Book Notes—Edgar Allan Poe Stories and Poems

Perverseness is one of the primitive impulses of the human heart.  (The Black Cat)

Just in time for the Halloween onslaught, Spotify Free has released Caedmon Audio’s Basil Rathbone & Vincent Price Read Edgar Allan Poe Stories and Poems, five hours of the Master-of-Macabre’s greatest hits performed by two Shakespeareans titans. Poe’s work, noted for its exacting logic, comes to life with Rathbone’s narration as it summons his eminent Sherlock Holmes. And Price’s gently horrific quirkiness, last showcased in Edward Scissorhands, is ideal for Poe’s perverse imagination. Beware though; archaic speech coupled with many rushed and whispered passages make this recording a better accompaniment than a main course. I recommend following along in print as the voices wash you. There are countless free PDFs of each title available for download.

Scholars take note, however; some of the longer stories, including the hugely popular The Fall of the House of Usher (23 minutes) and The Pit and the Pendulum (over 30 minutes), have been heavily abridged, lending them a modern terseness that I find refreshing. Poe does have a tendency to go on at length when he might well trust the reader. But other stories are read in their entirety: The Black Cat, for example, is 36 minutes well-spent. Her is a tale any felinophobe will appreciate for its spot-on descriptions of the animal’s seeming malevolence in overstepping its welcome.

You can listen at but be aware some of the audio levels are so unnaturally low as to be little more than a ghostly whisper. The works I found to be inaudible on my laptop, however, were fine on my Spotify phone app. Happy listening!