On this day in 1809, the great writer Edgar Allan Poe was born. I hate to be repetitious. I featured Poe last year. And I could have written about Paul Cezanne — an artist that I’ve come to admire much more as I’ve gotten older. But… it’s… Poe! Other than John Steinbeck, there really is no other writer who I so admire in his totality. (Maybe also Graham Greene.) I don’t know, maybe it is pathetic. I doubt it. And maybe it is just that Poe was the right man for his time. But he combined brilliance with technical perfection in a way that I don’t see in any other writer.
It’s hard to know what to make of Poe’s life. Artists have a tendency to mythologize themselves. But two things do stand out. One is his marriage to his first cousin — he was 27 and she was 13. It isn’t clear if they ever consummated the marriage, but they lived together as a seemingly devoted couple for 11 years until she died of tuberculosis. And then there is the bizarre question of Poe’s death. There are a zillion theories. I figure it is very simple: he was on a bender, passed out in the street, became very ill and died. His wearing someone else’s clothes doesn’t seem too hard to integrate into that story.
But I think that Ben Livingston and Hannah Shakespeare did the world a great favor by provide Poe the perfect death in their screenplay for The Raven. If you don’t know what I mean, check out my review of the film, The Raven Doesn’t Suck. Anyway, to celebrate Poe’s birthday, let’s do two things. First, let’s watch Vincent Price perform “The Tell-Tale Heart.” It’s a great story and Price does it really well. As I recall, he gets a couple of words wrong, but it is amazingly accurate:
And to decompress from that, let’s listen to Sarah Jarosz’s charming “Annabelle [sic] Lee”:
Happy birthday Edgar Allan Poe!