Category Archives: Edgar Allan Poe

Links: Pocket Symphony

James Ellroy has very strong opinions about classical music: “‘I dig late Mozart,’” he says. ‘There’s a hair of dissonance, there’s more vavoom, the late symphonies. I got Böhm, the Berlin Philharmonic. I love the 21st Piano Concerto – “Elvira Madigan” – Sinfonia Concertante, the Clarinet Concerto. But that’s it. Haydn you can have, Handel you can have, Baroque I can’t listen to.’”

Matthew Yglesias
is still catching hell for liking Moby-Dick. A Mother Jones blogger retorts: “I didn’t care for it. I’ll spare you the details since I’d just be opening myself up to quite justified charges of philistinism, and who needs that?” Yglesias did make an error in saying that you can’t understand America without it; the only book for which that’s true is the Bible, and then just the angry parts.

“Mailer felt obliged to make literature, or better yet a demonic theoretical broadside, out of his hump-piles and pungent smoke.”

Montana: America’s new home for werewolf fantasy novels.

The Ransom Center has a host of online materials relating to Edgar Allan Poe, in relation to the exhibit that opens there next week.

Eudora Welty‘s One Writer’s Beginnings helped keep Mary Chapin Carpenter from becoming miserable when she was starting to play her songs at D.C. clubs.

Production of the film version of Don DeLillo‘s End Zone is on hold.

The Chicago Tribune‘s Julia Keller, who once worried in public whether a graphic-novel adaptation of the 9/11 Commission Report represented “an advance or retreat for civilization” (no, really), is now sweating a graphic-novel adaptation to Ray Bradbury‘s Fahrenheit 451: “I find myself wishing graphic novels weren’t so hip; their popularity has made me question my own motives. Am I just trying to sound cool? Is an affection for graphic novels by anyone over 25 simply the literary equivalent of buying a sports car or getting a face-lift?”

There’s a seminar on September 15 on whether Mark Twain would use Twitter. For some reason, Michael Buckley will be a part of this; frankly, I’d be more interested in reading a long essay by Twain about “What the Buck?”

It’s Labor Day weekend, so I likely won’t be around here until after the holiday. In the meantime, you can read the story about Studs Terkel, Labor Day, the yuppie couple, and the bus stop in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood—over and over again.

Links: The “Intergalactically Challenging Jacket” and More

The summer issue of Lapham’s Quarterly is dedicated to travel, excerpting Paul Theroux‘s Dark Star Safari, Marilynne Robinson‘s Gilead, Tobias Wolff‘s This Boy’s Life, and Jack Kerouac‘s On the Road, among many other writers around the world and throughout history. The journal’s Web site features James Franco reading that Kerouac excerpt in an appropriately slackerish way. The most entertaining piece, though, not online, is a 1935 article from Pravda describing the despairing life of American cities, which are sad and largely empty of people. Contrary to popular belief in the Soviet Union, the authors write, in New York and Chicago “brokers don’t run down the sidewalks knocking over American citizens; they simmer, invisible to the public, in their stock exchanges, making all kinds of shady deals in those monumental buildings.” The West Coast is no better: It’s home to the “American film industry, which releases around a thousand well-made but egregiously tasteless and idiotically stupid films per year.”

Speaking of Theroux, he recalls hanging out at Michael Jackson‘s Neverland, and talking with the late pop star on the phone in the wee hours about, among other things, his reading habits: “‘Somerset Maugham,’ he said quickly, and then, pausing at each name: ‘Whitman. Hemingway. Twain.’”

Jennifer Weiner
on studying under Toni Morrison: “Toni Morrison used to read her students’ work out loud, and hearing her read it made me believe that it was good (of course, Toni Morrison being Toni Morrison, she could have been reading my grocery list and I would have thought, ‘Genius!’ She’s one of the world’s all-time great readers).”

Edgar Allan Poe, supernatural detective.

The sad, long struggle of Kaye Gibbons.

Ernest Hemingway‘s grandson has reworked Papa’s posthumous memoir, A Moveable Feast, in a way that “attempts to give the impression of a work which is not completed but which is nevertheless readable.”

The second issue of Wag’s Revue is now online, with an interview with T.C. Boyle as its centerpiece. Excerpt: “I do not reveal much of myself, either publicly or in the work. I may have no problem wearing an intergalactically challenging jacket on TV and cracking jokes with the best of them or investing everything I have in a performance of a story, either live or recorded, but all of that is simply a way of rubbing up against the public world while all the while keeping the private world private.”

Joseph O’Neill ponders the president reading Netherland: “I suppose you flatter yourself that the story is the history of the United States. That’s the weird, disorienting feeling you get.”

And, apropos of nothing in particular except that anybody who follows the Washington Nationals badly needs a laugh, this is great.

Mr. Poe Regrets

This Saturday marks the opening of “From Out That Shadow: The Life and Legacy of Edgar Allan Poe,” a exhibit at the University of Virginia designed to commemorate the author’s 200th birthday. Among the artifacts featured is a recently discovered 1842 letter from Poe to his publishers, apologizing for being drunk that last time they hung out together, hitting them up for a chance to be published, and generally behaving like a magazine intern. The News Leader (Staunton, Va.) explains:

In the letter, written in July 1842, Poe apologizes to publishers J. and H.G. Langley for his drunken behavior. He encloses an article he hopes the publishers will buy, as he is “desperately pushed for money.” He also blames a friend, poet and lawyer William Ross Wallace, for making him drink too many “juleps” and tries to make amends for the unfortunate result: “Will you be so kind enough to put the best possible interpretation upon my behavior while in N-York? You must have conceived a queer idea of me – but the simple truth is that Wallace would insist upon the juleps, and I knew not what I was either doing or saying.”

The Langleys rejected the piece. Insofar as Wikipedia is trustworthy on the matter, 1842 was a rough year for Poe: That year his wife, Virginia, suffered a bout of tuberculosis that drove him to begin drinking heavily. The exhibit runs through Aug. 1 first at the University of Virginia Library’s Harrison Institute, after which it will move to the University of Texas’ Ransom Center, which helped assemble the exhibit.

Links: Clock’s Ticking

Edgar Allan Poe turns 200. Take the quiz, or buy the stamp.

Moby-Dick‘s influence on artist Frank Stella.

Gerald Early discusses his job as editor of the brand-new “Best African American Essays” and “Best African American Fiction” series. E. Lynn Harris guest-edited the first edition of the latter series; Nikki Giovanni is handling next year’s.

Richard Ford bids the Bush administration farewell in the Guardian.

And speaking of the Guardian: If you wanted to read Audrey Niffenegger‘s online graphic novel The Night Bookmobile but had a hard time navigating its clunky interface, John Dunlevy has assembled a helpful table of contents.

Thanks to Very Short List for pointing to Daily Routines, which gathers up anecdotes on the work lives of famous people. The section for writers, as you might imagine, draws heavily on Paris Review interviews—among those included are Toni Morrison, John Updike, and Ernest Hemingway. But let’s take a look at Pauline Kael, who offers a useful reminder of the first principles of good writing:

[S]taring at the piece in horror and exclaiming at her own ineptitude, she would immediately begin tearing it apart, scissoring and recombining the paragraphs, writing in new observations and jokes in the margins or above the lines, at which point the piece would be typed again. The process continued without interruption at the office where, like Proust after an injection of caffeine, she would assault the galleys, rearranging and rewriting, adding and subtracting still more jokes–on and on, until the pages were reluctantly yielded to the press.

——-

The D.C.-Area Readings page has been updated. Among the notable events coming up in a very notable week in Washington: Alice Walker Monday at Busboys & Poets 14th & V; Iraqi-born artist and writer Wafaa Bilal Thursday at Busboys & Poets 14th & V; and Jayne Anne Phillips, discussing her brilliant new novel, Lark & Termite, Friday at Politics & Prose. As always, your tips and recommendations for the readings page are welcome.

Links: High-School Reading List Edition

Nick Mamatas goes a little over-the-top in critiquing how Edgar Allan Poe is taught in schools. (“Perhaps it’s no surprise that kids shoot up a school when the tolerance quizzes don’t have the desired positive effect on interpersonal relations in the classroom.” Really?) But his defense of Poe’s moral messiness is appreciated.

The staff of the Margaret Mitchell House and Museum has been reduced from eight to a single person.

Baz Luhrmann is all set to ruin film The Great Gatsby. He’s apparently approaching the story as an “epic,” which may suggest he’s still getting around to reading it.

Oh, local-TV-news coverage of books—is there anything you can’t do to make a person squirm? “Looking for a last-minute holiday idea? How about a book?” Yes, never thought of that. Regardless, the notion of a two-minute segment on Jay Parini‘s Promised Land: Thirteen Books That Changed America is pretty impressive. Flabbergasting, even.

Roundup: Get Me Rewrite

The Southwest Florida News-Press catches up with Peter Matthiessen on Shadow Country, his recent reworking of three previous novels. Money quote: “In the Watson story, there are so many things that I wanted to talk about – the frontier, indigenous people, the loss of wildlife and landscape, and the growing, growing corporate greed that takes over everything. And when I put it out in unsatisfactory form as far as I was concerned, instead of turning to a new thing, I realized I wanted to get this right because it’s a very important American story. I had to know that this book exists in its proper form somewhere.”

Orson Scott Card speaks to School Library Journal about YA lit, Mormonism, his alleged homophobia, his massive output, and more.

Four books have been added to the NEA’s Big Read program: Louise Erdrich‘s Love Medicine, Tim O’Brien‘s The Things They Carried, Thornton Wilder‘s The Bridge of San Luis Rey and Our Town, and a collection of poetry and stories by Edgar Allan Poe.

Your moment of zen: Voice of America Special English’s latest author feature is on Louisa May Alcott.

Sunday Miscellany

The Financial Times reviews Junot Diaz‘s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, now out in the U.K.

The Case for Ink: 5 Reasons I Won’t Give Up on Books.

The Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia, will open an exhibit in April featuring representations of Poe in comics.

At yesterday’s “A World of Fiction Writing” conference at American University, Josh Emmons participated in a panel titled “Fiction Under Forty,” and spoke a little about how young writers are discouraged from shopping short-story collections; first novels don’t sell too well, but debut story collections sell worse. Maybe this doesn’t apply to 53-year-old authors of debut story collections: The Wall Street Journal has a large takeout on Donald Ray Pollock, a longtime paper-mill worker whose first collection of short stories, Knockemstiff, comes out next month. (Sorry, that’s connected short stories. Is this a new thing, a workaround for first-timers to get around the marketing folks who complain that the first book is “just” a book of short stories? I’m sure the “connected story collection” has always been with us, but at this early hour I can’t recall a single one.) One of his stories is available for free; congratulations to Pollock for getting the phrase “hotter than a fat lady’s box” into a major American newspaper, online or otherwise.

Sunday Miscellany

Charles McGrath profiles Charles Bock, debut author of the Vegas-set novel Beautiful Children, in the New York Times Magazine.

The London Guardian reviews Peter Ackroyd‘s new biography of Edgar Allan Poe.

Tom Perrotta, whose most recent novel, The Abstinence Teacher, transcends its occasional script-treatment feel, is interviewed by Financial Times. (The book has just come out in the U.K., with a better cover.) I suspect there’s a connection between his answer to question about the last book he couldn’t finish (Tree of Smoke) and the question about what makes him cross to read (“Novels longer than 500 pages that are more about style than substance.”)