Poe: A Life Cut Short by Peter AckroydPoe: A Life Cut Short by Peter Ackroyd

Poe: A Life Cut Short

byPeter Ackroyd

Paperback | March 2, 2009

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Edgar Allan Poe’s life (1809—1849) was gothic, mysterious, theatrical and fatally flawed — in short, an ideal subject for one of Peter Ackroyd’s brilliantly concise, dramatic and immensely readable biographies.

Edgar Allan Poe has been claimed as the forerunner of modern fantasy, and credited with the invention of psychological dramas (long before Freud), science fiction (before H.G. Wells and Jules Verne), and the detective story (before Arthur Conan Doyle), as well as influencing European Symbolism and Surrealism.

Peter Ackroyd’s biography of Poe opens with his end, his final days — no one knows what happened between the time when friends saw him off on the steamboat to Baltimore and his discovery six days later dying in a tavern. This mystery sets the scene for a short life packed with drama and tragedy (drink and poverty) combined with extraordinary brilliance. Ultimately, Peter Ackroyd claims, Poe found his family among writers, not only those of his time but also those of future generations who were influenced by the power of his imagination.
Peter Ackroyd has written biographies of Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, Dickens, Blake, Thomas More and Shakespeare as well as short lives of Chaucer, Turner and Newton. He is also the author of the bestselling London: The Biography and Thames: Sacred River.
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Title:Poe: A Life Cut ShortFormat:PaperbackDimensions:176 pages, 7.79 × 5.08 × 0.47 inPublished:March 2, 2009Publisher:Random House UKLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0099287676

ISBN - 13:9780099287674

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Reviews

Rated 3 out of 5 by from Detailed Acount of a Sad Man This is a short, or rather, brief biography of Edgar Allan Poe, part of a series the author has done called Brief Lives in which also includes biographies of Chaucer, Newton and Turner. This is not the first biography of Poe I have read, nor will it be the last. It has been quite some years since I last read of Poe, though, so the information was all coming fresh to my hazy mind. For such a short book, there is a wealth of information and detail included that leaves nothing out of Poe's tragically brief life. His melancholy and morbid life is so fascinating as one compares it to the macabre literature and poetry that he wrote. Poe was an orphan early in life, taken in by people of no relation, who, after the mother's death, refused to have anything to do with him. He became notorious and well-known during his life but never enjoyed appreciation for his work while he was alive and thus fortune alluded him, leaving him always on the verge of penury. He also had a habit of attaching himself to women who died at young ages of consumption from his birth mother through several ladies down to his own wife. Of course, his frequent bouts of extreme drinking lasting for days which left him to be found laying in ditches by acquaintances did not help his health or his reputation. The book is well written, including many direct quotes from contemporary sources, taken from people who knew him and newspapers of the time and his own words. The author has done a good job of giving a background as to whether the modern reader should take those quotes as truth or with a grain of salt. While focusing on his life a good deal of time is also spent on the writing of certain of his works and the literary criticism of the time; in fact a whole chapter is devoted to The Raven. I enjoyed the book and found it very interesting, even to one who had read the story before; I found this a rather studious approach to the subject. This does make the reader take the work serious but on the other hand, I did find the writing a bit dry at times. I prefer my biographies to be written in a narrative which almost reads like fiction and the quotes and literary criticism got in the way of that for me. But nevertheless a well-written book and certainly a good place to start for the person who has never read anything on Poe himself before; with only 160 pages it will give you the answer as to whether you want to read more about the man himself.
Date published: 2009-04-22