You Don’t Really Like Edgar Allan Poe

76652-004-60D7B595You think you do, but you don’t.

You think you do because you remember some of his stories from school: the one where the guy cuts up and buries his neighbor, the one where the guy buries the other guy alive in his cellar, the one where death ruins a party. Maybe you remember “The Raven” and thought it sounded cool.

But here’s the thing: those are probably the only pieces you know and, frankly, they’re not very representative of his body of work. They’re the greatest hits. They’re the ones we know kids might like.

Have you ever read much more of his stuff? It gets pretty dense. After the pieces mentioned above, textbooks tend to have “The Pit and the Pendulum” and “The Fall of the House of Usher.” The former is universally thought to be boring, what with a narrator who is constantly terrified and fainting at nothing, and the latter bores even the most ardent honors student to tears. I love the florid, Gothic prose of “Usher,” but students can’t stand a story so heavy on atmosphere and so light on action.

And the rest of his oeuvre gets worse from there. Try slogging your way through “Descent into the Maelstrom” some time. Took me a few tries to even finish that one.

This isn’t to say that Poe’s a bad writer who only wrote boring stuff. Far from it! Many of his other pieces are hidden gems (and this one is actually quite funny!).

But he is, frankly, overrated, and the pop culture adoration of him is rooted in naive nostalgia for a tiny fraction of his work. If more people read more of his work, rest assured the honeymoon would be over pretty quickly.

Now me, I’m more of a Lovecraft man.

2 comments on “You Don’t Really Like Edgar Allan Poe

  1. This is exactly how I feel about Lovecraft. Before I read through it all with HPPodcraft to guide me, I knew his name and recognized Cthulu, but I had no idea what he is really about. But if I say Lovecraft people go “oh yeah, I love him” but if I ask them about The Rats in the Walls or the Doom that came to Sarnath, they have no idea what I’m talking about.

  2. I do like Poe, actually. I own all his works, and I think there’s some enjoyable stuff in there.but I do tend to prefer some of the poetry. And I do like Lovecraft. He probably has more quality stuff although sometimes he suffers from having an idea that is better than his writing. But I love At The Mountains of Madness, for instance, and many others. Ashton Clarke Smith (i think I have his name right) also has some interesting stuff, although I am not as familiar. And Edgar Rice Burroughs and Robert Howard are also very entertaining pulp writers as well.

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