Review of Edgar Allan Poe: Collected Works by Edgar Allan Poe

It was nice to pick up a leather bound edition of Poe for my Halloween rereading of his stories. 

I rediscovered amazing stories like “King Pest” and “The Devil in the Belfry.” this activity reminded me of the many qualities I admire about his writing.

I was disappointed in the presentation of the text, however, in the Canterbury Edition. The editing and formatting is inferior to the Library of America edition and even some digital editions I’ve obtained with innumerable errors which occasionally obscure the meaning of the text.

The Leather binding is sound but the design feels a little cartoonish. I prefer the gold leaf arabesques of my Franklin Library classics to Canterbury’s modern covers. Still, as one of the few publishers still putting out leather bound classics, I want them to better represent the tradition by properly examining the text for formatting errors.

I also own their edition of Les Miserables and Stevenson. Of the three this is the only one with microscopic font. The editions are also conspicuously lacking in illustrations.

I hope someone eventually gives Poe the proper treatment and prints his complete works in elegant leather with profuse illustrations, but until then I can settle for this and my several other editions of his works. He is an endlessly entertaining author who excelled at satire, horror, mystery, science fiction and adventure. His fiction output was relatively small compared to Verne or Wells, but one gets the sense that his powers were thereby concentrated.

The body of his criticism, essays, reviews, letters and marginalia is more massive and often less interesting, but I have come to the point where I wish to appreciate even his dry jottings in printed form. He remains one of my favorite authors for the delight of his descriptions and the majesty of his sentences. Less than subtle, the majority of his works are pure description, or narrative, sufficing to entrance through their pure suggestion of form and feature. A few dramatic pieces intersperse his dark and haunting tales, explicating mystical conceits and futuristic speculations. He composed a series of conversations between figures beyond time in a method anticipating Lovecraft with such stories as “The Colloquy of Monos and Una” and “The Conversation of Eiros and Charmion.”

“Some Words with a Mummy,” contains some of his strangest ideas and his usual caricatures, striking as they are ridiculous. He displays a fascination or possibly an obsession with Mesmerism, which was in fashion at the time, and fails to root out its full and modern applications, instead speculating as is his custom on its metaphysical uses – most powerfully in “The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar.”

I will make no mention of the six or seven masterpieces which are so thoroughly anthologized, adapted and consumed by the modern reader that portions of their imagery are lodged in the collective unconscious. I do think there are many hidden treasures in Poe’s fiction which are rarely mentioned anymore. It is a grave mistake to simply read the most famous stories and move on to something else before coming to know the full taste of his inventive capacities in his obscurer works.

Despite its flaws, Poe’s immaculate and sinister writing style is adaptable and always entertaining. His work was the beginning of my discovery of the power of literature later to be consummated in the works of Dostoyevsky, Dickens, and many others. This book is a fine gateway drug into macabre storytelling techniques.

Review of The Unabridged Edgar Allan Poe by Edgar Allan Poe

ISBN 0894712330 (ISBN13: 9780894712333)

When choosing which single volume of Poe’s to keep in my collection I settled on this one. 

I decided against the Library of America edition of the tales due to conspicuous absences in the Table of Contents. This one has all of my favorite poems, stories and a few essays. I supplemented this with the LOA edition of his Reviews and the Delphi Complete Works ebook edition, chiefly for the letters. You would be hard-pressed to find a more delightful volume of Poe than this one, even if it is missing a few gems (like Eureka). It has pretty much all of my favorites.
He was the kind of author I will reread for life. I rarely grow tired of his semi-Gothic prose and lyrical poetry. Ever since reading Tell-Tale Heart, Pit and the Pendulum, Cask of Amontillado in middle school, I’ve cherished this large tome for the wealth of memories attached to it. I remember reading Pym and being amazed (in high school) and rereading The Raven a hundred times in an abortive attempt to memorize it. Most charming of all, perhaps, are the illustrations in this omnibus. If only LOA would take their work more seriously, stop leaving out key works from their authors and invest in illustrated pages. These editions from this publisher may be getting hard to find, but I also picked up their first volume of Twain as well.
If you are debating about reading Poe, do yourself the favor of reading his Complete Tales, in any form – even ebook – and if you can afford it, stick this one on your shelf.