106 of 110 people found the following review helpful
on September 15, 2004
I think Poe's genius hardly needs discussion on this forum.
So, I offer a small review on the physical book itself.
As another reviewer mentioned, there are no annotations.
You will have to translate (or find on the Net) the Latin,
the French, etc., yourself, though you can skip them and
still understand the story. I'm no Poe scholar, so I don't
know which works, if any, were excluded from the book, but
all of my favorites are here ("The Tell Tale Heart," "The
Fall of the House of Usher," "The Raven," etc.) and several
more that I've never heard of until now.
This is a solid volume, containing some of the best short
stories ever written in English and I've enjoyed reading
5 out of 5.
123 of 145 people found the following review helpful
on February 1, 2001
The horror of being; the darkest depths of man's soul; the deepest fears brought about by darkness: it's all here. This is the work of the original genius of terror. And the most terrifying thing about Poe's stories and poems is that the threat doesn't come from a monster, or a devil, or a murderer: it comes from inside yourself, from your mind and your heart. There's no escaping them. Poe is not, of course a "terror" writer. He's just a writer, and one of the best there has been. His work can not be confined to a "genre". His tales touch horror, but there are some analytical, metaphysical, futurists, and tales of love (strange love, but love).
As correctly pointed out by other reviewers, Poe practically invented the mystery tale in which the detective is an amateur who solves the problem through reason and deduction alone ("The crimes of the Rue Morgue"). A wonderful cryptic and deductive tale is "The golden bug". "The cask of Amontillado" is a masterpiece of cruel vengeance. "The pit and the pendulum" is pure terror, like "The black cat".
The poems have even more variety. You know what the famous ones are: The Raven, The bells, Annabel Lee. Here, the most remarkable characteristics are music and rhythm. "Quoth the raven: nevermore!", and the ringing of the bells, the bells, bells, bells, etc. My personal favorite is Annabel Lee, but there are many other, less known, which are just excellent.
Poe was a troubled man, addicted to drugs and alcohol, who died in a miserable way (some thugs made him drink to use him in an electoral fraud; he died from drunkness on the streets of Baltimore). But his intellect and sensibility (hypersensibility) made him a true genius, a profound connoiseur of the human soul, up and down. His writing is superb and he will remain as a master of literature for centuries to come. In case you have never approached his work, do so now. Choose your favorite couch; wait until everybody is asleep, get yourself a good drink, and travel to the bottom of your own soul.
18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on March 17, 2001
Macabre, enticing, and fantastic, Poe's stories reveal a first rate intellect and out of this world imagination. Poe was the first or one of the first authors of science fiction, when he wrote "Ligeia," which is a must read, underrated story of his. "The Devil in the Belfry" reveals Poe's comic talents, as does the delightful "X-ing a Paragrab." These two stories reveal the light, almost playful, side of Poe which is usually obscured by the dark side of his macabre horror stories and brooding poems. Speaking of which, his horror stories are some of the best ever written. I still feel the tension, reading them for the nth time in my life. Poe is also the originator of the detective story. Poe's intellect is evident in the story Mellonta Tauta, where he humorously explains the difference between the Aristotilean/deductive reasoning and Baconian (Hogian!)/ inductive reasoning. In his stories he also demonstrated some understanding of the theory of probability, foresaw the philosophical approach of perspectivalism, and raised the questions of sanity/normalcy that would become one of the major social questions of the 20th century, when power-hungry maniacal and clever madman came to power in some countries with the full intent of eventually ruling the world.
I consider Poe one of the most imaginative people who ever lived and one of the most insightful people of the 19th century. By today's standards, his life was short. But the legacy he left influenced and inspired so many people that he should be regarded as one of the greatest writers of short stories who ever lived, and as someone who belongs in the pantheon of many 19th century geniuses.
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on May 14, 1998
Poe's tales of mystery and horror are, of course, legendary, but the reader will find so much more in this book as well. The classics, such as "The Cask of Amontillado", etc. still shine and enthrall as much as they ever have, but his humor, which manages to combine simplicity with sophistication, is also exhibited in tales such as "The Sphinx". Because this book is so all-inclusive, it can shed much light on the lives of those who are not fully aware of Poe's poetry. Does it follow strictly traditional and pedagogical systems of meter, etc.? Perhaps not. But Poe has taken the commonplace, even somewhat trite term "rhythm", and turned it into something absolutely magical. Again, this is most evident and accessible in the classics such as "Annabel Lee" and "The Raven", but here it can be found, and definitely should not be ignored, in lesser known gems such as "The Haunted Palace" and "To -----" ("I heed not that my earthly lot..."). When read quietly and at the right pace, his poetry is thought-provoking to say the least; when read aloud, it is almost mystical in its beauty. Committed to memory, it will surely earn one kudos and perhaps even a slight, contemplative awe when recited in the right company. (Giving full credit to the author, of course). Despite Poe's tragic life, he is truly an American treasure. This book exemplifies that through its simple content and short biography, without any constraining and often tiresome commentary. It presents itself to the reader as if to say, "read with your heart. Be frightened, be amused, be enchanted; but hopefully, and most of all, just enjoy."
29 of 35 people found the following review helpful
on June 14, 1999
Having never written a full novel, Poe is sometimes forgotten when the great fiction writers of American history are listed. The power of Poe's dark vision, though, is virtually unprecedented in world literature. The manifestation of such deep, intuitive symbols and archetypes, ones of such clarity, prophesy and terror that even his incredible craftsmanship in language becomes transparant, is a gift given to only the most blessed and tormented of writers. To read a story like the Masque of the Red Death is to be flung into an allegorical morality play which fits perfectly into the modern context. Poe's stories and poems travel through time and rap ceaselessy on the window of your conscious thoughts. An ominous pall of expectation and retribution permeates all of his work. To pick up Poe is really never to put it down.
15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on October 25, 2000
In the annals of short story writing there is perhaps no greater master than Edgar Allan Poe. His tales of horror have sent chills up and down the spines of their readers for several generations. His better known stories are all masterpieces of the genre of the macabre. As for his lesser known tales, they too are complex masterpieces of pyschological horror. And I use the word pyschological because Poe was aware of the inner workings of the human mind before Freud or Jung. He loves to explore the dark side of the human psyche, and no one has or ever will do it with as much power and mastery as did Poe.
Also, Poe was a master of language and his ear was exquisitely tuned to the sounds of words. His poetry is perhaps the most tuneful in the English language. Listen to the music of the first sentence of The Fall Of The House Of Usher: "During the whole of a dull, dark, and soundless day in the autumn of the year, when the clouds hung oppressively low in the heavens, I had been passing alone, on horseback, through a singularly dreary tract of country, and at length found myself, as the shades of evening drew on, within view of the melancholy House of Usher." You see, Poe understood both tone and atmosphere and how to weave these elements into his narrative; thereby creating a lasting effect in the minds of his readers.
I remember when first I read The Tell-Tale Heart how the opening paragraph pulled me into the strange intensity of Poe's madness. It begins thus: "True!-nervous-very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am! but why will you say that I am mad? The disease had sharpened my senses-not destroyed-not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily-how calmly I can tell you the whole story." But it is the story of a madman and in the end will not prove him sane. In point of fact, it will draw its reader ever deeper into the infernal regions of Poe's pysche, where he will hear the few things of heaven and the many demonic things of hell.
I have always loved the intense way in which Poe uses language to attain his metaphysical revelations of the state of a brilliant mind that is on the verge of disintergration. For it is in the order that he brings to this nightmarish chaos that one begins to understand that Poe's dark genius is capable of the highest degree of intuition. And that he is an explorer of regions of the mind that others dare never to explore for fear of what they might find.
So I recommend reading Poe's stories and poems for the sheer thrill of it, but also for the complexities of his craftmanship and the subtle way in which he weaves upon the magic loom of his incredible imagination.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
This refers to the Doubleday reissue.
As titled, this tome contains all of the stories, not just the short stories or a meager selection thereof, but ALL of the stories, including the long Pym and manuscript found in a bottle. This book also holds the poems, complete. It does not contain his literary and personal criticism, such as one dedicated to the Rev. George Bush, and it thankfully does not contain analysis of his work, and especially not by the dismal Harold Bloom. There is much good critical study of Mr. Poe, our source of American literature, postmodern literature, Conan Doyle and Lovecroft etc., etc., but that may be acquired separately. Here we gratefully receive his complete works at a great price.
In fact I purchased this copy lacking the will to dig mine out and eager to read once more The Man of the Crowd, a very modern writing devoid of plot, etc., and rather a James Joyce Ulysses in miniature as an urban epic journey within one day's span. Incredibly and stunningly well written.
Poe clearly was not the mad drunk we are taught he was, but a great artist, though starving, and the father of modern literature. He reads as invigoratingly and refreshingly and as excitingly both stylisticly and to content as ever. Do yourself a great favor this summer, and your family, and turn off the technology and read this with them, piece by piece. DO not forget to read the voyage in the balloon, not the hoax but the other whose title now escapes me, a vision of the future which reads as well now as ever. Do not go to the usual creaky Poe stories, as good as they are, such as House of Usher and Telltale Heart and Gold Bug, but dare to explore the entire opus of Poe, here generously and comprehensively provided. Let Mr. Poe, the master, teach you to write. Try it and you will find the genius and the fountainhead and the artist that he truly is.
Read this to your family with the lights down and the television off. The family who reads this together stays together, as the young ones will remain close to you and begging for more.
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
on March 7, 2001
That should really be amended to say no annotation. I would have given five stars, six if possible, because Poe's work on the whole is amazing. Even though all of his short stories and poems (and novella) can be fit into one book which doesn't even break a thousand pages, Poe is very easily the best writer to ever come out of America surpassing even Melville, Whitman, and Faulkner. The writing is required reading for all who love words. However, according to the classical education of the nineteenth century, there are quite a few allusions to material written in foreign languages ranging from Latin and Greek to German and French. In some places translation is provided, but I believe that these translations were done by Poe himself and not by the editors at Doubleday. There were some places where translation was crucial to the story but was not provided such as at the end of "The Purloined Letter". However Doubleday is not the only one guilty of this, I found quite a number of other editions of Poe's Complete works which lacked annotation as well. In fact I still have not found an edition which DOES CONTAIN annotation. However, it is only a thorn which does not take away from the beauty of this rose of literature. Most know Poe from his horror fiction but in the section of Humor and Satire one finds stories which are still able to make one laugh such as "The Literary Life of Thingum Bob, Esq.," and "The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether." The section of Flights and Fantasies shows the man whom Jorge Luis Borges strove to imitate. And for the very sparseness of it's section, the poetry of Poe continues to amaze to this day, with poems which are more like music than writing. But be warned, no one will like everything in here, but everyone will like something in here. For me, I personally didn't care for "The Gold Bug" or for "The Mystery of Marie Roget" but those are both detective stories, so a detective story lover might swoon over them whereas a fantasy story lover might not care for them at all. A reader who prefers Satire will definitely see a side of Poe which few are familiar with, and which, oftentimes, is on par with even Twain and Bierce. For sheer imagination, few if any, can hope to ever equal Poe.
14 of 16 people found the following review helpful
on November 12, 2000
This is the best of the best when it comes to Edgar Allan Poe. I am a long time fan and can say that Poe is coming into high fashion at last. I read Poe along with David Lehman's reissue of "The Perfect Murder: A Study in Detection" and found the two books perfect companions for anyone who loves understading the classic WHODUNIT.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on December 13, 2005
First impressions count, and this book is extremely attractive. The attractiveness of the printed page completes the "premium" feel of this edition. If you plan to have the book on your bookshelf for many years to come, pulling it out to re-read a familiar story, or read an obscure one for the first time, you will appreciate this bibliophile edition. Here I will consider one representative of each type of story: a familar story, an obscure one, and a poem.
"Murders on the Rue Morgue" is a typically brief story of some thirty-two pages. It involves protagonists who have a dark side, and who are quite fond of the dark. "The sable divinity [night] would not herself dwell with us always; but we could counterfeit her presence. At the first dawn of the morning we closed all the massy shutters of our old building; lighted a couple of tapers which, stongly perfumed, threw out only the gastliest and feeblest of rays." And these are the good guys. The bad guy has "...an agility astounding, a strength superhuman, a ferocity brutal, a butchery without motive, a grotesquerie in horror absolutely alien from humanity, and a voice foreign in tone to the ears of men of many nations..." It is a crime story solved through clairvoyant analysis.
"The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym" is a lesser known story of some sixty pages, comprising three disasters at sea, consecutively befalling the same narrator. They are horrific events, initially terrifying, but becoming less so as the author passes over the boundary of science fiction, where our affinity for the protagonist is severed. While this story is extremely entertaining, Poe intentionally left it unfinished, and it is disappointing to never learn how the survivor returned to civilization to tell his tale.
"The Raven" is a deliciously nihilistic poem, in which the sole word spoken by the bird dashes the narrator's romantic dreams of becoming reunited with his life's sole love in a heavenly afterlife. The bird's view is that the soul dies with the body and that the human spirit is snuffed out with death. You may view the raven as the devil if you like, or simply a provocative existentialist; your enjoyment of the poem will not suffer. This poem is evocative of themes developed by the alchemist poet, Omar Khayyam (see my review); if you like one, you'll like the other.
Buy this book for its heirloom feel, and pass it on when you have sloughed your own mortal coil.