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


  1. I haven't read any Poe since the required reading in highschool of The Raven, Tell Tale heart and Pit and Pendulum but I did like them and the creepiness is unforgettable.

    The odd angel story sounds interesting-- I think I've read some modern horror stories that must've been inspired by that one.

  2. Hi, I love your reviews and eclectic reading tastes. I just subscribed!

    I agree with you about Poe's mysteries. As a modern reader I find they frankly don't have enough action to keep me interested. However, they have merit simply for being some of the first mystery stories published.

  3. The last time I read Poe was in college, and I remember being totally creeped out by the horror stories...The Fall of the House of Usher and The Tell Tale Heart are two that I recall with particular terror :)

  4. Edgar Allan Poe is perfect for October:) It's been a while for me.

  5. @ Lesa: I guess it makes sense that a writer like Poe would influence the horror genre after his death. I was surprised I found the stories as chilling as I did, considering they were published more than 160 years ago.

    @ cdmaczane: Glad to read you enjoy our blog, thank you for the compliment :o)
    I had heard that Poe's mysteries were the first to be published and I imagine I didn't enjoy them because that genre doesn't interest me anyway even if they were more exciting :o)

    @ Thebookgirl: I must say The Fall of the House of Usher didn't appeal to me that much which surprised me but most of the others I loved

    @ Bibliophile By the Sea: Yes, it is a good time of year to read Poe ;o)


  6. Love Poe. So glad you had a chance to read him.

  7. @ Avid Reader: It was Jess's idea, she bought the book for me and I'm glad she did, I can now call myself a fan :o)


  8. Poe is the best. 'The Raven' is one of my all time favourite poems. I did a little halloween tribute to him last week. People tend to forget about Poe and his contribution to Romantic Gothic fiction. So glad you enjoyed his stories.

    Reading up about his life (short as it was) really helps you understand about the origins of some of his stories. Poor man was a genius, but he was plagued by alcohol addiction and poverty. I've just finished Peter Ackroyd's 'Poe: A Life Cut Short' and I highly recommend it.

  9. @ mywordlyobsessions: Sadly Poe is not particularly well known or popular in the UK which I think is a great shame as the man was a genius. I will keep an eye out for the Peter Ackroyd book and add it to my TBR pile :o)