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I was completely unfamiliar with Poe's prose before launching into this collection of his complete stories. I must say that I wish I had bought a 'Best Of Poe' rather than a Complete Poe. The sad truth is that a lot of the stories are pretty rubbish. His philosophising about death and aesthetics is dull, his humourous pieces range from self-indulgent to racist (the Dutch being particular targets) and the early romantic horror pieces are suffused with the icky self-loathing that you might get from an author who married his thirteen-year-old cousin and was then habitually unfaithful to her.

It's not all bad. Most of the really famous stories, the ones I had previously heard of, were indeed worth reading - Arthur Gordon Pym (I smiled when I saw the letters familiar to me from Ethiopia), the Dupin stories (though Sherlock rightly observes that he himself is better), the Fall of the House of Usher, the Cask of Amontillado, and basically everything that Zelazny references in his A Dark Travelling. Two stories I had not heard of that I also enjoyed were the end-of-the-world tale of Eiros and Charmion, and the doppelganger yarn of William Wilson. But Poe wrote an awful lot of rubbish as well, and you can skip it in good conscience.

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