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Poe: A Life Cut Short

Poe: A Life Cut Short (Paperback)

By Ackroyd, Peter

Edgar Allan Poe began his literary career composing verses modelled on Byron. Poe has been claimed as the forerunner of modern fantasy. This 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 steam-boa... read full description below.

ISBN 9780099287674
Barcode 9780099287674
Published 1 April 2009 by Vintage
Format Paperback
Alternate Format(s) View All (2 other possible title(s) available)
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Full details for this title

ISBN-13 9780099287674
ISBN-10 0099287676
Stock Out of stock
Status Not currently available
Publisher Vintage
Imprint Vintage
Publication Date 1 April 2009
International Publication Date 5 February 2009
Publication Country United Kingdom United Kingdom
Format Paperback
Author(s) By Ackroyd, Peter
Category Biography & Autobiography
Number of Pages 192
Dimensions Width: 129mm
Height: 198mm
Spine: 13mm
Weight 150g
Interest Age 14+ years
Reading Age 14+ years
Library of Congress Authors, American - 19th century, Poe, Edgar Allan
NBS Text Biography: General
ONIX Text General/trade
Dewey Code 813.3
Catalogue Code 58514

Description of this Book

Edgar Allan Poe served as a soldier and began his literary career composing verses modelled on Byron; soon he was trying out his 'prose-tales' - often horror melodramas such as The Fall of the House of Usher . As editor of the Literary Messenger he was influential among critics and writers of the American South. His versatile writings - including, for example, The Murders in the Rue Morgue and The Raven - continue to resonate down the centuries. 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 steam-boat 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.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). Tennyson described him as 'the most original genius that America has produced'. He influenced European romanticism and was the harbinger of both Symbolism and Surrealism. Peter Ackroyd, who places significance on Poe's childhood (his travelling actor parents were miserably poor, his mother had TB and he was orphaned), claims that Poe found his family among writers - writers not only of his time but of the future generations who were influenced by the power of his imagination.

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Awards, Reviews & Star Ratings

NZ Review Poe's brilliant, erratic, abbreviated career stands to gain rather than lose from the form of brief life patented by Ackroyd. A short biography is not a long one shrunk. Instead of patiently accumulated details, emotional complexity and architectural shaping, it operates by lightening strikes, atmospheric colouring, impressionistic techniques of concision and suggestion Observer 200 pages of beautifully concentrated and cadenced prose Glasgow Herald Ackroyd tells his story straight, without moralising Literary Review Mr Ackroyd's biography of a writer who dies at the age of 40 after an alcoholic bender is almost as vivid and flawed as Poe himself ... Mr Ackroyd is especially good at conveying Poe's precarious state Economist Ackroyd is clearly fascinated by his subject. He makes the reader want to re-read Poe, and indeed to read more of Ackroyd on Poe Scotland on Sunday
US Review Latest entry in the prolific biographer's Brief Lives series sketches a tormented existence begun in misery, ended in mystery.In his portrait of Edgar Allan Poe (1809 - 49), Ackroyd (Thames: The Biography, 2008, etc.) offers no novelty, just brevity and some striking sentences - the final one in the book is alone worth the purchase price. The text opens with the destitute, disoriented, dying Poe discovered on the streets of Baltimore. Ackroyd wisely abstains from too much speculation about the writer's demise ( the truth is lost, he acknowledges) and does not advance any new theory about those final days missing from the historical record. The biographer pulls few punches. He reminds us that Poe's foster parents, the Allans, were slaveowners and that the writer remained in many ways an archetypal Southern white racist his entire life. (Racial attitudes expressed in several famous tales, including The Gold Bug, make them difficult to read today.) Ackroyd also emphasizes Poe's drinking problem, arguing that he was at times not just intoxicated but totally saturated in alcohol. He does not adequately explain, however, how a man continually besotted managed to be so astonishingly productive. Ackroyd sticks to an unadorned chronology, following the orphaned Poe from John Allan's Richmond, Va., home through school and teenage activities (including some surprising acts of physical prowess - he swam the James River rapids) to his truncated adventures at the nascent University of Virginia, in the Army and at West Point. We see Allan breaking with Poe, who inherited nothing from his wealthy foster father. We watch a proud, even arrogant artist struggle to make his name in the literary world. Ackroyd deals sensitively with Poe's marriage to his very young cousin Virginia Clemm, and is incredulous with his hysterical, simultaneous courtships of three women after Clemm died.Necessarily sketchy, but often insightful, sometimes stunning. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Author's Bio

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. A bestselling biographer, historian, novelist and broadcaster, he holds a CBE for services to literature. He was born and brought up in London, where he still lives. Chatto and Vintage are the publishers of his bestselling London- The Biography and Thames- Sacred River. His future books will be Venice and The English Ghost, as well as new volumes about London, to be published in hardback by Chatto and in paperback by Vintage.

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