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January 16, 2015 4:01 PM   Subscribe

On Edgar Allan Poe by Marilynne Robinson [New York Review of Books]
"Edgar Allan Poe was and is a turbulence, an anomaly among the major American writers of his period, an anomaly to this day. He both amazed and antagonized his contemporaries, who could not dismiss him from the first rank of writers, though many felt his work to be morally questionable and in dubious taste, and though he scourged them in print regularly in the course of producing a body of criticism that is sometimes flatly vindictive and often brilliant.
posted by Fizz (12 comments total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
Favourite quote from the essay:
"His clothing was always neat and genteel and very shabby. His manner was gracious and refined and notoriously pathetic or outrageous if he happened to have been drinking."
posted by Fizz at 4:08 PM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

I learned everything I need to know about Poe through 8th grade English class and, more recently, Drunk History.
posted by discopolo at 4:32 PM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

Well, not everything I need to know. To be frank, his face scares me.
posted by discopolo at 4:37 PM on January 16, 2015

To be frank, his face scares me.

According to something I read recently, many people who knew him agreed that he did not look like the man in the photographs that we have of him.
posted by jayder at 5:04 PM on January 16, 2015 [3 favorites]

jayder, do you have a link to that by any chance or recall what site/publication it is from? That is something I'd be interested in reading.
posted by Fizz at 5:11 PM on January 16, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'd pay good money if he was cast as Edgar Allen Poe.

Idris Elba in everything.

*fingers crossed as the next James Bond*
posted by Fizz at 5:20 PM on January 16, 2015 [6 favorites]

That is something I'd be interested in reading.

This and particularly this might be of interest.
posted by BWA at 5:37 PM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

BWA, thanks! That's super cool:

'Spurious Portraits'
"Spurious portraits of historical figures are not uncommon, yet the number of such portraits said to represent Edgar Allan Poe is staggering. Scores of fictitious Poe portraits are scattered in public and private collections throughout the United States; Washington’s National Portrait Gallery alone has in its files references to at least twenty-five such likenesses, and the number increases almost yearly. Approximately half of these works are posthumously produced, heavily altered derivatives based on established life portraits (e.g., fig. 38 and fig. 39), while others are merely paintings or photographs of anonymous subjects erroneously identified as Poe."
posted by Fizz at 5:42 PM on January 16, 2015

The Baltimore Poe statue wearing a Patriots scarf to settle a bet with fans of the Boston Poe statue (in that photo, you can't see the human heart falling out of his valise).
posted by adamg at 7:10 PM on January 16, 2015 [2 favorites]

God damn, now I have to revisit Pym. Thanks for the linked piece, I enjoyed that.
posted by sandettie light vessel automatic at 9:08 AM on January 17, 2015 [2 favorites]

There's a Patton Oswalt "bit" about Edgar Allan Poe, which is not only hilarious but actually works well as literary criticism. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem to be available on the web, but it starts with Patton talking about how he read the complete works of Poe, which leads to him yelling, "Don't do it. Because he sucks." But Patton eventually gets to the point that Poe was so damn prolific that even if 90% sucked, there was still 10% left that was genius. He even points out that Poe actually wrote an essay that solved the dark sky at night paradox that was troubling 19th century scientists. He said when Poe solved it his contemporaries were like, "That's who solved it? Drunky McChildFucker from Baltimore?" He compared it to what would happen if we discovered that Pauly Shore solved the unified field theorem.
posted by jonp72 at 9:56 AM on January 17, 2015 [4 favorites]

jayder, do you have a link to that by any chance or recall what site/publication it is from? That is something I'd be interested in reading.

Sorry, I've been away from MeFi for a couple days. Yes, the book is called The Portraits and Daguerreotypes of Edgar Allan Poe by Michael J. Deas, and here is the passage in question:

Although contemporary sources imply that Poe was unusually fastidious about his appearance, his chronic disappointment with his portaits cannot be dismissed as mere vanity: in the decades following his death there were many who shared his disgruntlement and openly acknowledged the inadequacy of his likenesses. Maunsell B. Field, who saw Poe lecture in 1848, wrote in 1874 that he had encountered "no portrait ... that does justice to his pale, delicate, and intellectual face and magnificent eyes." Susan Ingram, who was introduced to Poe at Norfolk in 1849, remarked half a century later: "None of his pictures that I have ever seen look like the picture of Poe that I keep in my memory. Of course they look like him, so that any one seeing them could have recognized him from them, but there was something in his face that was in none of them. Perhaps it was in the eyes, perhaps in the mouth, I do not know, but anyone who ever met him would understand what I mean." Sarah Helen Whitman, in her "Edgar Poe and his Critics, echoed the sentiment expressed by Miss Ingram, and attempted to explain the disparity between the sitter and his portaits by noting that Poe's face possessed a "peculiarly changeful character" which made any "adequate transmission of its various and subtle moods .. impossible."
posted by jayder at 7:13 PM on January 18, 2015 [2 favorites]

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