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Knowledge of our past is our inheritance. What we do with that knowledge will shape our destinies...

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Book Review: Midnight Dreary by John Evangelist Walsh

The full title of this book is Midnight Dreary: The Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe. I've had this book on my shelf for some time and finally got around to reading it. Like many before me, I am fascinated by Edgar Alan Poe, and studied him at some length while in college. So, when I heard about this book, I knew it was one I would want to read. Unlike most of my reads, it was a non-fiction.

Discussion/Plot: Walsh takes what little remains of Poe's personal correspondence and the well-documented facts of his life, as well as those surrounding his death, and analyzes them. This includes whether or not Poe's drunkenness truly could have caused his death, what women he was involved with at the time of his death (women, as much as booze were a trial for him) and what can be read between the lines of surviving letters.

He also examines some unfortunate prejudices that have sprung up in popular Poe culture, which have long clouded the issues that must be explored in order to understand the poet's death.

Conclusions: At the risk of spoilers, I won't give the exact conclusions Walsh comes to, in case anyone would like to read for themselves. Besides, Walsh does a good job of explaining the characters that populated Poe's life at the time of his death, and without the history he furnishes, the conclusions would be near-meaningless. 

That said, I found his conclusions to be compelling. He makes a good case for his argument, and I think he may just have it right.

Overall: An easy, thoroughly enjoyable read for anyone who's ever wondered about the mystery of Poe's death. While of course there is a certain amount of conjecture involved, it's all based on established fact. Most people don't understand that in order to truly understand history, conclusions must be drawn. And more often than not, when someone is searching for a specific answer, and does an in-depth study, the inspiration they receive is all kinds of accurate. Because of this, I love reads like this one. I would highly recommend it!

Has anyone else read Midnight Dreary? What did you think of Evangelist's conclusions?

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