Friday, November 28, 2008

Boston joins Philadelphia in the stupidity of claiming Southerner Edgar Allan Poe as their own


Boston, Massachusetts--He hated the city. He hated the Trancendentalist writers like Emerson and Thoreau, accused Longfellow of plagiarism, and referred to the literary community of Boston during his lifetime as "Frogpondium." If there was a city that Poe hated more than Philadelphia, it was Boston. I agree with him, both towns are vile filth-holes of human iniquity that show no signs of ever changing.

Not that that's stopping the same kind of silver spoon people that Poe would have loathed from claiming him--an avowed Southerner--as one of their own.

Poe was merely born in Boston to his actor parents who had lived a gypsy-like vagabond existence that he was tragically destined to repeat. Yet, "Poe is a Bostonian." He was? The reality is that he was born in Boston--at best--on accident, and it could have been in Trenton, New Jersey depending on the day he arrived into the world.

Never mind that his readings in the town were meant to insult everyone there, or that he was generally loathed by the well-heeled writers that populated Boston and its environs--he's "ours," according to a jackass Professor, Dr. Paul Lewis, some misguided grad students who want a good grade, and Boston College officials who should know better but smell the tourist dollars along with the city council. At least they weren't as stupid as Philadelphia and its own literary scion, Edward Pettit--they wanted Poe's body disinterred and ferried "Back" to the city that he hated the most.

As if in some perverse parody of one of Poe's tales, Pettit enjoined his fellow Pennsylvanians to grab a shovel and follow him there. Boston was a close second in the writer's mind as a cesspool.

Quit fooling yourselves, he hated Boston. At least Dr. Lewis and the rest of them got to ride Poe's coattails like Sam Popora last year. I used to wonder why Poe railed so viciously against people like Emerson, Thoreau, his step-father, and his main nemesis, the awful poet and compiler Rufus Griswold: they had the easy road in life without matching talent. Poe was the first American writer to attempt making-a-living at writing, and the first to die in poverty.

It's easy to claim him today, but a living Poe would get the same reaction, he wouldn't be pleasant to these people. Twenty-twenty hindsight doesn't count. He would rightly belittle them, revile them, and tell them how empty and irrelevant they all are. He could be expected to point-out how poor their own writing likely is, and how pampered and hypocritical they are. Poe wouldn't have kind words for these people at all, they're the same kinds of little pricks that he hated so much during his short lifetime. Eventually, they would begin to ignore him as his own contemporaries did, just as they're ignoring the living-talent right under their bourgeois noses in the Boston of today. Celebrate the living, remember the dead, but let the man rest in peace.

He is not yours, he is everyone's, but he was a son of the South first. I hope you enjoyed your fifteen minutes at his expense, Boston, because it's all you're likely to get. We're all going to be forgotten, while Poe will go on, eternal, because he was the real thing. He meant what he said and what he wrote and wasn't a bringer of "good news," but an observer of human frailty, of madness and despair. He wasn't a bringer of "good news" about America.

All this smacks of disrespect to his memory by today's inhabitants of "Frogpondium," that comfy world of the trust fund and a meaningless bourgeois existence, the living death that Poe and others wrote about. Why wouldn't they want to attach themselves barnacle-like to something so great, so tortured, and so sincere when they have nothing to offer? All these fools claiming Poe as their own are part of the horrible new order that writers like
Blake, Mary Shelly, Poe, Melville wrote of, where man is wolf to man.

They watched the emergence of our modern world in terror, and they were right to be alarmed. Blake reacted in horror to the smashing of "Albion," his agricultural England, and saw the rise of a "demonic" industrialized one dominated by soulless businessmen and clerks, where people were truly enslaved. Poe also watched his Albion--the Antebellum South--crumble in the same manner, and he found city life disagreeable and fearful. As wrong-headed as he was about so many things, he at least treasured an aristocratic set-of-values where honor and principle matter.

It takes a kind of greatness to recognize the horror of one's time, and you have to be at the ground level to really apprehend its qualities. But why would someone want to do something as silly as to claim Poe when that claim is tenuous? Easy.

Because those are characteristics none of the advocates display or have inherently, they lack the inspiration of a Poe or a Melville in their dour careerist paths. Say what you want about Poe's bad behaviors during his lifetime--the drinking, the mania and obsessiveness, the literary quarreling, his constant begging for money, his personal affronts against well-heeled writers, and so on--but at least he had the excuse of being poor. Greatness requires a modicum of genuine suffering, something alien to today's bourgeois viper. Zum kotzen!