Review: Edgar Allen Poe


As I said in my Fahrenheit 451 review, when I tackled the works of Edgar Allen Poe I would choose five stories, a mix of the well known and not-so-well known. I only kept half of that promise. I did read five stories. I just happened to choose the ones that I heard were good; AKA the popular ones. Sue me if you want, I just wanted to read the best. I also have no idea how I’m actually going to review this, so enjoy this paragraph break as I take a literal one.

I’m back. (Did I ever really leave?) After thinking about it, the only thing I thought would work would be to review Poe as an author. I’ll sprinkle in tidbits about the stories I read, but rather than provide brief reviews of each I’m just going to cram them all into one. That saves me time so I can read and write more, and it saves you time since you don’t have as much to read. Everyone wins.

The stories I read were:

The Fall of the House of Usher

The Murders in the Rue Morgue

The Masque of the Red Death

The Pit and the Pendulum 

The Tell-Tale Heart

I told ya they were the big boys.

I should start (FINALLY!) by saying that I have long looked up to Poe even though I had only read a small sample of his work. The man has his fiction taught in schools and is revered as the founder of modern horror; what isn’t there to love? He obviously did something right, so there’s probably something I can learn. And learn I did.

Poe’s style is elegant. I read everything in a British accent because it made me feel highbrow and sophisticated. I found that the words flow with grace, everything runs together with near perfection. I also found a major flaw: OHMYGOSH was Poe long-winded! I may be the only book lover in the world to think so, but seriously, the guy puts George R.R. Martin to shame. I would often read phrases and think to myself “Why the hell is that in there?” Some things were just unneeded! That said, the man could still tell a story. At the end of every one I read, I had chills running down my back. EAP may have gone on forever, but it worked. It worked, and it scared.

I often like to write in first person, and Poe mastered the craft. The unreliable narrator so common to his stories really resonates with me; it makes me feel as if I’ve been doing it all wrong and need to rethink the way I do things. Of course I’m not going to do that, but reading Mr. Poe’s work has made me realize that I am slightly narrow minded. Although I only read five for my book challenge, I will be revisiting my book of his stories throughout the year. There’s just so much to learn.

I know I said I wouldn’t, but I find it only fitting to write 1-3 sentences on each story I read. Maybe it’ll help a college kid who doesn’t give a damn about literature decide which ones he should actually bother with for his English class. Anyway:

The Fall of the House of Usher – I enjoyed it. I thought it was slow at times, but it picked up and left a rather peculiar taste in my mouth. Probably ranks 4th out of the 5.

The Murders in the Rue Morgue- Far and away my favorite. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has NOTHING on what Poe does in this “detective” story. I found the ending to be bizarre, but I loved the story as a whole. Excellent.

The Masque of the Red Death- The story began well but went nowhere. I kept waiting and waiting for something to happen, but nothing did. I will say this: The last paragraph almost redeemed the whole story. Never has such a small grouping of words had such an effect on me. But, as I said before, the stellar ending fails to make up for what I found to be a sub-par story. It’s the worst of the bunch.

The Pit and the Pendulum- I was lost with this one at first, but I grew to love it. I was gripped by the narrator’s brushes with death. The ending shocked me, but it seemed only fitting. My second favorite.

The Tell-Tale Heart- I had to read this in 7th grade once, but I didn’t remember it and I was told that it was the best of Poe’s stories. I don’t agree, but I’m glad I reread it nonetheless. It was creepy and fast paced. A third place finish, but only barely.

I do like Edgar Allen Poe as an author. Like, not love. I went into it blindly loving him, and coming out a little more down to Earth. Regardless, I’m going to read every story that man ever wrote and try to get as much as I can out of it. I’d recommend doing the same if you’re an aspiring writer. I’d even recommend it to you, college kid who only read this because they wanted summaries to help them half-ass the homework. Ya might learn a thing or two. I did.

– I’m currently in the middle of A Clockwork Orange. My review (along with the movie version) will be up next week. I also purchased the movie version of The Shining, so look for that sometime soon.

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