Re: RARA-AVIS: Goodis and his legacy

From: Edward Pettit (
Date: 12 Aug 2008

  • Next message: davezeltserman: "Re: RARA-AVIS: Goodis and his legacy"

    Guthrie wrote:
    >If you want to get some impressions of Goodis, the man, that bear some
    relation to reality
    "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."
      I'm inclined to agree with Guthrie when it comes to learning the true story of a writer, but in PROMOTING Goodis, I don't mind the lies at all.  I encounter this all the time in my Edgar Allan Poe travels (and Poe is not off topic because he invented the mystery detective story and he did so while living in Phila, the home of Goodis). 
      I often wonder how Poe's posthumous fame would have fared had not Rufus Griswold spread the terrible lies about Poe's behavior, which basically amounted to Poe being a drunk, drug addict and all around despicable guy.  The part of me that loves Poe wants to refute all those lies and tell the real story of his life: super intelligent, hard-working, devoted, sometimes difficult, some problems with alcohol.  But if Poe's true life story had been told after he died, he would have seemed much more ORDINARY.  Not to mention, his macabre stories make it easily believable that he had a screw loose. 
      I think the "legend" of Poe as a madman scoundrel propelled his legacy into his current status as the most famous American author.  I can give you plenty of examples of great unknown 19th century writers who, with a little legendary inflation, may still be known and read today.  Poe could easily have suffered their fate. 
      So, what I'm saying is that the Goodis legends may not be true, but they do serve a purpose, and if that purpose gets people to read his books, then it's better than being ignored. 
      And Goodis and Poe have lots in common.  Both wrote their greatest works while living in Philly.  Both made major contributions to the crime genre.  The line about Goodis' books being one long suicide note, could easily be applied to Poe's works, as well.  Readers can always find the "true" stuff about Goodis' life if they do a little research.
      And come on, Al, after your death, don't you want readers telling all sorts of crazy stories about your legendary drinking and fighting binges, like the time you cut off that guy's ass cheeks with a katana. 

    Ed & Edgar, my adventures in the cult of Poe The Bibliothecary, a blog of literary endeavour.


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