Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Edgar Allan Poe: The Ambiguity of Death

Author:  Giuseppe Cafiero
Genre:  Biography

Paperback, E-book
ISBN #:  9781925271959
Australian ebook Publisher
192 Pages
$14.99; $6.99 Amazon
August 24, 2015
Three Stars

Giuseppe Cafiero presents the most intriguing biography of one of America's most enduring writers:  poet, author and critic Edgar Allan Poe.  The beloved master of mystery and the macabre, Poe's life and work is explored through the creation of memories, recriminations, intense loves and of delicate devotions.

Using the form of literary nonfiction, Cafiero successfully structures this memoir in the style of a traditional fiction narrative.  Introducing the reader to the character, The Reporter, whose story is a mirror in which it's possible to contemplate what is unreasonably hidden and infinitely ambiguous in the existence and in the writing of Edgar Allan Poe.

After Poe's infamous death, the reporter attempts to investigate the life and writing of Poe by attending a meeting at the Old Swan Tavern in Richmond.  Invited to the interview is archrival Reverend Wilmot Griswold and one of the last to see Poe before his death, Dr. J. Evans Snodgrass.  The reporter not only discovers the accusations of life filled with alcoholism, opium addiction, violence and womanizing but also begins to understand that this painful dark existence is not the antithesis to great writing. This is confirmed when the investigation continues with the meeting of an array of people by the reporter who divulge more information on the life of Poe and why many became the protagonists in his stories.

This surreal bio-fiction of the life of nineteenth century American writer, father of detective fiction, Edgar Allan Poe, brings to life a solidly constructed psychological portrait of the writer through the characters in his works.  Each of the stories is accompanied by the gloriously gothic illustrations by acclaimed Italian artist Sergio Poddighe.

Perhaps this is the only way to pay tribute to a writer who has indelibly marked the nineteenth century.


I will tell you first that Edgar Allan Poe is my favorite author.  I own everything he's ever written, and several biographies.  Therefore, I was intrigued by this book.  Unfortunately, it's not exactly what I expected.  I have attempted several times to read and re-read it, only to put it down.  Finally coming to a conclusion, I can only hope to understand what the author is trying to communicate.

It is written in the style of Poe's books, as a sort of non-fiction fiction.  But the difference is that with Mr. Poe's works, we knew that it was fiction; here it seems the author is attempting to channel Edgar, and I am not quite sure it works.  At least, it doesn't work for me.  At times I wasn't even sure if the people mentioned above were speaking about Poe or merely talking between themselves.  I wasn't sure whether I was privy to a conversation about Poe, or if he were listening from another table nearby, in the first pages of the book.

As I read the ensuing chapters, I learned very little that would interest me.  Labeling chapters such as Berenice - which was a tale by EAP - I wasn't sure if the author was reiterating what Poe had already written, or if he was attempting to put his own spin on it.  This was just one of the examples I encountered that seemed odd somehow.  Another is The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, Poe's only complete novel.  Mr. Cafiero is reiterating Poe's work, but in such a way as it appears to be told by someone else.  Honestly, I'm not sure what Mr. Cafiero wanted to achieve in this book, but it just doesn't appeal to me.

In the end, this book might be for others who enjoy this type of writing, but it just wasn't for me.  Three stars for a worthy effort, but unfortunately it couldn't hold my interest.


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