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on 18 October 2012
Edgar Allan Poe is a writer whose reputation rests solely upon a handful of short stories and a poem; there are very few writers in the Western canon, or anywhere really, where this is the case. There's usually a novel that they're famous for and while Poe wrote a novel "The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym", it isn't particularly good and doesn't hold up to the short stories.

But what stories they are! They're all filled with madmen, murder, jealousy, betrayal, revenge, magic, death, hatred, ghosts, haunted mansions, talking dead, hypnotists, and jesters - all the elements that went on to make up the horror genre that exists today. Poe is the grandfather of horror whose imagery still captures peoples' imaginations today.

The creepy old man with the one large eye in "Tell-tale Heart" whose still-beating dead heart drives his murderer insane; crazy Roderick Usher who sits in his crumbling mansion haunted by his dead sister's ghost; the figure of death who intrudes upon a prince's party in a locked up castle while all among the countryside reigns the Red Death; the nightmarish swinging pendulum; the living death of "M. Valdemar"; the sweet revenge of "Cask of Amontillado"; the immolated bullies of "Hop-Frog"; the murderous doppelganger of "William Wilson"; and the early template for the detective stories of later years in "Murders in the Rue Morgue", "Mystery of Marie Roget" and "Purloined Letter" - these are all first class stories that hold up superbly today.

The appeal of these captivating stories goes hand in hand with knowledge of Poe's own tortured life that contained numerous instances of heart-ache, loneliness, and loss, tinged with addiction to alcohol and drugs, and a mysterious death that remains unexplained to this day.

While the majority of the stories aren't as brilliant as "Amontillado" or "Usher", those few stories that are more than vindicate Poe's status as a great writer. And while the lesser stories like "Gold Bug", "Black Cat", and "Descent into the Maelstrom" feel slower, overwritten, and less interesting than the best of Poe, there are moments in them that stand out and make reading them worthwhile.

Then there is the poetry. "The Raven" stands head and shoulders above the others, and remains a startlingly arresting poem to read to yourself or aloud to others. It's sing-song quality is what keeps it so popular and its legendary images of a demented Raven saying "Nevermore", and entrancing lines "Once upon a midnight dreary...", make it a poem that people will willingly read, and keep returning to, until the end of time.

As with the stories, few other poems manage to reach the heights of "Raven" but there are a few gems in the poems, some excellent lines and images such as in "Lenore", "The Conqueror Worm", "Spirits of the Dead" and my favourite "Annabel Lee".

Poe's stories are a must-read for all fans of literature, whether horror, gothic or otherwise, as they're not only fascinating and well-written but are also, most importantly, great fun to read. So go on, turn off the lights, and by the glare of the silvery moon open up the pages to one of his stories, and scare yourself like it's 1842... nevermore.
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on 10 August 2014
Poe’s writing is hit and miss, and this book is a great example of that – it just wasn’t much fun to read it, and even if I gave it my full concentration I often found that I’d read an entire story without really understanding or appreciating what was going on.

That said, there are a couple of great stories contained here, including The Tell-Tale Heart, which is arguably his most notorious piece of fiction and the work that he’s most well-known for after The Raven, the poem with its immortal refrain of “Quoth the Raven ‘Nevermore.’” I liked The Murders in the Rue Morgue as well, perhaps because it included a fictional detective and I’m a keen reader of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie.

Overall, though, I just find it hard to enjoy Poe’s rambling prose, and the fact that his work was written almost 200 years ago doesn’t help – if you think Dickens is occasionally hard to understand, then you need to go ahead and try this, if only to see how wrong you are. Some people relish a challenge though, and if you’re one of those people then you should go ahead but proceed with caution, and prepare to throw a couple of weekends at it to get it finished.

In fact, that’s probably one of the reasons why I didn’t enjoy reading it – it’s far too long, at over four hundred pages with miniscule print that strains your eyes when you stare at it, and I eventually gave up on trying to read it on the bus to and from work. In the end, I chipped away at it slowly but surely on the weekends, occasionally sacrificing an hour of my life to read another twenty pages.

Some people are really in to Edgar Allan Poe, and you might be one of them – if so, and if you haven’t read this collection, then it can’t hurt to give it a go. My words of caution are aimed more at the casual reader, because if I struggled to make it to the end, when I read around 100 books every year, then they’re going to struggle too. In many ways it’s worth it, because some of the stories are pretty good, but just bear in mind the huge time drain that it will become.
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on 21 January 2012
I brought this book for my english class and didn't expect to enjoy it (only because I don't normally enjoy reading classics), however i was pleasantly surprised. The collection of short stories kept me intrigued and interested. I honestly enjoyed studying it. There are loads of well-written and interesting stories in this book.

My favourite story is "the tell-tale heart". I chose to do my coursework on this specific story because it is so cool. It is told in the view of a psychotic man, who doesn't know right from wrong. This alone makes the story worth reading. But if you still need convincing, lets just say someone meets the end of a dark tunnel...
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VINE VOICEon 7 August 2009
I bought this on a recommendation to read 'The Mystery of Marie Roget'.
As a reviewer, I give you three reviews for the price of one.

First, in Oxford World's Classics you get tremendous value for money with the inclusion of all of Poe's well known tales. Marie Roget is only some 45 pages long and there are about 25 other tales including, 'Murders in the Rue Morgue' and 'The Pit and the Pendulum'. There is an excellent introduction and ace value all round - so far five stars.

Second, Poe is possibly the father of the modern detective story with Auguste Dupin the forefather of the likes of Sherlock Holmes and Poirot. He appears here aswell as in 'Rue Morgue' and 'The Purloined Letter'. He brooks no red herrings, sticking to the facts and their logical, philosophical analysis. So, five stars for Poe's place in history.

Third, actually reading Marie Roget was more excruciating than root canal treatment without anaesthetic. The section on the mechanics of drowning and the submerging of corpses was one of the lowest points in my entire literary life. So, in the absence of a minus option it gets one star.

Conclusion... give it three stars and see above. Hope this helps.
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on 1 August 2007
If you are drawn to surrealist work you will definitely enjoy this book. The stories have been written as a collection of gothic tales, but I found myself laughing at the tragedy of it all most of the time! Well written, warped literature.
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on 3 June 2014
Chilling, macabre and eerie; three adjectives applicable to contemporary horror and yet, in Poe's inimitable style and penetration of character, all these adjectives take on a refreshing new form and, though written in the 1830's, tales such as The Murders in the Rue Morgue, The Cask of Amontillado and The Black Cat are still unforgettable; for the individuality which emanates from the troubled personality of Edgar Allan Poe.
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on 14 January 2015
Read this book for university - I am not the biggest fan of Poe, but I did quite enjoy this book.
It was better than expected.
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on 14 December 2010
Well it's a good book in that it has a fair spread of Poe's works and the problem isn't with the book itself, but the content. Poe is one of the most obnoxious and uptight writers in history, if you're thinking about reading this and being enlightened or empowered with a greater sense of reality and intelligence, well... don't. It was damned near a waste of time, purchase it if you want to impress classmates as you casually flick through pages in your spare time, but asides that it serves virtually no purpose. At least it arrived on time...
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