Edgar Allan Poe: The Fever Called Living by Paul Collins
Date Read: June 9 to 13, 2019
Rating: 4 (of 5) stars
I have had a bit of a fascination with Poe for quite some time. Although he is often sensationalized as the “troubled artist” and associated with the dark and macabre, there is so much more to him than that! Up until a few years ago, I had only read some of his more popular works, but in March 2017 I wrapped up a yearlong project of reading Poe’s complete works. I was so pleasantly surprised with what I found there! With a little bit of distance from that project, I thought a biography would be a nice supplement to my Poe repertoire.
Collins’ biography of Poe is a quick and concise general accounting of Poe’s life, beginning with his childhood and school experiences. While giving a factual accounting of Poe’s life, the narrative is well balanced so that it does not feel like a passage in a history book. Poe is presented alongside his significant publications, though many were not recognized as such at the time. This is not only a biography of Poe the man, but also a biography of his literary works. Some present day analysis of his work is included, with some emphasis on the widespread influence of his work in the world of literature. It is certainly impossible to touch on all of the work that Poe created in his lifetime, but there was a nice balance of what are considered his great achievements along with reference to many lesser and even un-credited publications. (Boris and I particularly liked the reference to his writing of the exploits of his house cat for a family publication when he was particularly poor and in need of work.)
Perhaps the more ardent fans of Poe did not need this, but I also enjoyed the added context given to his work as well as some well-known quotes. I have seen reference to his statement on how he “became insane, with long intervals of horrible sanity” in many places, but this is the first I have seen comment on his intention with these words—the cyclical nature of his poverty and drinking, combined with the prolonged illness of his much loved wife.
This is a great starting place for anyone interested in knowing more about Poe and his work. Collins’ portrayal of Poe is sympathetic, but without romanticizing the hardship he endured throughout his life.
Boris’s thoughts: “So if someone wrote a book about a guy who wrote about his cat… do you think someone will write a book about us one day?”