Poe Turns 200

1809~2009

“I endeavored to shriek—and my lips and my parched tongue moved convulsively together in the attempt—but no voice issued from the cavernous lungs which, oppressed as if by the weight of some incumbent mountain, gasped and palpitated, with the heart, at every elaborate and struggling inspiration,” wrote Edgar Allan Poe in his chilling description of a man who has found himself buried alive in the 1844 short story “The Premature Burial.” The maestro of terror and the macabre, who penned such classics as “The Raven” and “The Pit and the Pendulum,” was born 2Read more »

The Man Who Can Scare Stephen King

The American master of horror fiction was as peculiar in his life as he was in his writing

Among the presents that came Howard Phillips Lovecraft’s way during the Christmas season of 1936 was a skull from an Indian burial ground. The gift was appropriate for a lifelong connoisseur of the weird. It was also a portent: Less than three months after receiving it, Lovecraft died of cancer at the age of forty-six. Read more »

The Blighted Life Of The Writer, Circa 1840

The urge to create literature was as strong in the mid-1800s as it is today, but rejections were brutal and the pay was even worse

How does the writing life in preCivil War America compare with that of the 1980s? If you had picked up the New York literary newspaper The New Mirror on Saturday, January 6, 1844, you would have read: “The prices paid now to acceptable magazine-writers are very high, though the number of writers has increased so much that there are thousands who can get no article accepted.Read more »

Fear Of The City 1783 To 1983

The city has been a lure for millions, but most of the great American minds have been appalled by its excesses. Here an eminent observer, who knows firsthand the city’s threat, surveys the subject.

EVERY THURSDAY , when I leave my apartment in a vast housing complex on Columbus Avenue to conduct a university seminar on the American city, I reflect on a double life—mine. Most of the people I pass on my way to the subway look as imprisoned by the city as my parents and relatives used to look in the Brooklyn ghetto where I spent my first twenty years. Yet no matter where else I have traveled and taught, I always seem to return to streets and scenes like those on New York’s Upper West Side. Read more »

Cadet Edgar Allan Poe

The young poet became a legendary plebe in the few painful months he spent at West Point

One morning in June, 1830, Edgar Allan Poe rode the steamer from New York up the Hudson River to West Point. His spirits, like his expectations, were uncharacteristically high. He was about to become a cadet at the United States Military Academy, but he anticipated only a brief cadet career; with his prior military experience he expected to be an officer soon. Read more »

Humanity, Said Edgar Allan Poe, Is Divided Into Men, Women, And Margaret Fuller

Poe’s witticism was not meant kindly, but it was actually a compliment. Without doubt Margaret Fuller stood first among women of the nineteenth century. It is surprising that, as America’s first liberated female, she is not today first in the hearts of her countrywomen. The primary responsibility for this neglect lies with her intimate friend Ralph Waldo Emerson, who, under the guise of loving kindness, defeminized, distorted, and diminished the image of her that has come down to us. Read more »