From Hemingway's Green Hills of Africa --
“'Well,' I said, 'we have had, in America, skillful writers. Poe is a skillful writer. It is skillful, marvelously constructed, and it is dead.'”
I read this the other day, and had difficulty figuring out what Hemingway was getting at, with respect to Poe. The “dead” part, that is, not the “skillful” part. I think to understand it you have to imagine your way back to the 1930s, when Poe would have felt a lot more dated than he does now. Maybe the deal is that if people remember you eighty years after you die, you seem dated, but if they remember you another eighty years after that, you seem timeless.
Of course, some people still hold it against Poe that he wasn't very literary -- or wasn't until Baudelaire decided he was. But as a rule of thumb, anyone who's still being read two hundred years after they're born counts as literary. I'm still soliciting comments on "The Cask of Amontillado" by the way.
Tonight (Friday August 14th 2009) we San Franciscans will celebrate Poe's two hundredth birthday (a few months early) at the Goth Hop, a pre-Litquake fund-raiser event, at the Verdi Club, from 8:30 p.m. until the witching hour, with absinthe bar courtesy of Le Tournment Vert absinthe, telltale heart beatboxer, and a mosh pit complete with pendulum. Well maybe I made that last part up.
Note that the year 2099 will be the date both of Litquake's hundredth anniversary and of Hemingway's two hundredth birthday – according to my theory, Hemingway will seem less dated then than he does now -- so anticipate some serious matador action...