Dinner with Edgar Allen Poe

A friend of mine posted this snippet regarding the question: “If you could invite a famous writer or artist (dead or alive) to dinner who would it be?”

From New York Times Book Review’s Chuck Klosterman:

“The only problem is that dead people might not understand what was going on, why they were suddenly alive, or why they were being forced to make conversation with some bozo at a weird dinner party. They might just sit there and scream for two hours. And even if they kept it together, I’m sure they’d be highly distracted. If I invite Edgar Allan Poe to dinner, it seems possible he’d spend the whole time expressing amazement over the restaurant’s air conditioning.”

I’m far from an expert on Poe but I imagine, if you took him to dinner at a modern restaurant he’d be far more alarmed by the menu items than the air-conditioning.


Dinner with Poe

“Dandelion salad?  Thirty-four dollars and fifty cents? Highway robbery! Call forth the proprietor! He deserves a tongue lashing. I was assured that my return to this vile and wretched planet merited a meal at Manhattan’s finest establishment.”

“But Mr. Poe.  This is the finest ⏤”

“My morning repast, delivered ‘complimentary” to my chamber without my even having made a request, consisted of a plateful of delightfully crispy bacon, sweet rolls the likes of which I’ve not beheld since brief childhood, a full pot of coffee with pitchers of cream and sugar and even, fruit. Not one damned and cursed dandelion. And I was encouraged to dine in bed ⏤ to rest from my ordeal ⏤ in bedding as soft as the satin in my beloved Virginia’s coffin,” he paused “Where is my love? If I must be dragged from endless rest, why couldn’t she also be reconstituted by foul alchemy? Once again to cuddle, if just for a day.  It was many and many a year ago, in a kingdom by the sea.”

“Ah, um …” The man in charge of Harvard’s annual Dinner With Your Favorite Author event didn’t know how to respond. The year before they had brought back both Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning at the insistence of an exceedingly wealthy donor.   But at least they were both adults. At the height of his creative output (which was when the bidders demanded their interviews) Poe was married to a thirteen year old. 

Luckily they were rescued from having to explain the Me-Too movement by the arrival of the high bidder and introductions were made.

Much to the organizer’s distress, Poe scowled at the high bidder. “You have made a donation to a university to converse with me?” I, who scarcely eked out a living ⏤ oft reduced to consuming only dandelion soup ⏤”

You’re a legend now, Mr. Poe.”

“A legend? What damsel in distress have I saved or battle charge have I led?  Sir, I daresay you have been swindled.  Did I not see beggars on the streets?  Did I not see mere children selling their bodies and men, even some women,  drinking spirits directly from a bottle in the middle of the day.  I say onto you – entirely too many dandelions are consumed in this time and place and you’re all quite mad!


 

21 thoughts on “Dinner with Edgar Allen Poe

  1. Delightful. What an interesting dinner companion. “…entirely too many dandelions are consumed in this time and place…” Now there’s a line for the ages.

    • Thanks Ally – I don’t think Poe would have been surprised by modern technology. He had a wild and vivid imagination. But, fancy restaurants serving dandelions? Shocking!

    • Wow – that would be a fun thing to imagine…. I think he’d be fascinated by all the crime scene shows – he’d probably get addicted to Law and Order.

  2. Hi Jan,

    You open by positing a question: which author would one invite to dinner? At first I thought that would be easy, but then as I went through my list of favorite writers, I realized that most of them were fat heads, barely sane, drunks and addicts, misogynists, abusers of various sorts, and so emotionally crippled they could barely utter a word in public. All of the well-balanced authors who write positive books are not my favorites. I don’t think I’d want to share a meal with them. Why is that? I think it was a Japanese poet who said, a good person can never be a great writer. One needed to hurt people. To participate in awkward/creepy situations, to be the cause of calamity, to cheat, to lie, to be jealous, to steal, even to kill. To know depression and be a fuck up. As our friend once told me, go to the extremes and come back and tell the rest of us about it. Are these really the characteristics we strive for in order to put down some interesting sentences for others to read? I’m beginning to think the answer is yes as we head toward our ultimate reckoning. So, I guess I’d eat alone. I’d cook myself some beans and rice, grill a few peppers and tortillas, take a beer out of the freezer, gather the dogs and sit out under the massive ficus trees and listen to the birds talk to the flowers for an hour or so and then think about you and the bay and how fucked up the US has become. Thanks. Duke

    • So true. After all they don’t make movies about the nice writers! My take on Poe is that he was probably exceedingly self-deprecating, shy, moody and from all accounts, not trustworthy – kind of a slime ball. Realistically any writer from the eighteen and nineteenth century would be mortified by our sloppy usage of English language. We could bring Dylan Thomas back but he’d refuse to return gently into that good night and then we’d have a problem on our hands.

  3. Jan, there is always the possibility Mr. Poe would be delighted to learn that he could now do all his writing on a laptop over dinner, thus dispensing with pen and paper. Although, he might question how one could possibly write with an Apple, thereby opening up another can of worms. 😀

    • Haha! Good one. Hadn’t thought of it but if you brought a writer back from the dead for just one day – he/she would probably prefer to write as much as possible to chatting with some millionaire. Writers can attached to instruments such as pens – or in Poe’s case, quills. He might poo-poo the idea of a using a machine.

  4. Very imaginative–I love it. I do imagine Poe would feel perplexed by how inflation and capitalism have raged onward, not to mention the MeToo movement and other issues such as income inequality and trafficking that you mention or hint at. I hope you’ll write more of these. Funny about the Brownings, too. I imagine they’d be gazing at each other the whole time, each besotted with the other! (But then I’ve not read much of their work since college, which was aeons ago now.)

    • Thank you Leigh. I can’t imagine being married to another writer or poet – it generally doesn’t work out well. Too many ego clashes. I suppose what saved the Brownings was the difference in their style. Robert’s epics are more scholarly. But then, who knows. Maybe they’d spent the whole night bickering over comma placement. That might be fun to envision.

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