Haines seems hung up on judging -- and ultimately exonerating -- Poe the man (was he an alcoholic? a callous husband? a philanderer? a plagiarist? close to insane?) and with placing his work -- high. Maintaining that there is no consensus on Poe's ""niche"" in literature and dismissing those who would puff up ""a Hawthorne, a Melville or a Whitman"" at Poe's expense, Haines describes his subject with such terms as ""genius,"" ""very great indeed"" and (regarding his poems -- but only a few of them, mind) ""thoroughly good"" -- and he warns against downgrading the poet for his ""walloping meter"" (Huxley's phrase) unless Browning, Tennyson and Robert Service (!) are also to be ""swept aside."" (He even finds it necessary to assure us that ""though many detective stories are not well written it does not follow that Poe created a bad form."") On another level altogether from such peculiar, unnecessary and unconvincing arguments is Haines' analysis of some of Poe's tales. Here, where the question is not rank but intent and effect, there is some evidence of intelligent and independent thought. (Even so, the didactic and idiosyncratic digression on types of short fiction is of questionable usefulness.) On the whole a student would do better with Stem's prosaic biographical approach (KR, 1973) or, better yet, a handbook from the adult department, but perhaps Haines' quirky and uneven musings might ring a bell in someone else who is simply fascinated by Poe.