Many people have read and loved Poe’s work, but before this, I’d never read anything by him. I wondered if the dude’s stuff was overhyped because that happens a lot with the classics to the point where I’ve begun thinking that people simply assume a thing is amazing or skillfully created if it’s considered a classic.
But after reading these short stories by Poe, I had to agree with everyone else: His stuff is pretty dope.
Psychological thriller; Horror
1839 (The Fall of the House of Usher)
1843 (The Tell-Tale Heart)
1846 (The Cask of Amontillado)
“Horrifying tales of mystery, sickening madness and buried bodies by the master of the macabre.”
That’s the description on the back of the edition I read — number 31 of the Penguin Little Black Classics, which were published back in 2015 in honor of the publisher’s 80th anniversary. Eighty booklets containing either a brief snippet of a larger work or short selections from an author’s repertoire were published. According to this Guardian article, each booklet is about 60 pages long. I believe number 31 has just over 50 pages.
In those 50 pages are three of Poe’s short stories. “The Tell-Tale Heart” reads like a psychological thriller and is about an anxious young man who’s driven to confess to a murder. “The Fall of the House of Usher” contains some horror elements and is about a man visiting an invalid friend. And “The Cask of Amontillado,” is another thriller about a man using wine to lure someone who wronged him into his family’s catacombs. (Goodreads)
“The Tell-Tale Heart”
It’s about a young man who kills a blind old man and is driven by
his guilt the sound of the dead man’s heart to confess his crime. From the beginning, I got the impression that the narrator is mentally unstable, which became more sure as the story progresses.
The narrator’s voice has an impatient breathiness to it as if he is talking too quickly, spilling all there is to now as fast as he can, which urged me to read as fast as I could to keep up, almost stumbling on the words. I liked the effect. The narrator’s voice and antics made the story an entertaining read despite what ultimately happens. There are moments of humor, like the part where he said it took him a whole hour to place his head within the door’s opening to check on the blind old man, that add to the story’s entertainment and made this a quick, easy read.
So, I sped through it, and by far, this is my favorite story in the collection. I know I will reread it often.
Story rating: ★★★★★
“The Fall of the House of Usher”
I had high expectations for this one because I’d heard of it so often. Unfortunately, it didn’t appeal to me as much as I thought it would. The beginning was dull, and I had to reread it several times because I kept falling asleep; but once I got to the part where the sister is buried in the wall (so weird), it got creepy and thus interesting. The end was unexpected.
Unlike “The Tell-Tale Heart,” which spills with nervous energy, “The Fall of the House of Usher” is subdued, slow, and brooding. It was not at all a compelling read. The narrator is visiting a childhood friend who’s ill. The friend happens to live with his sister, who suffers from seizures, in a creepy house. The house and the atmosphere of the story are probably the only things I liked. The atmosphere is gloomy and suspenseful, which increases as the story progresses to its shocking end, which made me think of Frankenstein (the many film/animated adaptations I’ve seen because I’ve yet to complete the novel).
So it’s a good read but I didn’t like it as much as “The Tell-Tale Heart.” I believe I missed much in this story, so I might revisit it.
Story rating: ★★★★☆
“The Cask of Amontillado”
It’s about a man who uses the brandy Amontillado to lure a dude named Fortunato into his family’s catacombs to bury him alive. Apparently, Fortunato loves wine and has offended the unnamed narrator in a major way, so this is revenge.
I never like revenge stories, and I probably wouldn’t have liked this one either if not for the twist at the end. Still, I feel as if I’m missing something about this story. I probably read it too fast. I got a little confused close to the end when the narrator starts building the wall. I’ll certainly need to read this again.
Story rating: ★★★☆☆
This little collection of Poe’s short stories was a great way for me to sample his work. Now I want to read more of his stories. I have a feeling that he might become one of my favorite authors.
Buy | Borrow | Bypass
I love the Penguin Little Black Classics. I have only four of the books, but I intend to get the boxed set of all 80 books.