So…the book listed in top ten is the tales of mystery and imagination title I listed above. It was listed in the top ten of Michael Chabon. I could not find the one he listed. So I read most of the Essential Tales and Poems by Poe instead. It’s a nice hardback copy of Poe’s stuff and can be purchased in Barnes and Noble’s bargain books for less than 10. (Dave and I aren’t getting a kick back for that referral by the way, I just figured it’s Christmas and if you’re trying to find a good idea, there you have it! lol)
Essential Tales and Poems has essays by Poe as well as his horror stories and his detective stories. I mainly focused on reading the stories and the poems. I’m going to go back to look over the essays further, but they looked like they’ll be a really interesting read about the atmosphere and literary environment of Poe’s times.
Some of the tales I had already read while in high school or college. (I would be surprised to find a student who, with at least ten years of compulsory education in their past, hadn’t read a Poe story or two). I actually admit to skipping The Tell Tale Heart, due to actually having read that one multiple times (military family, differing school districts, college blah blah). I focused instead on some of the ones I’d heard of but had never read.
There are so many places that Poe’s work is referred to, as part of our actual lexicon of understanding. I mean, there’s even a show now that focuses on a serial killer who adores Poe and starts a cult (The Following, if you haven’t seen it, it’s actually a pretty amazing show). It’s hard to even know where to extricate the Poe references, all I know is as I was reading them I would go “oh! that’s where _that_ came from!” For example: In both literature and conversations with other people I’ve heard the term the “pit and the pendulum” before. Meaning a choice that whatever you pick, you’re sort of really screwed. And the story is about a man in the Inquisition who wakes to find himself in a chamber. The choice he ends up having to make is the “pit or the pendulum”. I think my favorite story was William Wilson. It starts out with a sort of Single White Female feel to it, but towards the end becomes something much different. And a lot more horrific than what you start out thinking.
An interesting fact for those of you who don’t know a lot about Poe (or like me, think you know a lot about Poe), he’s not only the writer of creepy and macabre tales, but also the father of modern detective stories. You’ve probably heard of the Purloined Letter (yep, that’s one of Poe’s stories).
I also found his short stories tight, with all the hallmarks of great short stories. My only problem with Poe is that many of his narrators sound very similar to one another. But, the stories themselves are so strong that you break through that.
I found a poem by him that I almost felt like it summed up Poe’s works, and him as a person.
From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were–I have not seen
As others saw–I could not bring
My passions from a common spring.
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow; I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone;
And all I lov’d–I lov’d alone.
Then–in my childhood–in the dawn
Of a most stormy life–was drawn
From every depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still:
From the torrent, or the fountain,
From the red cliff of the mountain,
From the sun that’round me roll’d
In its autumn tint of gold–
From the lightning in the sky
As it pass’d me flying by–
From the thunder and the storm,
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view.
I lied. Read The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, if you want to know my true Poe favorite.
(Also, I make apologies for any lacklusterness to this post. I have had about 4 hours of sleep and I also had to brave the soul sucking mess that is WalMart in December tonight. And yes, it had all the hallmarks of a Wal Mart visit.)