Friday, October 28, 2016

Complete Tales and Poems - Edgar Allan Poe

What better way to celebrate all things autumnal and Octobral (I think I just made that word up) than the works of one of the best American writers of the macabre to have ever lived? This wonderful book was a lucky Borders Last Days Sale find - I think I paid half price, which was a great bargain. It's a huge doorstop of a book, with more than 1,000 pages of this master writer's works. I had read some of them before - The Raven, of course, and Annabel Lee, and The Fall of the House of Usher and some of the other well known short stories, but had never read all of these works, so this was a fantastic immersion.

Some random thoughts: I had never read The Pit and the Pendulum, so that was a treat - it painted word pictures so vivid they will live in my mind for a while. The Cask of Amontillado was also a wondrously creepy story. Poe truly had a talent for translating the dark side of human thoughts and behavior into prose, and was able to bring the reader along on a journey into the minds of his characters. It's amazing that all the detective stories we take for granted, including Sherlock Holmes, were influenced by The Murders in the Rue Morgue and that the story Ligeia influenced what we now call science fiction. He was truly a writer ahead of his time.

And he was a really good poet - in my opinion The Raven stands as one of the best American poems, but I had actually forgotten about The Bells, which I really like, as well as An Enigma, To My Mother, The Haunted Place - too many to just list here.

If this enormous book had a "flaw," it was the inclusion of some literary criticism and essays that I could have done without - I was more in the mood for the stories and poems. The publishers also included some "poems written in youth" that were not bad but didn't have the impact of some of the later poems, but you can see the talent developing.

Bottom line, Poe stands the test of time as a master. Highly recommended.

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