING! yes, i’ve read about his poverty, his alcoholism, but i’ve mostly just read his works. brilliant, and CREEPY!!!!!!!!! how fun…

  4. His death was a mystery, and all records of his death have been destroyed. Wow. This is rich loam in which to mine, Mary. You will do a fabulous job, I am sure of it 🙂

  5. My friendship with your aunt, Mary Dewing, began in Munich, 1957. I find that both her opinions, as well as those of critics, to be both very favorable but also very true. I love your aunt and, if I may be bold,(keeping in mind that I am 80.75 Years of age) I love you too. Your books have provided me much pleasure and I thank you.

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