"To the tolling of the bells"
No other writer evokes horror in its rawest, most human form like Edgar Allan Poe. Sometimes his stories are a blunt force trauma while others are drilled into the mind using precision instruments of terror. His themes and depictions of people's greatest fears are very diverse and uniquely constructed, more visceral in some aspects but also cerebral in execution for a select few. This anthology The Tell-Tale Heart and Other Writings is comprised of his finest works in short story and poetry forms tackling what is readily terrifying, certain terrors that elude the psyche, and the unfortunate ways human beings transform into the very monsters they fear.
With seventeen gruesome tales and sixteen morbid poems, this anthology is a must-have for any aficionado of the genre. The prose that Poe crafts in each of his pieces is spellbinding; we get descriptive ramblings of mad men and women, psychologically layered instances and premonitions, and frightening yet subtle symbolisms plus debated interpretations of each work. Reading his short stories transport you right into the disturbed minds of irredeemable individuals who heed the call of misery and darkness, acting both predator and prey of their own machinations and failures.
His best pieces are those that make readers experience paranoia and dissociation themselves and such stories have become a classic for that very reason. The titular The Tell-Tale Heart is a brief yet searing account of a man haunted by his macabre misdeed while The Black Cat and The Cask of Armontillado have characters who commit murders for reasons somewhat hollow and petty; the former was discovered in the most absurd way possible while the other was successful in concealing it but is forever tainted after the fact. We also have allegorical pieces such as The Masque of Red Death, The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar, and A Descent in the Maelstorm which evoke a series of unavoidable misfortunes, marking its characters in blood and death.
And then we have tales that have more non-conclusive interpretations and resolutions such as The Fall of the House of Usher, Ligeria, The Pit and the Pendulum and The Premature Burial. All four of these stories are imaginative and insidious, dealing with fantastical elements and spine-tingling primitive fears that plague as all, only if we allow ourselves to contemplate deeper about them. A few other stories deal with catastrophic, life-altering conflicts which are found in Ms. Found in a Bottle and Silence--A Fable. And then we have the character-centric baffling accounts of William Wilson, Eleanora, and The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, the last of which has the most trying length.
Before there was ever a more defined detective genre and its formulaic elements, Poe has created C. Auguste Dupin, the first crime reasoner who used deductive reasoning in solving criminal cases that later on inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle with his more famous great detective Sherlock Holmes. Dupin only appeared in two stories, The Murders in Rue Morgue and The Purloined Letter which deserve multiple readings to be acquire a more nuanced appreciation for the groundwork and thought process that Poe has employed in characterizing his detective and resolving the plots.
After readers had their fill of his gripping short stories, they can move on to the assortment of his poems which offer a more economical way of slaking their interest and intrigue for the memorably horrific and sometimes even upsetting concepts regarding ailments and discord that people will always find themselves caught up in and often not overcoming. Poe's poetic style is refined and elegant in a lot of respects but there are moments of sporadic contemplations and truly intense retrospective epiphanies that will keep reeling readers in. I personally enjoyed Israfel, The City in the Sea, The Valley of the Unrest, The Sleeper, The Bells and Alone.
With a vigorous and daring marksmanship in which he penned his works with, Poe's prose is very much alive--rustling, palpitating, throbbing, moaning and groaning and every other vivid ways that may drive weaker minds mad upon reading. His tales are cavernous places, buried deep in the recesses of our minds we never fully acknowledge. But every so often we can hear them calling for us--like a bell tolling from a distance--or the low, persistent humming of a heartbeat; whether concealed in a crypt, lodged inside a bottle in the middle of an ocean or has made itself comfortable right under our very beds where we believe we are most safe when we really aren't.