After much delay, I comment on the following stories from the anthology Tales of Mystery and Imagination, uncovered in the rot of a barely reachable upper shelf in a used bookstore of Rio de Janeiro.
Unifying characteristics: masterful use of language, gripping element of suspense, and an affinity for the macabre. Challenging prose by all means, yet engaging. One can observe Poe’s lasting imprint on so much of the posterior literature.
A Descent into the Maelstrom. A nightmarish scenario set in a Norwegian marine landscape, impeccably related. Reminded me of something Conrad might have written with a flair for the horroresque.
The Fall in the House of Usher. A fine example of a classic Gothic narrative. A decrepit house, characters of questionable psychosis, bleak environment, supernatural phenomena, the tale contains the right ingredients. As a bonus, provides a series of literary references of potential interest to readers. I hadn’t even heard of one of the Gothic genre pioneers, Ann Radcliffe, prior to this read.
The Pit and the Pendulum. Another classic Gothic narrative, this time set within the deathly chambers of the Spanish inquisition. Read twice. Not for the claustrophobic.
The Cask of Amontillado. A Gothic revenge tale. I particularly enjoyed the way Poe paints the creepy subterranean.
The Oval Portrait. A very short piece indeed that aims to entirely decompose and possess the depths of a portrait hanging in the room.
Loss of Breath. A satirical narrative of notably visceral, dark humor. A wonderful contrast to the typically moody tone inherent to this collection.
Shadow - a parable. Not certain if I understood the symbolism behind this one, even after a reread. It did, however, read beautifully.
Silence - a fable. Another one that I read twice for the pure visual it evokes. Written in a unique, rhythmic form. Reads almost as a form of meditation.
The Man of the Crowd. An urban adventure stroll. I read this one twice as well, something that I here particularly recommend, as the first attempt unravels an aspect that enhances the reading experience the second time around.
Some Words With a Mummy. Yet another witty satirical story of the few. If I was capable of genuine, unconstrained human laughter, this would be the one to evoke it. The title should speak for itself.
MS. Found in a Bottle. A seafaring adventure that I’m afraid I little grasped. If memory serves, it was the first in the anthology, which, considering my unfamiliarity with Poe’s body of work, hardly helped.
The Imp of the Perverse. Reads more like a well crafted and eloquently penned essay of a lunatic. But let that not make an ounce of difference.
The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar. An early rendition of the ‘body horror’ genre. I could imagine this a perfect source of inspiration for the film director David Cronenberg’s 80’s/90’s cinema (Scanners, Videodrone, Existenz).
The Gold Bug. Half an adventure tale set on an island off the coast of South Carolina, and half a cryptography showcase, of which it is said for Poe to have been one of the earliest innovators.
The Murders in the Rue Morgue. It is said to be one of the earlier detective narratives in at least the English language. Introduces the self-made investigator, Monsieur Dupin. I believe it spawned a number of film adaptions.
The Mystery of Marie Rogêt. Another Dupin detective tale, although this one is not for the impatient. It is written in the style of an over-analytical essay, and lacks that traditional element of an interminable short story flow.
The Purloined Letter. The third in the Dupin series, reads in the same engaging style as Rue Morgue.
Premature Burial. A macabre testament to one of Poe’s phobias, who is said to have been beset by many.
The Black Cat. Poe here appeals to the extremities of the grotesque. Like the Imp of the Perverse, written in the perspective of a man of questionable faculty, in what otherwise appears logical and coherent tongue.
The Mask of the Red Death. A fictitious epidemic scenario set in some uncertain medieval epoch. I had a stark recollection of having read this some 20+ years earlier in a school literature textbook. Beyond the obvious case of the title, this one basks of symbolism.
The Oblong Box. A suspense scenario on a ship among an aristocratic cast of questionable motive. One of the less memorable of the lot.
The Tell-Tale Heart. Yet another first-person confession of a madman. Poe indeed had a flair for the perverse.
Ligeia. A longer one, for a part of which I felt hopelessly lost in the rhetoric. It much deserves another read. Ligeia leverages aspects of the Gothic (not entirely unlike the House of Usher) and adds a touch of magic realism to surge over a century later, characteristic of Cortazar, Allende, Marquez and the likes.
William Wilson. A Doppelgänger novella reminiscent in spirit (although not writing style) to Dostoevsky’s the Double, the latter published not long after.
Questions, comments? Connect.