Complete Works of Edgar Allen Poe

The Complete Tales and Poems - Edgar Allan Poe It's always difficult to review such an influential classic. Poe's Gothic horror and fiction short stories are among the most famous and influential works in all of literature. They are as ubiquitous in the school curriculum as they are in television and film adaptations.

Hell, along with Dickens, Poe's stories about amateur detective Dupin largely created that genre, even if it would not become more formalized until Wilkie Collins' "The Moonstone".

At this point, one is almost rating the culture and legacy of the work as much as the stories themselves.

All that aside, I couldn't ignore several problems of Poe's work. While the stories usually contain an interesting premise, are decently written, and in no way "poor", they are also very simple and straightforward. In some cases, they even become primitive and predictable.

Thus, while most stories are perfectly enjoyable, I rarely felt particularly impressed, let alone that I had read a true short story classic the same way I did with Fitzgerald, O Henry, Dreiser, Maugham, Kafka, and others.

Is there any depth to his characters? Are his stories smart and witty? Are the endings unpredictable for any experienced modern reader?

No, no, and no. Hell, even the three tales featuring Detective Dupin, the precursor to Sherlock Holmes, don't display any brilliant deductions or difficult mysteries.

Perhaps I'm being too hard on Poe. Maybe I'm judging him too harshly by modern standards. But keep in mind that we're talking about 1840 here, not 1640. Countless novels written back then, especially by the French realists, are still as intellectual, unexpected, and brilliant now as they were back then.

Yet, Poe's works don't have that depth to them. They're fun, simple Gothic tales, with ideas that particularly well in the later medium of film.

But are they truly timeless, deep masterpieces? Can an experienced reader going through his stories today still be deeply awed and impressed by them? I don't think so.

For me, 3/5 stars is a "good" book, but not a great one. Which is the way I think about Poe; a good albeit simplistic writer whose influence (mostly positive) exceeded his ability.