transform hard-earned friendships withrnsuch writers as Nathaniel Hawthornernand James Russell Lowell into feuds;rnLowell was later moved to write, “Mr.rnPoe is at once the most discriminative,rnphilosophical, and fearless critic uponrnimaginative works who has written inrnAmerica . . . [but he] seems sometimesrnto mistake his phial of prussic-aeid forrnhis inkstand.” Poe’s inconstancy keptrnhim from keeping a steady schedule, letrnalone realizing his promise, and, despiternthe success of stories like “The GoldrnBug,” Poe earned only $288 in 1847,rn$166 in 1848, and $275 in 1849; Meyersrncomputes that Poe earned a lifetime totalrnof $6,200 for his work.rnWhen Poe died in 1849—of liver failure,rnhypoglycemia, and diabetes—thernmythmaking was already in swing. It acceleratedrnfor years, while the actual readershiprnof his books declined until thernSecond World War, when popular editionsrnfor soldiers led to renewed interestrnin his work. Jeffrey Meyers does arnfine job of destroying the falsehoods thatrnsurround the writer’s life. More important,rnhis unearthing of the real facts ofrnthe case gives us a picture not of thernghoulish, even demonic writer of old,rnbut of a confused soul seemingly bentrnon his own destruction. Any subsequentrnreading of Poe will be enriched by Meyers’rncareful labors.rnGregory McNamee is a freelance writerrnliving in Tucson, Arizona.rnLa Prima Donnarnbyf.O. TaternMaria Meneghini Callasrnby Michael ScottrnBoston: Northeastern University Press;rn312 pp., $29.95rnUndoubtedly the greatest singer inrnthe world in her time and since,rnMaria Callas (1923-1977) needs no introduction.rnWhat she does need is thernhighly intelligent and discriminating attentionrnthat Michael Scott has devotedrnto her. It is Mr. Scott who needs an introductionrn—to some at least, if not torneveryone.rnMichael Scott will be familiar to anyonernwho has read his volumes ThernRecord of Singing or The Great Carusornor who has been aware of his work as thernfounder and artistic director of the LondonrnOpera Society. He is internationallyrnknown as a critic, connoisseur, andrnanalyst of vocal art and has assiduouslyrncultivated a historical perspective thatrngives his commentary a unique authority.rnThat angle of vision—or should Irnsay, of audition—is particularly revealingrnas concentrated on Maria Callas, anrnartist who remains “difficult” even 16rnyears after her death.rnI suppose that Mr. Scott’s treatmentrnof Callas can be called revisionist,rnthough I do not use the term invidiously.rnI mean, first, that he accounts forrnher in a completely fresh way; second,rnthat he treats her with the same “objectivity”rnhe would extend to some singerrnborn 50 years before her; and third, thatrnhe separates “life” from “art” in a wayrnthat is almost unique in comparison notrnonly to the preexistent commentaryrnabout Callas but to the norms of eontemporaryrn”biography.” As a result,rnScott’s Callas is an incisive and illuminatingrntreatment of a tormented topic.rnWhy is Callas a tough assignment?rnThere is the problem not so much ofrnher fame as of her celebrity—thernParisian gown-glossy photo-publicityrnagent-lunch on the yacht-but watchrnthose calorics-Aristotle Onassis-nightclub-rnElsa Maxwell nonsense with whichrnshe congested her life after her bestrnsinging days were gone. There is thernproblem as well of Callas as an industrialrncommodity—all those EMI CDsrnare still paying off, though few of themrnare as good as the live performances oirrnthe Mclodram label of Norma, Lucia,rnLa Sonnambula, and Anna Bolena.rnT’here is the problem of conflicting testimonies,rnincluding those by the subject.rnThere is the problem, perhaps thernparamount one, of an idiosyncratic voicernthat was abused. There is the problemrnof Callas’s lonely last days: the crueltyrnof her self-imposed fate is so sad thatrnsentimentality is hard to resist. Worstrnof all, there is the Herculean difficulty ofrnrescuing her from the “legends” and gossiprnand cliches—that quicksand inrnwhich Maria Callas has been buriedrnsince long before her death and forrnwhich she herself was partly responsible.rnMichael Scott has emphasized thernmusician over the woman, the artist overrnthe human being. He has had therncourage to meet Callas on her ownrnground arid at her greatest, not out ofrnher real context and at her weakest. Hisrnextensive knowledge of musical performancernhas released him to view her inrnthe perspective of history. He understandsrnher neither as a canary, a clothesrnhorse, nor a camp figure, but as a greatrnartist to be compared to other giants.rnAnd so he shows her, meanwhile eastingrnlight upon the degeneration of musicrnin our day. Of the Vespri Siciliani ofrn1951 in Florence, he writes:rnThe Act IV andante, “Arrigo! ahrnparli a un core,” is one of herrnmost distinguished pieces ofrnsinging. How responsive is herrnvoice and how complete herrnrhythmic control. She reminds usrnhow rhythmic mastery is, or was, arnbasic feature of great performingrnmusicians: we may think of Patti,rnBattistini, Paderewski, Chaliapin,rnCaruso, Rachmaninoff, Kreisler,rnCortot and many other famousrnsingers and instrumentalists. Butrnsince the Second World War itrnhas become steadily compromisedrnby the declining vitality of classicalrnmusic. Rhythm, we shouldrnnot forget, is the heart beat ofrnmusic, it will not stay vital forrnlong without it. Nowadays the increasingrninfluence, directly andrnindirectly, of Afro-American popularrnmusic has led, in the interpretationrnof classical music, to arnsemantic confusion betweenrnrhythm and beat. Whereasrn”beat” is certainly rhythmic, thernperformer is locked into it.rnRhythm, on the other hand, doesrnnot just beat time. If we listen tornCallas in this andante, as she repeatsrnthe words, “Jo t’amo,” thernfirst time she marks the notes arnlittle ahead of time, but so discreetlyrnas not to need any accommodationrnfrom the accompaniment,rnthe second time, she is atrnone with it. This is what Garciarncalls, “an exquisite feeling forrnrhythm, an imperturbable poise.”rnHow right of Scott to compare Callasrnnot only with his favorite singers, butrnwith great instrumentalists as well. Andrnhow right to identify her sense ofrnrhythm, her ability to phrase and to expressrnthe Gestalt of a particular passage,rnas she so often did in a unique and unforgettablernmanner. Such an accom-rnMARCH 1993/31rnrnrn