|Edgar Allan Poe|
Bostonians have no soul
I gather that Poe's main beef with Boston was that many of its literary figures were "didactic." In other words, Boston's literati tended to be preachy and self righteous.
Poe is not the only literary figure to disparage Boston. In Mr. Blue, Myles Connolly's deeply Catholic novella about a modern-day St. Francis, the book' narrator makes this observation: "The site of the gold dome of the statehouse above the white trees of [Boston] Common almost made me forget what an incoherent, clique-ridden, unproductive settlement Boston is."
Of course, Poe and Connolly's criticisms are dated. Maybe the city has changed from the way it was when Poe and Connolly were alive. I don't think so. Just a year ago, Joe Keohane summarized the popular view of the city in just a few sentences:
For as long as there’s been a Boston, people have hated Boston. The reasons have been impressively consistent across the past two centuries. Bostonians are smug, puritanical, inhospitable, racist and/or pinko, and hopelessly blinkered and insular, and they go about all this in a manner that makes it next to impossible to tell if they’re suffering from the world’s worst inferiority complex or the world’s most gigantic superiority complex (in reality, probably both at once).And Keohane quotes Drew Magary, who sums up the city of Boston even more succinctly: “People from Boston labor under the mistaken belief that being a relentlessly cynical asshole makes you tough. Endearing, even. They believe their deliberate misery makes them harder and deeper than you. It’s all BULLSHIT…. "
I agree with all these criticisms of Boston; and having lived for a few years in the Boston area, I can tell you that they're all true. And every flaw in Boston's culture is magnified ten times in the city's colleges and universities, which are more common than liquor stores. Indeed, the academic class that infests Boston's higher education institutions makes up the most insufferable segment of Boston's provincial, condescending and arrogant culture.
All across the United States, people foolishly believe that institutions like Harvard, Yale, Brown, Dartmouth, and a dozen or so other elite New England universities provide the best quality post-secondary education that money can buy; and hundreds of thousands of young people apply to these institutions every year. They are even willing to borrow large sums of money to finance their studies.
But the elite colleges are empty, hollow, and vain institutions, lacking in all values except the postmodern notion that life is to be lived in the pursuit of fame, wealth, and self-gratification. People should be running as fast as they can from these places instead of clamoring to be admitted.
And Boston, crammed to the gunwales with snooty colleges and universities, is the epicenter of all this. Elitist, self-righteous and preachy, the Boston academic scene represent all that is wrong with American higher education.
And in case you think I am nothing more than an anti-intellectual curmudgeon, I invite you to do a Google search for the words "hate Boston" (in quotes). You will get more than 31,000 hits.
Connolly, Myles (1928). Mr.Blue. Chicago: Loyola Press, 1928.
Seelye, Katharine Q. Edgar Allan Poes' Feud With Boston? Nevermore. New York Times, October 5, 2014, p. 1.
Keohane, Joe. The Burn is Back. Boston Magazine, October 31, 2013. Accessibel at http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/blog/2013/10/31/red-sox-win-boston-back-being-loathed/