Monday, 27 August 2018

Book Review: The Complete Tales and Poems of Edgar Allan Poe

312 days later and I have completed this mammoth collection of Poe tales and poems. Considered to be the master of tales filled with mystery and/or the macabre, Poe delivers a range of short stories and poetry that are all contained within this collection.

"Tis some visitor," I muttered, "tapping at my chamber door - only this, and nothing more."

My rating for this collection may seem harsh, but let me explain... When Poe is good, he is GREAT. But when he is not... it is torture and absolutely unbearable at times. I have zero intention of revisiting about 75% of this collection. In comparison, I'm pretty sure I would be happy to revisit the majority of Lovecraft tales at some point in the future. A lot of readers will compare the two, but for me, when comparing their complete bodies of work, there is no competition.

I was actually surprised by the number of non-horror stories I found. I had assumed Poe primarily wrote these chilling stories filled with dark nights and graveyards, and haunting residences. What I actually found was a great number of mystery and crime stories, which I did not care for. At the beginning of the collection there are also a few stories that focus on hot air balloons. Yep. You heard me right. Safe to say you can avoid these like the plague. So many of the stories were meandering and pointless, it's really quite shocking to me the range in quality across Poe's work. 

But enough negativity... the highlight for me, if I had to choose just one, would be The Raven. It is hard for me to even think of this poem without simultaneously considering the corresponding Treehouse of Horror episode in The Simpsons. But thankfully I got past this by listening to the Christopher Lee narration whilst reading along. I would highly recommend doing the same as the narration is so haunting and chilling with accompanying sounds of falling rain and church bells tolling. The grief and sorrow for his lost love Lenore is so heavy in this one, as the raven acts as the embodiment of rationality - reinforcing the fact that Lenore is not coming back through that chamber door. The melancholy tone really sticks with you (once again demonstrating my love for any writing related to grief and loss).

I also loved the poem Annabel Lee. It's a really gorgeous poem that was a joy to read (and by gorgeous I mean quite melancholic and depressing at times - hey, it's Poe!). I'm not really a big fan of poetry, but I appreciated the simplicity and beauty of this one.

In terms of the stories, the following stood out for me:

  • The Fall of the House of Usher - a perfect gothic tale with its quintessential features, such as a haunted house, a dreary landscape and a mysterious sickness 
  • The Masque of the Red Death - a wonderfully written allegory about life and death, and no matter how rich you may be or what you have in the world, you can't avoid death
  • The Tell-Tale Heart - quite a disturbing story focusing on paranoia and mental deterioration
  • The Black Cat - this was horrifying and disturbing and I would highly recommend reading

As you can see, my highlights from the collection are the well-known ones. So if you're interested in checking out Poe, I would strongly recommend sticking to a "Best of" collection. You'll get all the good stuff without the dead weight. It was a long and trying experience reading everything Poe has ever written, but I'm glad I did it. Even through the incredibly boring stories, it was still nice to immerse myself in the works of Poe. I'll just stick to my smaller collections when I revisit in the future.

3 stars.


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