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Poe: A Life Cut Short (Ackroyd's Brief Lives #4)

3.49 of 5 stars 3.49  ·  rating details  ·  490 ratings  ·  96 reviews
Gothic, mysterious, theatrical, fatally flawed, and dazzling, the life of Edgar Allan Poe, one of America’s greatest and most versatile writers, is the ideal subject for Peter Ackroyd. Poe wrote lyrical poetry and macabre psychological melodramas; invented the first fictional detective; and produced pioneering works of science fiction and fantasy. His innovative style, ima ...more
Hardcover, 224 pages
Published January 20th 2009 by Nan A. Talese (first published January 1st 2008)
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(showing 1-30 of 1,003)
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What a fascinating study on the age old question of nature vs. nurture.

I expected Poe to have a tragic life to justify his creepy, albeit brilliant writing. This is a man who early on decided he was a victim. He was adopted at age 2 by loving wealthy parents who saw to his every need and loved him as their own. He complained and was ungrateful EVERY step of the way. He would lie to people about his misfortune, and try to manipulate their sympathy and he did this for his entire 40 years. Finally
DeAnna Knippling
Poe. What a dick.

Look, I'm not saying Poe wasn't a great writer. But he doesn't seem to have been somebody I would want to be in the same room with. Not for even ten minutes. Unlike HP Lovecraft, where the more I found out the more fascinating he was, the more I found out about Poe, page by page, the less I wanted to know. But - a good biography, if you don't mind having your heroes revealed as whiny, self-involved alcoholics who wreck everything good in their lives and blame their failings on e
Sometimes I found it a bit boring to read again and again about Poe's drunkenness, which destroyed his life – even if all these stories might be true. I found it more interesting that Ackroyds refers to Poes childhood in Richmond/Virginia, which made him to a supporter of slavery and brought him in opposite to the Bostonians and their transzendalism.
That the loss of his parents, especially his mother, and the experience of orphanage influenced his life and work is here described very convincingl
For Halloween weekend, I read this little biography which contained a number of biographical details but was focused towards Poe's quest for family.

I knew from reading anthology entries about Poe that he was an orphan, a hard drinker, and emotionally injured from losing his mother and his young wife to early deaths. (They both died at age 24.) But reading nearly 200 pages of detail about his life really painted a picture of a man in pain, a man who increasingly lost control of his life. His las
Suggested alternate title — "Poe: Dude Was Fucked Up."
Pete daPixie
Peter Ackroyd's 'Poe-A Life Cut Short' is not the size of other biographies of his that I have read in the past, being all over in one hundred and sixty pages. The first biography of Poe was written shortly after his death in 1849, by Rufus Griswold, who portrayed the man as 'a drunken womanizing madman with no morals and no friends'. The Edgar Allan Poe museum in Richmond, Virginia claims that this is a distorted image, that has created the legend that lives to this day. Ackroyd's biography con ...more
Mar 11, 2009 Spiros rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those looking for "a cheap holiday in other people's misery"
Poe was undoubtedly a great and hugely influential writer. Unfortunately, I don't much care for his Tales, and any contemplation of his Verse leads me to risible recollection of Humbert Humbert. He suffered greatly from misfortune and ill-health, but he was a bit of a snivelling little git, withal.
This accomplished entry in Ackroyd's "Short Lives" series will have the somewhat melancholy honor of being the last book that I ever purchased at Stacey's.
Short and sweet. Ackroyd's Poe: A Life Cut Short presents a good, short biography of Poe's life. It is not an in depth biography, so if you are looking for a long debate about whether or not Poe had sex with his wife, it isn't in this book, thankfully. Despite the book's short length, Ackroyd does deliver some good analysis of Poe's work as well.
May 19, 2009 Kelly rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Teens
I have read where this has been poo-pooed by some Poe scholars on the grounds that Ackroyd did not properly cite his sources (or didn't cite them at all.) For what it was, though--a kind of snapshot view of a life--I thought it was great. I thought this biography of Poe offered something that other biographies have not. There is no way we can truly know the kind of man Poe was personally, not without having known him personally. But after reading this account, I felt I at least had a better idea ...more
I think that "Ackroyd's Brief Lives" is a good, overall introduction. Poe lead such a tragic life, beginning at age 2 when his mother died (Tuberculosis) and his father abandoned Poe and his siblings for the theater. It seems that he never got over that loss of his mother. Poe was taken in by foster parents John Allan, a successful Scottish merchant and his wife Frances (who also died from Tuberculosis). Poe attended school abroad and did well and they returned to Virginia and he attended Univer ...more
Jim Cherry
Like Poe himself, Peter Ackroyd’s Poe is of a different time. I remember when I was a kid, my grandmother had a library that she had amassed during her life. Leather bound first editions of some amazing authors, and included in that collection were slim volumes that were biographies of writers. Ackroyd’s Brief Lives series, of which Poe is one, harkens back to this tradition, in Poe’s case, remarkably well.

Poe is a short book, it does cover the major events of his life in some detail, but not in
For a book that basically has to repeat "Poe was poor but then he made a bit of money but then he got drunk off his ass and lost it all again so then he drank some more" ad infinitum, this was still a somewhat entertaining read thanks to Ackroyd's wit. He does a good job, wading through the endless supply of rumours and conjecture surrounding Poe's life and character, and he simply cannot help cracking a joke now and then.

For example:

He was writing passionate and devoted letters to two women at
Tom Carrico
“Lord, Help My Poor Soul”

(Books reviewed in this article include: Poe, A Life Cut Short by Peter Ackroyd, In the Shadow of the Master, Classic Poe Tales and Essays edited by Michael Connelly and On a Raven’s Wing, New Tales in Honor of Edgar Allan Poe edited by Stuart M. Kaminsky)

January 19, 2009 marked the 200th anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe: poet, editor, literary critic and creator of fantasy, horror and mystery fiction. He is credited with inventing the detective novel genre. S
Book Review – ‘Poe: A Life Cut Short’ by Peter Ackroyd

Anyone interested in the life of Poe will be aware of the tremendous hype surrounding his death. It is a fact that he died in a state of delirium, and was found in this state only a week after he had cheerfully waved goodbye to his aunt from a steamboat bound from Richmond to Baltimore. This was the last sighting of Poe until he was found dying six days later in a dirty tavern. What happened during that missing week is a complete mystery; one
My first delve into both Edgar Allan Poe and Peter Ackroyd and I really enjoyed this book. Edgar Allan Poe does indeed have an interesting life but it is really Ackroyd's writing that makes this such an enjoyable read.

It is truly refreshing to read a biography where the author is neutral regarding their own thoughts and positions. Ackroyd presents the information/narrative on Poe in a balanced way, and where appropriate uses his knowledge base from the extensive research to inform the reader whe
Peter Ackroyd’s biography of Dickens is a big, magnificent beast. His biography of Dickens’ contemporary Edgar Allen Poe is a slenderer affair. This is no doubt partly because Charles had a far more public life, but there’s also a sense that Ackroyd – a London based writer himself – hasn’t really got to grips with the world of Poe in the same way. The cities of Richmond, Philadelphia, Boston and New York are never brought to life (Poe’s childhood in London is far more vividly presented) and so P ...more
Jason Walker
Completely without pretense and yet with a very pro-subject bent this retelling of one of the strangest lives in American Literature is a good read. Ackroyd builds more and more sympathies for his subject even as we all know the dangers of Poe from our misguided English teachers in Junior High and High School. The tendancy to just label him a drunk and a drug abuser or mental case is long past. This biography doesn't attempt to set the record straight, it just tells the story of a man abondoned ...more
Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)....40 years old upon his death and more popular in Europe than in America during his lifetime. He is believed to be the 1st "mystery" writer as well as influencing future science fiction writers. The Mystery Writers of America have named their awards for excellent "The Edgars". A wild and crazy guy, this book tells you what a tortured soul he was and all the reasons why.
Having read a good deal of Ackroyd’s writings this book was a bit of a surprise in its succinct and sparseness of debt and length (250+ pages). Initially I was a little disappointed but as I read further into this brief biography I became pleased with his brevity and relieved. I had known of Poe’s tragic life and passing but I had not realized just how tragic it all was. How he managed to produce a cannon of work of its size and its is amazing considering the circumstances in which he lived. Ack ...more
Amanda Caldwell
I gave this book two stars meaning "it's okay". It's a biography and I find more and more I prefer memoirs wayyyyy over biographies. Of course, most historic figures did not write memoirs, so we're left with biographies as the only literary option for learning more about these people. This one wasn't as textbook-ish or dull as some, so kudos to the author. I did learn some interesting things about Poe and his writings, such as the raven was originally mean to be an owl.

I did find the chronic use
Oswego Public Library District
Edgar Allan Poe is well known for his literary genius. Poe turned out terrorizing masterpieces such as “The Raven” and “The Tell-Tale Heart” before his death at a young 40 years of age. As Peter Ackroyd reveals in this concise biography, Poe’s poetic ability was paired with a destructive lifestyle. Forlorn and often miserable, Poe had a tendency to drink in excess, he struggled with his own poverty, complained of friendlessness, and watched many of the people he loved most succumb to tuberculosi ...more
again, i dont like the star system here. i clicked 4 stars and a pop up said "really liked it." i didnt "really like it." i thought it was good enough to merit 4 stars, but i dont really know or care about poe enough to really like it.

here's the thing. i saw this book and got it. i read it because it was just sitting there, no real compulsion. before reading it i couldnt tell you the time that poe was alive or more than two of his writings. all i knew was that he spent a considerable amount of t
This was a good, short biography of the Master of the Macabre himself. He was truly a brilliant writer (way before his time) and unfortunately never got the due credit he deserved in his lifetime. He was a pioneer in several literary fields. Always been a particular favorite of mine.

However, his shortcomings are also on display here. He was constantly whining and begging others for money (a habit with him, regardless of his financial situation) , while despairing his lot in life. He was extremel
Carol Littlejohn
“I could not love except where Death/Was mingling his wish with Beauty’s breath.” Edgar Allan Poe wrote this couplet before he was 20. What attracted him to death at such an early age? Maybe because he was an orphan and lost everyone he loved at an early age. He was both afraid and intrigued by death. And that’s why he is the Master of Horror.
Note: This short biography is both readable and mysterious. Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849) lived a life that was full of sadness and tragedy. His mother and f
Short and to the point and wonderfully focused on the many incongruences of Poe (talented writer and editor, consummate liar, alcoholic). It clearly designates when something is a rumor or possibility that can't be substantiated even though it has essentially become viewed as true. It does an especially good job of focusing on the almost random actions he took in the last 2 years of his life--declaring his love for various women, seeking engagements, breaking them off, starting a literary journa ...more
For literature lovers, this presents a different version of Edgar Allen Poe's life. He is not glorified, but rather presented as a misfit in world in which he lives. The book also deals with his drinking problem and his persistent financial difficulties. The portrait drawn of Poe is not that of a victim of the Allens, as other writers sometimes indicate, but shows the Allens' exasperation with Poe's gambling, drinking, arrogance, and condescending attitude. His soured military experiences are no ...more
The author sometimes makes really weird conclusions in an otherwise informative book. Once he wanted to make a point about fear being a big factor even in Poe's youth. So he uses an example of him writing about the possibility of being scared before an exam. That was weird.
Diana Petty-stone
I never was a big Poe fan but I was fascinated by him as a person. Ackroyd's story is the mystery of what happened To Edgar Allen Poe and how he died.
It is a well researched work that goes through all the theories and presents facts. A very very good read.
Peter Ackroyd has once again shown himself to be one of the best writers of biography alive today. His short bio of Poe is not easy to read, as Poe's very visible suffering from loneliness, drunkenness, and a will to self-destruction are no easier to take in a work of non-fiction than they are with a loved one in real life. Poe's life is always two steps forward and three steps back, with the steps backward the result of binge drinking. And yet what Poe has managed to create with little support ...more
Kit Linnell
This book is fine for what it is, a very concise autobiography of a very complex and fascinating man. To truly do justice to a writer who arguably was the "the most original genius that America has produced" (Tennyson), and one of the earliest originators of the detective and science fiction genres - would require a book three times the size of this 192 page book. However, Ackroyd did a nice job of being as factual as possible using news articles and existing letters and written accounts from Po ...more
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Peter Ackroyd CBE is an English novelist and biographer with a particular interest in the history and culture of London.

Peter Ackroyd's mother worked in the personnel department of an engineering firm, his father having left the family home when Ackroyd was a baby. He was reading newspapers by the age of 5 and, at 9, wrote a play about Guy Fawkes. Reputedly, he first realized he was gay at the age
More about Peter Ackroyd...

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