J.G. Keely's Reviews > The Complete Stories and Poems

The Complete Stories and Poems by Edgar Allan Poe
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Nov 30, 07

bookshelves: short-story, horror, mystery, reviewed, gothic, poetry, america
Read in January, 2006

Not many people outside of literary study or detective fiction fandom realize that the character of Sherlock Holmes was inspired by Poe's Dupin. Dupin was the brilliant and insightful idle noble who occasionally aided the authorities in particularly difficult cases. However, unlike Holmes, Dupin took it up merely as a hobby, mimicking Holmes' brother Mycroft.

I'm not fond of Poe's poetry. Emerson's leveling of 'Jingle Man' is appropriate. Poe puts sounds together, but usually says very little with them. It is unusual that his prose was so varied while his poetry tended to obsessive repetition. Poe presents an example of the turning point when poetry ceased to represent the most complex and dense literary form (as in Milton and Eliot) and became the most frivolous and unrefined (the beat poets), while prose moved contrarily from the light-hearted to the serious.

When divorced from his single-minded prosody, Poe's mastery of the language elegantly serves the needs of mood, characterization, and action. This is not always the case: his Ligeia retains his poetic narrowness, but his detective stories have a gentleness and wit found nowhere else in his oeuvre.

The three Dupin stories helped to inspire detective fiction, using suspense and convoluted mystery to tantalize and challenge the reader. He may not have been as influential or innovative as Wilkie Collins, but his contribution still stands.

Any book of Poe's is worth purchasing simply for these three stories. They are studies in the careful use of language to develop mood, character, and drive--even in a sparse plot. They are not quite the equals of Ambrose Bierce's short fiction, but they are solid enough.
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Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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message 1: by Jesse (new)

Jesse I agree with your review, Keely, especially regarding Poe's poetry. It seems I am the only person in the world who feels absolutely nothing after reading "The Raven" or "Lenore." Even the verse incorporated into his tales left me wanting. In addition to the usual suspects of anthologized favorites, I am impressed by "William Wilson," particularly in how, in my view, the house acts as a double of Wilson's own mind.

J.G. Keely Ah, I skipped around in this collection and I missed that story. I'll have to go back and peruse it. Thanks for the suggestion.

message 3: by Labhaoise (new)

Labhaoise Seoighe I can see similarities between Dupin and Poroit

J.G. Keely I have not read Christie, but I am familiar with the David Suchet series. Dupin and Poirot are both native speakers of French . . .

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