Friday, 29 October 2010
Edgar Allan Poe
My wife bought me this book a few months back for me to try since I've been enjoying horror stories of late. Before I picked up this book I had never read Poe before and was wholly ignorant of the bizarre circumstances of his life and death.
The book is a collection of twenty five short stories, one complete novel and one poem (The book's full title is 'Edgar Allan Poe, The best of his macabre tales complete and unabridged' which doesn't exactly fall off the tongue) Most of the stories featured are horror however a few of his detective stories were thrown in for good measure. I am reviewing the short stories here and plan to review the full novel at a later date.
I enjoyed reading the short stories and found Poe's writing style easier to get on with than I anticipated. Poe did have an unfortunate habit of putting Latin, French and German sayings into his stories. This wouldn't be so much of an issue if the publishers had included a translation for those of us who only speak English but unfortunately they did not so I was often forced to put the book down mid-sentence and turn on the computer to look up the saying in case it was critical to the story (which it never was)
The horror stories were truly frightening, the accounts of premature burials made my skin crawl as did the cold and calculated murders often carried out by Poe's creations. The horror rarely involves any kind of 'beast' or 'monster' but rather the horrors of violence carried out by men either insane or just plain nasty.
Of the horror stories my favourite would have to be 'The Black Cat' the main character, possibly suffering from alcoholism and depression, takes his frustrations out on the family cat. One day in a fit of temper he attempts to kill the cat and, in the process, brutally murders his poor wife. He bricks her up inside a wall in the cellar...I won't say what happens next but needless to say the cat gets the last laugh!
Poe has a beautiful sense not only of fear and terror but also of irony and there is humour to be found within the pages which helps break up the melancholy. There is a good deal of insanity which features in many of the stories and I believe Poe understood about human psychology and how fear can paralyse a person or cause irrational behaviour. Sadly not all of his horrors were entirely original and after a while I noticed common themes which were often repeated from story to story; Poe seemed to have a pre-occupation with bricking people up behind walls!
Sadly I did not enjoy Poe's mystery stories as much as his horror stories (with the exception of the first story; The Gold-Bug) and found them far too tedious to bother with but this did not deter me too much as I was mainly interested in the horror stories anyway.
Oddly enough my overall favourite story in the collection doesn't fit into the category of horror or mystery. It is called 'The Angel of the Odd' and I have rarely come across a more fascinating, diverting and original story. The main character reads a typically apocryphal tabloid newspaper story and declares his disbelief to himself. No sooner has he done so than a bizarre creature who declares itself as the Angel of all the odd, bizarre and unusual things that happen in the world makes its appearance in his rooms. Ever the skeptic the protagonist patronises the angel resulting in it leaving his rooms in a rage. Soon after a series of odd events begin to plague the man who, by the end of the story, is forced to beg for mercy from the Angel.
I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to glimpse the darker side of human nature or just anyone who loves horror. A very good collection.
Final verdict 4/5