Poe, Edgar Allan
About the Author:
Edgar Allan Poe was born in Boston, USA on the 19th January 1809. He was, variously, a writer, poet, editor and literary critic. Poe died, under somewhat mysterious circumstances in Baltimore, USA in 1849.
AVERAGE REVIEW SCORE:
3 out of 5
The Complete Stories
A collection of all of Poe's prose fiction including classic short stories such as 'The Fall of the House of Usher', 'The Pit and the Pendulum', 'The Telltale Heart', 'The Murders in the Rue Morgue' and his only novel, 'The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym'.
Poe is a titan of 19th Century literature and is (albeit debatably) the most influential American writer of all time. His grasp of the macabre was second to none and, as a result, there are some truly exceptional short stories on offer here. However, it has to be admitted that just because he was a great writer, it doesn't mean that everything he wrote was great.
What's good here is truly brilliant, with Poe's cunning prose doing an amazing job of not only setting the tone of his stories but also getting you invested in feelings of the characters. Nowhere is this more apparent than in 'The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym', which sees the titular character stow away on a ship going to sea, face ruthless mutineers, survive being cast adrift and, eventually, journeying farther into the Antarctic than any explorer before him. Having read this epic adventure story, it came as no surprise to me to then learn that it was considered one of the primary influences on the great Jules Verne's scientific romances.
Of course it is Poe's horror stories that he's most famous for and having them all collected here allows you to see the deep trauma that his young (cousin-) wife's death left on his psyche, with numerous stories tackling the concepts of recently departed loved ones, not to mention a seeming morbid fascination with the idea of premature burial.
Also here we have 'The Murders in the Rue Morgue', the story with which Poe created the detective mystery genre as we know it, paving the way for the likes of Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie. If you've never read this story and don't know 'whodunnit', then I recommend seeking it out just for the way the story seems to subvert a genre that it only just invented. Seriously, it's bonkers.
As I've said though, not everything here is gold. In fact there are various pieces of writing here which I found incredibly tedious. Many of these were Poe's satirical diatribes which, whilst perhaps witty at the time, come across now as positively bitchy. Okay Edgar, we get it; you don't like the editor of that rival magazine!
I would say in conclusion then, that this is definitely not the best way to experience Poe's work if, like me, it was his 'speculative fiction' which interests you. Or, at least, I wouldn't recommend reading it from cover to cover as I did; there's just too much tedium between the moments of undeniable genius. Maybe either pick up a collection just of his better stories or keep this on a shelf and dip into it from time to time (avoiding the pitfalls).
3 out of 5