The Big Read Blog (Archive)

Under the Influence: Edgar Allan Poe edition

This week, we marked the birthday of Edgar Allan Poe who was born on January 19,  1809. We tend to think of Poe as a master of gothic fiction creaky with horror or as a poet mourning a lost love in language that is lushly beautiful. These descriptions are accurate, as far as they go, but that’s only part of the story.  Edgar Allan Poe also invented the detective novel: it’s intriguing to speculate that Sherlock Holmes wouldn’t exist without Poe. He was also an early contributor to the emerging genre of science fiction and influential in creating what would become the modern short story.  An astute and widely read critic,  Poe wrote with a pen dipped in acid and had a genius for making enemies.  He was also the first well-known American author to try to earn a living through writing alone, which resulted in a life that always teetered on the brink of financial ruin.  His influence on American literature is profound. Indeed, many writers have recognized Edgar Allan Poe’s genius from Baudelaire to Vladimir Nabokov, while other authors acknowledge their debt to him like Daniel Handler, whom readers might know by the name of Lemony Snicket.  In fact, in Handler’s darkly funny books, A Series of Unfortunate Events, he named  a pivotal character “Poe.”

[audio:http://bigreadblog.arts.gov//audio/POELEMONYSNICKET.mp3]

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