Michael Dirda offers a thoughtful assessment of Poe’s career.
My initial puzzlement about Edgar Allan Poe (1809-49) was hardly surprising. His fiction can seem too rhetorical, too thickly textured, too literary for most young people. Still, Basil Rathbone’s recording did persuade me to give the writer another try—sometime. The opportunity finally arose in high school when I opened my new English textbook and discovered the revenge story “The Cask of Amontillado.” In class, our teacher emphasized Poe’s use of irony and guessed, like many other readers and critics, that the narrator Montresor was speaking to a priest. The phrase “You, who so well know the nature of my soul” could obviously be addressed to one’s confessor. But I wasn’t quite convinced of this. —The Weekly Standard