The Fall of the House of Usher and Other Writings
Being a lover of the macabre, I knew that I should invest in Edgar Allan Poe but it took me a long time to stop procrastinating and get onto it. Eventually I did. And call me a philistine but I didn't really get what the hype was!
Style. I know this era of literature is very wordy but come on! Life is simply too short for such lengthy, convoluted and detailed sentences. Exhibit A: "Demon eyes, of a wild and ghastly vivacity, glared upon me in a thousand directions, where none had been visible before, and gleamed with a lurid lustre of a fire that I could not force my imagination to regard as unreal." Don't get me wrong - this inability to concentrate is definitely my fault, not Poe's. What can I say; I was raised on a diet of James Herbert...
Introductions. Why does Poe start most of his stories with "And so now dear readers, I am going to tell you a great story about something that happened to me when I was a young man blah, blah, blah..."? Or words to that effect. Stop telling me about telling the story - just get on and tell it!
Endings. Poe was a writer who had some fantastic ideas in the "But what if.." category. However, once he's indulged himself with the premise, he sometimes didn't seem to know how to wrap it up. I present for the court: The Pit and the Pendulum." A good story with inbuilt tension that builds with the ever-dropping blade. And then he escapes, but no. The fiery walls are closing in and the pit awaits and - how on earth will he get out from this fiendishly constructed death trap?? Oh, a French soldier miraculously appears in the nick of time, pulls him to safety and rescues him from the Inquisition. What? Wait! How? It reminds me of the Jurassic Park 3 ending when the entire US army (or navy) land on the nearby beach just in time to save Sam Neill and his posse from the velociraptors.
True horror. On the other hand, Poe does give us an unsettling glimpse into the horror, which lies more with people and their unpredictable, hidden madness rather than supernatural forces - always a much more terrifying notion.
"The Black Cat" is a fantastic story that actually made me gasp and hold my hand to my mouth - horror-style - on the train going to work. Not sure what the other commuters thought was wrong and I won't give any spoilers for this, but if you've read it, you know what I'm talking about. This tale is a great example of everything coming together in a genius piece of work.
I feel that Poe is more of a literary education rather than mere enjoyment; as if I should be analysing the characters or plot devices or metaphors and then writing a essay on my deliberations. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. (Trying to) read Poe has highlighted my ignorance but writing is a skill, so I accept that I need to experience all styles in order to develop my own.