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Saturday May 27, 2017
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Matthew Pearl

 

continued

that kept the reader turning the pages even as it re-created the period of its action. It was a wonderful idea, but it seemed to me like something that could be done only once.

Obviously I wasn't thinking clearly enough about the rich mysteries of nineteenth-century American literature! In his recent The Poe Shadow, Pearl has turned his considerable intelligence and imagination to the mysterious death of Edgar Allan Poe. There are several stories of Poe's death, none of which is overly exact. What has made it into the cultural imagination — probably because it mirrors the haunting darkness of Poe's tales — is that he died drunk in Baltimore in 1849, when no one thought he should be anywhere close to that city. Of course it's a story that fits a bit too nicely with our received notion about the self-destructive nature of the artist, but the gaps in the tale have always been captivating.

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