Category: Edgar Allan Poe

book of books – Selected Tales

As part of the Penguin blog the classics challenge the book sent was Selected Tales by Edgar Allan Poe and the deadline to read it and review it was six weeks. This is a slightly longer version of the review I have now submitted, which will hopefully go live soon. It was an enyoable experience and hopefully Penguin will do something similar again the future.

When Edgar Allan Poe sat down to write he must have been an incredible feeling of adventure. He was writing stories that went into that area that straddles the lines between good and evil, life and death and the natural and supernatural. Each time he put pen to paper the journey into a mystical world would start.

In this series of Selected Tales there are stories that shock for their gruesome content, surprise for their innovation and others that create a genre for other authors to follow. Like a mountaineer being the first to climb Everest this is a writer breaking new ground on almost every page.

The reason why he gets away with what could have been difficult for some writers trying to see where their imagination will take them is because of the confidence in the writing. He is able to sketch out not just characters, and some of them are far from normal, but locations that require some detailed description in just a couple of pages. He uses literary devices, like quoting newspaper reports in Murder on the Rue Morgue, which are imaginative but more importantly work. On top of that he shows that it is possible to mix styles to create something that appears to be a traditional narrative but then packs a supernatural punch.

At the heart of a good Poe story is the pace. The reader feels the rising tension, fears the next move and shivers at the conclusion.

Some of the best stories to show that working are the Fall of the House of Usher where the climax is enough to get the hairs on the back of your neck standing up as the house and the remaining Usher family both crumble into dust. Then there are a series of stories that start with a murderer lamenting over how he got caught – The Beating Heart and The Black Cat.

Then there are the detective stories with the enigmatic Dupin that remind you of Sherlock Holmes among others as the lonely odd individual uses deductive skills that solve crimes the police have not even got close to wrapping up. Murder in the Rue Morgue is the best of the three stories where Dupin appears because he visits the murder scene and solves the oddest of crimes, where the murderer was an Orangutan. All that is best about Poe is displayed in this single story with a mad ape yielding a cut throat razor turning an ordinary night time Paris into something much more disturbing. It also challenges the reader to push the boundaries of what they think might have happened and engage with a very active imagination.

Bearing in mind most writers are encouraged to write about what they know there is also a confidence here to tackle numerous locations ranging from Africa, Caribbean islands, Paris and America.

Most short story collections reinforce the impression that a writer is concerned with certain key themes, religion and love for example, but what this collection shows is just how wide Poe’s imagination stretched.

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book of books – Selected Tales

As part of the Penguin blog the classics challenge the book sent was Selected Tales by Edgar Allan Poe and the deadline to read it and review it was six weeks. This is a slightly longer version of the review I have now submitted, which will hopefully go live soon. It was an enyoable experience and hopefully Penguin will do something similar again the future.

When Edgar Allan Poe sat down to write he must have been an incredible feeling of adventure. He was writing stories that went into that area that straddles the lines between good and evil, life and death and the natural and supernatural. Each time he put pen to paper the journey into a mystical world would start.

In this series of Selected Tales there are stories that shock for their gruesome content, surprise for their innovation and others that create a genre for other authors to follow. Like a mountaineer being the first to climb Everest this is a writer breaking new ground on almost every page.

The reason why he gets away with what could have been difficult for some writers trying to see where their imagination will take them is because of the confidence in the writing. He is able to sketch out not just characters, and some of them are far from normal, but locations that require some detailed description in just a couple of pages. He uses literary devices, like quoting newspaper reports in Murder on the Rue Morgue, which are imaginative but more importantly work. On top of that he shows that it is possible to mix styles to create something that appears to be a traditional narrative but then packs a supernatural punch.

At the heart of a good Poe story is the pace. The reader feels the rising tension, fears the next move and shivers at the conclusion.

Some of the best stories to show that working are the Fall of the House of Usher where the climax is enough to get the hairs on the back of your neck standing up as the house and the remaining Usher family both crumble into dust. Then there are a series of stories that start with a murderer lamenting over how he got caught – The Beating Heart and The Black Cat.

Then there are the detective stories with the enigmatic Dupin that remind you of Sherlock Holmes among others as the lonely odd individual uses deductive skills that solve crimes the police have not even got close to wrapping up. Murder in the Rue Morgue is the best of the three stories where Dupin appears because he visits the murder scene and solves the oddest of crimes, where the murderer was an Orangutan. All that is best about Poe is displayed in this single story with a mad ape yielding a cut throat razor turning an ordinary night time Paris into something much more disturbing. It also challenges the reader to push the boundaries of what they think might have happened and engage with a very active imagination.

Bearing in mind most writers are encouraged to write about what they know there is also a confidence here to tackle numerous locations ranging from Africa, Caribbean islands, Paris and America.

Most short story collections reinforce the impression that a writer is concerned with certain key themes, religion and love for example, but what this collection shows is just how wide Poe’s imagination stretched.

Lunchtime read: Selected Tales

Well the Poe finally comes to an end and despite the dark, supernatural and often gruesome content it has been an enjoyable ride.

What makes it something you stick with (apart from the commitment to read it and review it for the Penguin Classics blog) is that the writing is so good. You feel that this is a man on the cusp of something new almost every time he picks up his pen and along with helping develop certain genres he is also showing on every page an enquiring mind.

In the same way that ghost and horror stories grew out of crossing that line between the natural and supernatural there is a sense here that Poe is keen to investigate the thought process and the reaction to stories about murder, ghosts and spirits and near death experiences. What comes out of it is a sense sometimes of unease but equally unlike fiction based in bolted down reality there is an excitement because you never know quite what will happen next.

As a result it is quite easy to read stories that you suspect will have a nasty ending which in fact don’t and others that leave you wondering why Poe chose to focus on certain details when he appeared to have a narrative that could have gone in various different directions.

Highlights from The Domain of Arnheim
A man who comes into a very substantial fortune decides to spend all of his money on landscaping an area to master nature. He spends years trying to find the right spot and then Poe gives a description of the experience that the public would go through winding through streams and through different flora and fauna environments. The man dies but leaves a legacy of a transformed environment in the area of Arnheim, proving that he has been able to manipulate nature/

Highlights from Von Kempelen and His Discovery
An odd starting story that only really becomes clear at the very end with Von Kempelen being able to change lead into gold. As a result the suspicion is that the scientist will not be able to keep his secret for long so the price of lead shoots through the roof.

A review will follow by the end of the week…

Lunchtime read: Selected Tales

Well the Poe finally comes to an end and despite the dark, supernatural and often gruesome content it has been an enjoyable ride.

What makes it something you stick with (apart from the commitment to read it and review it for the Penguin Classics blog) is that the writing is so good. You feel that this is a man on the cusp of something new almost every time he picks up his pen and along with helping develop certain genres he is also showing on every page an enquiring mind.

In the same way that ghost and horror stories grew out of crossing that line between the natural and supernatural there is a sense here that Poe is keen to investigate the thought process and the reaction to stories about murder, ghosts and spirits and near death experiences. What comes out of it is a sense sometimes of unease but equally unlike fiction based in bolted down reality there is an excitement because you never know quite what will happen next.

As a result it is quite easy to read stories that you suspect will have a nasty ending which in fact don’t and others that leave you wondering why Poe chose to focus on certain details when he appeared to have a narrative that could have gone in various different directions.

Highlights from The Domain of Arnheim
A man who comes into a very substantial fortune decides to spend all of his money on landscaping an area to master nature. He spends years trying to find the right spot and then Poe gives a description of the experience that the public would go through winding through streams and through different flora and fauna environments. The man dies but leaves a legacy of a transformed environment in the area of Arnheim, proving that he has been able to manipulate nature/

Highlights from Von Kempelen and His Discovery
An odd starting story that only really becomes clear at the very end with Von Kempelen being able to change lead into gold. As a result the suspicion is that the scientist will not be able to keep his secret for long so the price of lead shoots through the roof.

A review will follow by the end of the week…

Lunchtime read: Selected Tales

The Poe is almost at an end an although it is dark stuff it is interesting because it is so clearly written by someone with an enquiring mind. Not prepared just to let the norm be the stuff of writing there is a supernaturalism here that adds to the story an added dimension that does work. On top of that there is clearly a fascination in the line between good and evil and what happens when you cross it and murder someone.

Highlights from The Facts in the Case of M.Valdemar
A man who is on his last legs agrees to be put into a mesmerist state and the narrator manages to put him under just before death intervenes. He remains in a state of half-death for months until finally it is agreed that they will let the patient wake. Asking him how he elicits the answer that is dead and demands to be let go. But no sooner out of the mesmerist state than the body crumbles and the bed is left full of a bitter smelling goo where the patient had been only moments before

Highlights from The Case of Amontillado
A man seeking revenge decides to get it on a festive day when the town will be focused on enjoying themselves. He beckons for his victim to accompany him into his dark and damp cellar to find some decent alcohol and when he reaches the farthest point chains the unsuspecting and drunk victim to the wall. He then bricks the man in and finds him changing from anger to hysteria to finally silence – a state that spooks the killer. But unlike other Poe tales he manages to get away with it and the story ends with the admission that no one has found the corpse.

Final couple of stories tomorrow…

Lunchtime read: Selected Tales

The reappearance of Dupin is welcome but lets face it after the Murder in the Rue Morgue the detective adventures are best left to Conan Doyle with Sherlock Holmes. Apart from that there is another reminder of how Poe can make you feel uncomfortable dwelling on one particular phobia.

Highlights from The Purloined Letter
A member of the royal household is discovered in possession of a compromising letter and a minister steals it knowing that no protest is possible. The woman turns to the police to get it back but they take the house apart and cannot find it. The reward for finding it is considerable but no one has any joy. Dupin asks for a large sum, of money to get it back and no sooner is the cheque written he hands over the letter. He realised that the best place to hide it is right under the noses and so he discovered it on a visit and then replaced it with a copy.

Te moral of the story is that if you wan to hide something them keeping it obvious often tricks the minds of those looking for some secret hiding place.

Highlights from The Imp of the Perverse
After a few pages suggesting that sometimes there is an overpowering desire to be perverse and go against the norm Poe introduces a man who has committed murder who is quite happy at having got away with his crime. But then he is infected by the desire to shout out his crime and starts to run through the crowd and when he is caught sure enough he blurts it out and for his honesty is rewarded with the hangman’s noose.

More tomorrow…

Lunchtime read: Selected Tales

The reappearance of Dupin is welcome but lets face it after the Murder in the Rue Morgue the detective adventures are best left to Conan Doyle with Sherlock Holmes. Apart from that there is another reminder of how Poe can make you feel uncomfortable dwelling on one particular phobia.

Highlights from The Purloined Letter
A member of the royal household is discovered in possession of a compromising letter and a minister steals it knowing that no protest is possible. The woman turns to the police to get it back but they take the house apart and cannot find it. The reward for finding it is considerable but no one has any joy. Dupin asks for a large sum, of money to get it back and no sooner is the cheque written he hands over the letter. He realised that the best place to hide it is right under the noses and so he discovered it on a visit and then replaced it with a copy.

Te moral of the story is that if you wan to hide something them keeping it obvious often tricks the minds of those looking for some secret hiding place.

Highlights from The Imp of the Perverse
After a few pages suggesting that sometimes there is an overpowering desire to be perverse and go against the norm Poe introduces a man who has committed murder who is quite happy at having got away with his crime. But then he is infected by the desire to shout out his crime and starts to run through the crowd and when he is caught sure enough he blurts it out and for his honesty is rewarded with the hangman’s noose.

More tomorrow…