How Poe Anticipated the Modern World

If you’re anything like me, your knowledge of Edgar Allan Poe is sketchy and cartoonish.

He was a writer of scary tales in the 19th century who had a drinking problem, married a cousin when she was 13, lived in poverty in many East Coast cities, and died young—age 40, actually—under mysterious circumstances in Baltimore. He had sad eyes and a cetacean forehead. The French love him. Someone leaves a bottle of cognac on his grave (also in Baltimore) every January 19, his birthday.

Nobody whose stories and poems are read nearly two centuries after they were written deserves a biography like that. It’s obviously wrong. How wrong is clear in the latest and most unlikely biography of the writer: The Reason for the Darkness of the Night: Edgar Allan Poe and the Forging of American Science.

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