Details from Audible:

Edgar Allan Poe – The Complete Short Stories

Stories include:

1. The Angel Of The Odd 2. Berenice 3. The Black Cat 4. The Cask Of Amontillado 5. The Maelstrom 7. Eleanora 8. The Facts In The Case Of M. Valdemar 9. The House Of Usher 11. Hop Frog 12. Imp Of The Perverse 13. Island Of The Fay 14. Ligiea 16. Man Of The Crowd 17. Message In A Bottle 18. The Masque Of The Red Death 19. Mesmeric Revelation 20. The Murders In The Rue Morgue 23. Never Be The Devil Your Head 24. The Oval Portrait 25. The Pit And The Pendulum 27. The Premature Burial 29. The Purloined Letter 31. Silence- A Fable 32. Some Words With A Mummy 34. The Spectacles 37. The System Of Doctor Tarr And Professor Feather 39. The Tell Tale Heart 40. William Wilson 42. The Raven

Initial Thoughts:

I’ve loved Poe for years, though I’ll freely admit that I only ever read his most popular short-stories (and I never actually read “The Raven” as this is technically a narrative poem and not a story). I have come to love Audible and as I always have at least 1 credit (often more), I decided to revisit this master of horror. Also I am putting out a collection of short-stories myself and I want to be as familiar with them as possible beforehand.

Main Points:

I had a discussion about this with my friend and I’ll leave it up to you to decide who was right. It turns out I really don’t like (perhaps even hate) a lot of Poe’s short stories (and yes I know this isn’t every one he ever wrote here but at 42 it’s more than half of his total). I don’t fault Bob Thomley (the narrator) he does a wonderful job reading (though the volume could have been louder). What my friend Danny said is that I only feel that way because I only thought of Poe as a horror author, I never knew all the other types of stories he done and my expectations were all of of whack. I grant that could be true but I know what I like and what I don’t.

This is getting off track though, so let’s get back there.  Out of the 42 presented I only enjoyed 14, this is 10 more than I had ever read by Poe. I appreciate his dark humor, he has very clever writing and I enjoyed the twists in several stories. He had a masterful grasp of the English language and does wonderful descriptions and (due to living in the early 19th century) words that you almost never here anymore like “forthwith”.

While most of his stories are not gruesome, they do a wonderful job with suspense and building tension. Some stories are generally frightening not so much with what he describes but with what you imagine. He uses Latin, French and German and I listened to “The Raven” four times, it is beautiful, sad, horrific and I believe his very best work (that I’ve read at least). A close second is “The Tell Tale Heart”, just a wonderful piece of work. So well-paced, atmospheric and even though I (and I’m sure 99% of readers) know what will happen, full of suspense. It is also one of his only works which borders on being gruesome but manages to pull back a little by leaving some description up to your imagination.

As for the problems, many of the stories are just terribly dull and the themes are so often repeated. Poe was obviously completely obsessed with hypnotism, being buried alive, the nature of reality and what happens at the brink of death. These come up so often in the stories that I waited with dread from them to come up again. For example there is not one but TWO stories about a person on his death bed (quite literally here) and is hypnotized.

I also found one story had a big twist, except for me it was no surprise at all as I guessed in way before it happens, I always feel this is a sign of poor writing. Poe was a fascinating man who was taken from us way to soon (he died at 40), many stories show the deep thoughts he had about religion, love, the world and even the nature of reality. I felt, however, that many stories would have been better as a journal or even an Academic paper rather than stories.

Final Thoughts:

I certainly now have a more accurate picture of Poe. He was more than just a horror author, he was a true Philosopher, a humorist and a romantic who had (perhaps) been disillusioned with love. The problem is as I discussed that while some of the stories were excellent, a good 30 of these bored me to tears. So as a consequence I would recommend this but only if you are prepared to skip many of these stories. While Poe lovers may not agree I am forced to give this just a 4 out of 10. I If you do listen to this I would say ages 13+, please don’t let young kids listen.

You would be better off with a shorter collection that includes your favorites, the rest of his work is best left for a paper copy that you could pick up (and put down) at your leisure. If you’ve never read “The Raven” or “The Tell Tale Heart” you need to do so! Whether you ever get this collection or not. Until next time everyone.