Featured on The Book Show on Sky Arts on 22 January 2009.
Peter Ackroyd has written a gripping account of the hugely influential master of macabre. It begins with the mystery surrounding Poe's death and tells the fascintating life story of a writer whose imagination still haunts us today.
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.
'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
'Ackroyd is more like a literary spiritualist who summons up the voices of the dead and encourages them to possess his writing... It is as short and sharp as a flick-knife' Daily Telegraph
'Admirably captures the heady mix of the esoteric, grotesque and thoroughly modern in Poe' Sunday Times
Publication date: 07/02/2008
|Publication date:||7th February 2008|
|Genres:||Biography / Autobiography,|
Peter Ackroyd is of course a Cockney visionary himself. He has written and presented a 3-part TV series for the BBC on London and few of his prize-winning biographies and novels stray far from his London obsessions - Turner was one of the subjects of a lecture that Ackroyd gave at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 1993 (also televised) entitled London Luminaries and Cockney Visionaries; and Turner was also central to his Times article on Reflections on British art. He is the author of the acclaimed non-fiction bestsellers, Thames: Sacred River and London: The Biography. He holds a CBE for ...More About Peter Ackroyd