Great Short Works of Edgar Allan Poe

Back in the day, when I was a college student in the late 70’s and early 80’s, the works of Edgar Allan Poe were sort of discarded by the elite English department at the university I attended. Seldom was his name even mentioned, and when it was, it was just in passing. The works of Shakespeare, Dante, Byron, Keats, Shelly, Joyce, Proust, Dostoevsky, Tolstoy were deemed far more important to the works of Poe…and maybe they are…or maybe not?

Thankfully, I decided to read Poe on my own time. After all, I had a strange adolescent connection to the famous writer, which I will explain later. Poe, at this time, had become more of a famous occult figure than a serious writer… Thanks to Hollywood and other media outlets.

After reading Poe for the first time, I was greatly impressed. His writing style I found to be very similar to my favorite writer of all time, Joseph Conrad, and to another writer I greatly admired, F. Scott Fitzgerald. All three writers were very descriptive; even though their subject matters were vastly different.

A few days ago, while looking through my library at home, I picked up the “The Great Short Works of Edgar Allan Poe” and flipped through it and read the notes I made in the margins. I then decided to re-read the entire collection, which is comprised of his many poems and numerous short stories and tales. I found a few stories too long with sentences that seemed to run on for eternity, a few of the stories and tales very good, and the vast majority of short stories, tales, and poems extraordinary works of literature.

“The Assignation,” “Berenice,” “The Fall of the House of Usher” The Murders in the Rue Morgue,” “The Oval Portrait,” “The Masque of the Red Death,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” The Tell Tale Heart” “The Premature Burial,” and “The Cask of Amontillado” are works of pure literary genius… All studies in the art of great storytelling, character development, and the poetry and beauty of words. I can only hope that today all students of literature are being taught and exposed to these wonderful works … If not, that is a real crime.

Back to my adolescent connection to Mr. Poe … When I was just a mere teenager, drunk and high on certain drugs …. My friends and I used to walk up to “Poe’s Cottage” just off the Fordham University Campus in the Bronx. The place was in total disarray and there were more people inside the cottage and on the grounds partying than I think Mr. Poe, with his wonderful imagination, could ever have imagined. I used to think, even back then, what a crime it was that such a landmark was allowed to be so run down and disrespected in so many ways.

Today, I am happy to report that the Cottage and surrounding grounds have been restored to their once grandeur and there are no longer any loiters, drug addicts, or alcololics like myself hanging around but students passing through on school trips.

When I moved to Los Angeles in 1982, I went for quite a long time without a job and naturally had very little money to buy food; nevertheless books. Thankfully, in Westwood Village where I lived there were many wonderful bookstores. One bookstore in particular, was so huge (with two levels) that it looked more like a Library. On the second level, they had tables where one was allowed to read. Naturally, this little Heaven on earth is where I used to hang out and read books that I so wanted but could not afford. It was in this bookstore, that I decided to memorize my favorite poems and passages in books so that, regardless of where I was or under whatever circumstances, they would always be with me. The first poem I put to memory and have recited almost everyday since was Poe’s romantic masterpiece, “Annabel Lee.” According to my lovely wife, it was when I recited this poem to her that she fell in love with me.

In closing, let me recite the closing stanza:

For the moon never beams, without bringing me dreams
Of the beautiful Annabel Lee;
And the stars never rise, but I feel the bright eyes
Of the beautiul Annabel Lee;
And so, all the night-tide, I lie down by the side
Of my darling – my darling – my life and my bride,
In her sepulchre there by the sea –
In her tomb by the sounding sea.

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