What do you do if you have some ideas about the life and work of Edgar Allan Poe but not enough to warrant a whole book of...



What do you do if you have some ideas about the life and work of Edgar Allan Poe but not enough to warrant a whole book of biography or criticism? Well, what Sinclair has apparently done is to create a creakingly artificial, archly whimsical frame for those ideas: the psychoanalysis of Ernest Albert Pons, a Berlin-born, Brooklyn-raised Jew who believes he is Edgar Allan Poe. Poe's analyst, Dr. Dupin (chosen for obvious reasons), tells Pons that the only hope for cure is for him to ""find out who Poe actually was. You examine thoroughly every stage of his life, every place he visited."" So Pons starts going to all of the places Poe stayed, in chronological order, doing research and becoming more objective about Poe, more accepting of his own Jewish past. Following Dupin's orders, he switches from first-person narration to third-person, then to a straight biography of Poe (""Cut yourself out! Abolish yourself--the final solution!""). And, along the way, there's lots of room, of course, for debating the literary merits of The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, Poe's relationship with his foster-father, his drug use, etc. But then things turn melodramatic, as Pons is attacked on his travels and begins to believe that Dr. Dupin is out to grab control of Pons' $500,000 estate (""what every Gentile wanted to do with every Jew!""). And finally, after a visit to Paris (so that Sinclair can air his ideas about Poe's influence on Baudelaire and horror movies), Pons acknowledges his own Jewish identity by visiting Auschwitz. . . before an arbitrarily grisly end. Biographer-novelist Sinclair (Jack, etc.) packages all this stylishly enough, with moments that have surreal charm akin to that of another fantasy-quest, James Goldman's Holmesian They Might Be Giants. But the fake premises here--phony psychology, offensively superficial identity-crisis, N.Y. characters whose idioms are more British than American--sabotage any novelistic integrity, and one is left with a slippery hybrid likely to please only Sinclair's fellow Poe buffs.

Pub Date: Oct. 9, 1980


Page Count: -

Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1980