Edgar Allan Poe paints a lonely and muted landscape of horror. His stories aren’t supposed to thrive in chaos or miserable togetherness. His characters are recluse; eternally chained and chased by their own shadows as at dawn or dusk we feel the inevitability of the cosmos’s gravitas.
And yet, like particles of dust, we continue to gaze at the sky change colors. Establishing the acceptance and reality of our existence which, satirically, may just as well snap like a piece of thread.
The storytelling, by the hands of a deeply withdrawn and skeptical writer, is vividly illustrative. But what’s truly mortifying was Edgar Allan Poe’s death. He was “found in a complete state of delirium - incoherent, disheveled, and wearing stranger’s clothes.” He died, at the age of 40, in a hospital. And it continues, to this day, to be a mysterious death. And no doubt a terrifyingly painful and eerie one.
The complexity of human nature is explicitly mirrored in his stories; The Raven, The Pit, and the Pendulum, The Cask of Amontillado, to name a few. They showcase the emptiness and obscurity of existence.
But it’s not something that Poe intellectualizes or romanticizes in his stories. He possesses and narrates them almost instinctively the way space pervades a vacuum.
The seriousness with which Edgar Allan Poe carried out his role as a writer - did that, for the remainder of his life, haunt his life? Here’s something I read in a New Yorker article about his work:
“Nearly everything Poe wrote, including the spooky stories for which he is best remembered, has this virtuosic, showy, lilting, and slightly wilting quality, like a peony just past bloom. Poe didn’t write “The Raven” to answer the exacting demands of a philosophic Art, or not entirely, anyway. He wrote it for the same reason that he wrote tales like “The Gold-Bug”: to stave off starvation.”