Sunday, 28 June 2015

The Tell-Tale Heart, by Edgar Allan Poe

5 stars

This Little Black Classic, comprising The Tell-Tale Heart, The Fall of The House of Usher and The Cask of Amontillado, is more than worth the 80p it took to own it. Having previously read and enjoyed The Raven, I knew I’d probably enjoy this but was pleasantly surprised at just how insanely good it actually was.

The pictures that I’ve seen of Poe all make him look like an interesting, if very spooky, dude:

This impression would be borne out by this book’s contents - all three tales are imbued with the mad and macabre – two told from the perspectives of murderers and the other dealing with grief – and while all seemed like simple, short stories, they still managed to be incredibly intense and packed with fantastic imagery, with their economy definitely adding to their effectiveness.

This one gets a slightly anxious and definitely spooked standing ovation. 

Saturday, 27 June 2015

The Goblin Market, by Christina Rosetti

2 stars

I should probably be a little more ashamed than I actually am to admit that, John Cooper Clarke aside, I've never really been very drawn to poetry. While this Little Black Classic was a bargain at just 80p, I can't say that it's succeeded in changing my mind.

I've been accused of being more than a little morbid in my time, but even I can't help but think that Christina Rosetti would have been a bit of a bummer to be around. Aside from the vague warnings on sex and sin that appear to make up the titular Goblin Market, most of this collection was preoccupied with death - whether it be the death of innocence, the death of seasons or death of the body. As well as making the collection feel a little repetitive, this made sure that while it was easy to fit one of these poems into a short lunch break, I also went back a little more depressed than I had been before. 

I can understand how this might appeal to others, but it's not for me.

Sunday, 21 June 2015

The Robber Bridegroom, by the Brothers Grimm

4 stars

This little collection of seven tales from the Brothers Grimm – The Master Huntsman, The Robber Bridegroom, The Devil’s Three Golden Hairs, The Six Servants, The Bremen Town Band, Snowwhite, and Lazy Harry – has definitely whet my whistle to read a bigger collection of their work.

The tales I remember from my childhood were occasionally grim, but I don’t remember them being as grisly as this – or as funny. I also seem to remember them having some sort of moral, but I’ll be blowed if I can think of what the morals of Lazy Harry and the Bremen Town Band were.

Taking in greedy, arrogant kings, lucky young men, unlucky princesses, clever animals, proud queens, forbidding forests, foul murderers, cannibalism, the Devil and his grandma, and dense young ladies who won’t listen when you tell them not to open the door to anyone, I can’t help but think that had the Brothers Grimm been around today they’d have probably been frogmarched from the offices of children’s publishers and targeted by a Daily Mail campaign.

As it is, someone needs to get on with adapting these older versions for film. I’d happily throw money at the chance to watch that.

Jason and Medea, by Apollonius of Rhodes

3 stars

I’ve always been a fan of Greek mythology, so when I saw this range of Penguin’s Little Black Classics (just 80p each – bargain!),  Jason and Medea was one of the first that my eager hands grabbed.

If you’re not already familiar with the story of Jason and the Argonauts this probably isn’t a very good place to start as it drops us straight into Jason reaching Colchis on his errand for the Golden Fleece, and being set an impossible task by Aeëtes – to yoke two flame breathing bulls and plow a field with serpents teeth which would sprout into an army of earth-born men who he must then defeat. 

Aided by Aeëtes daughter, Medea, Jason accomplishes the task – which is where this book ends.

If you’re after the full story then you’re likely to be dissatisfied (I’m always disappointed when we don’t get to hear the end of their tale, having long been a fan of the unhappy-ever-after ending), but if you want a quick dip into one of the more exciting parts of the tale, then this is the book for the job.