Nothing Edgar Allan Poe wrote was remotely as disturbing as the story of his struggle against his own demons and spectacularly bad luck, and this piece by Jill Lepore gives full weight to every twist and turn of the noose that fate braided around his neck. If, like me, you’re a writer with various potentially wonderful projects caught in the quicksand of the publishing industry crisis, you might even want to hold off on reading the piece, as good as it is. I read it yesterday, and the resulting gloom required extensive doses of my favorite iPod music during the train ride home. In fact, not all of the clouds have lifted, even now.
On the other hand, reality is a writer’s best friend, and if nothing else Lepore’s article reminds us that the history of the United States is to a great extent the history of various financial panics, in which the machinations of looters created maelstroms that sent whole populations scrambling to keep their lives and dreams from being sucked away along with their savings. Poe’s own problems were enough to bring about his downfall under the best of circumstances, but Poe — and much of the rest of the counry — did not live under the best of circumstances. They were much worse than what we’re caught in now. Here’s hoping that remains the case.