Customer Reviews: Ambrose Bierce: The Devil's Dictionary, Tales, and Memoirs (Library of America)
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on December 26, 2011
Since Amazon doesn't give a complete listing of the contents, I thought I would. Hopefully somebody might find this of use:


A Horseman in the Sky
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge
A Son of the Gods
One of the Missing
Killed at Resaca
The Affair at Coulter's Notch
The Coup de Grâce
Parker Adderson, Philosopher
An Affair of Outposts
The Story of a Conscience
One Kind of Officer
One Officer, One Man
George Thurston
The Mocking-Bird

The Man Out of the Nose
An Adventure at Brownville
The Famous Gilson Bequest
The Applicant
A Watcher by the Dead
The Man and the Snake
A Holy Terror
The Suitable Surroundings
The Boarded Window
A Lady from Red Horse
The Eyes of the Panther


Can Such Things Be?
The Death of Halpin Frayser
The Secret of Macarger's Gulch
One Summer Night
The Moonlit Road
A Diagnosis of Death
Moxon's Master
A Tough Tussle
One of Twins
The Haunted Valley
A Jug of Sirup
Staley Fleming's Hallucination
A Resumed Identity
A Baby Tramp
The Night-Doings at "Deadman's"
Beyond the Wall
A Psychological Shipwreck
The Middle Toe of the Right Foot
John Mortonson's Funeral
The Realm of the Unreal
John Bartine's Watc
The Damned Thing
Haýýti the Shepherd
An Inhabitant of Carcosa
The Stranger

The Ways of Ghosts
Present at a Hanging
A Cold Greeting
A Wireless Message
An Arrest

A Man with Two Lives
Three and One Are One
A Baffled Ambuscade
Two Military Executions

Some Haunted Houses
The Isle of Pines
A Fruitless Assignment
A Vine on a House
At Old Man Eckert's
The Spook House
The Other Lodgers
The Thing at Nolan

"Mysterious Disappearances"
The Difficulty of Crossing a Field
An Unfinished Race
Charles Ashmore's Trail


On a Mountain
What I Saw of Shiloh
A Little of Chickamauga
The Crime at Pickett's Mill
Four Days in Dixie
What Occurred at Franklin
'Way Down in Alabam'
Working for an Empress
Across the Plains
The Mirage
A Sole Survivor

Mrs. Dennison's Head
The Man Overboard
Jupiter Doke, Brigadier-General
A Bottomless Grave
For the Ahkoond
My Favorite Murder
Oil of Dog
Ashes of the Beacon
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on October 2, 2011
This is a can't miss treat for the literary or the civil war buff. Give it as a gift if you want to be remembered.

Bierce is a strange, haunting writer. He comes directly to us in this printing as unedited and sans commentary. Bierce's heavy burden from a rather severe Civil War post-traumatic stress disorder is central to his writings. His `Devil's Dictionary' is frequently quoted but it may do Bierce an injustice as a sort of typecasting to be considered without exploring the full dimensions of the prolific writer in his time and place.

Bierce can be accessed online. The power of Bierce's work for me is captured in his short essay "A Son of the Gods". If you've not sampled Bierce before, give this one a try. It's among those in this collection. It's a rare author that can pull a tear and possess the readers mind's eye. Ambrose Bierce is an author who seizes on simple moments to create a stunning story.

Bierce is a 19th century socio-rhetorical everyman, however, at core, he's like no other witness of the times. His post war stories on the quirks of his San Francisco newspaper beat are thoroughly entertaining. Bierce writes on many topics with an acerbic and cynical tone and elsewhere he writes as a man forged by discipline and fire. He can be genteel. He can be over the top. He can be moving and empathetic. He can be rough as a cob. There is an essential human reflection to be considered in every tale. In the 21st century, his word choices and usage are `quaint' but quite readable although you cannot escape a feeling that already, some meaning is overcome by the intervening 150 years. I'd wager that in another hundred years his material will need a `modern translation' as language moves on.

Bierce comes to us by way of his experience from the Civil War's own variation of Special Operations. The enormous battles he experienced would seem enough but Bierce provided himself to constant, daily frontline action in too many skirmishes to detail as a soldier of reconnaissance, surveillance and topographically mapping the next killing field. Every Bierce sentence and thought is anchored in his incredible battlefield pedigree from Shiloh, Corinth, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, Kennesaw Mountain, Atlanta and the March to the Sea. On and on Bierce covertly scouts for both Sherman and Grant and then to join the front lines in the open field as a soldier when the scouting was done. He seems to possess a unique ability to interject the eye of the strategist into the micro-travails of his subject. That the young Bierce survived at all to write of the first-person experience seems a miracle.

As a newspaper writer and a short story essayist, Bierce wrote more than can be bound. In this collection of his `popular' works, he deals with his demons in general society ... jaded, haunted and unrelenting. Bierce provides a consistently powerful reading experience. Curiously, Rod Serling had to have been close to Bierce's writings. Serling's Twilight Zone introductory signature line, "the place ..., the time ..." is directly from the "Mocking-Bird". You will easily recognize elements adapted to many TV and movie scripts.

The reader is well served by this high quality Library of America publication. One can debate the collection for completeness but it is certainly good enough in nearly 900 'bible print' pages. 5-star superb.
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on October 30, 2011
This is quite a good collection of some of Ambrose Bierce's best works of fiction and non-fiction in a nice compact hardback volume. The publisher is the prestigious "Library of America" which has been anthologizing for years those books regarded as the best and most significant ever produced in the literary history of the United States. When I heard that they were going to put into circulation some of Bierce's writings I could only thought: "Wow, about time!!!". You know, Bierce has always been something of an outsider and despite the more than evident quality of his writing (he has more substance than Mark Twain and is the best stylist of his generation) his figure and works remain not very well known or appreciated. Proof of this is the fact that "The Library of America" had even published the works of pulp writers like H.P. Lovecraft or Dashiell Hammett before Bierce's (who is the much better author). For many, he is still just the guy who wrote "The Devil's Dictionary" (a cruel satirical volume inconsistently marketed as "a book of humour") and that quaint short story of a man about to be hanged who sees the events of his life passing before him. This is a pity, but the truth is that Bierce's style and grim usual themes are not for everyone and that his unrelenting acerbic wit coupled with his biased opinions can disgust many people as they confront them against some very uncomfortable truths. Anyway, it is beyond this humble reviewer's remit to change the world's ways in that respect.

This new volume is an excellent introduction for anyone wishing to penetrate into the dark, witty and ingenious world of the most genuine satirist and maverick America has ever produced. It includes his two main volumes of short-stories "Can Such Things Be?" and "Tales of Soldiers and Civilians". "The Devil's Dictionary" is also contained inside the package, though the version reprinted here is not the most complete and comprehensive to date. Other works included are his civil war auto-biographical sketches and a final assortment of grotesque and wildly humorous stories. In my opinion, some missing masterpieces like "The Parenticide Club" or "Fantastic Fables" should have been included as well. Bierce thought that the novel was nothing short of an artifice and didn't care at all for it, so don't look for any long prose work here, only brief lessons by a true master. American literature does not get much better than this, anyway.

In short, this anthology dedicated to Ambrose Bierce constitutes a very good excuse to discover an outstanding (though somewhat underrated) man of words who excelled in all the narrative genres he cultivated and whose works are one of the last hidden gems buried under American letters.
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on October 20, 2011
A recent WSJ review sparked my interest, and...well, where has AB been? Or where has this slacker been, more likely! A wonderful writer from 150yrs. ago and the finest shortstory genius I have ever enjoyed. Such writing with such wisdom is rare indeed! Probably, everyone knows AB well. A must read to newbies like me. Wonderful, wonderful, Mr. Welk was fond of saying. Congrats to the Lib. of America for giving us mainliners another chance to enjoy this giant from the War Between the States (heh! heh!). Buy it, Mikey will like it!
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on March 30, 2013
they should teach this author in high school-and also in college-his style of writing is clearly 19th century-he examines his own experiences during the civil war and sometimes his writing details the horrifying details of that conflict-also his fiction parallels that of Poe, a contemporary-you will not be disapointed
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on July 28, 2015
I bought this book to get a feel for The Civil War, since Ambrose Bierce was a soldier and later chronicler of the bloody war between the states. I enjoyed re-reading 'An Occurence At Owl Creek Bridge' and some of the clever word definitions found in The Devil's Dictionary. But, his style of writing is not for everybody.
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on February 6, 2015
Wonderful volume from the Library of America (which is, by the way, a non-profit yeah, go support it!) as usual. The book is compact and is not heavy or large like a textbook--this is due to its thin pages and smaller (but readable!) font.

As for the author, Ambrose Bierce is my favorite. For me, he has a laugh-out-loud sense of humor, but it does not get in the way of the impact his stories have on the reader. I would also suggest this volume of his poems (yep, he wrote poems too!) for further reading on Bierce:

Overall, awesome stuff!
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on March 31, 2016
If you've never read Bierce (An Occurance at Owl Creek Bridge? I thought everyone had read that!), this is a great thing to get. I had never read his accounts of his service in the Civil War, and found them extremely interesting, even though I bought this mainly for The Devil's Dictionary. I cannot recommend this too highly.
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on November 18, 2014
From my college days I've owned a copy of Ambrose Bierce's "Devil's Dictionary," but I had not known his short stories. His stories set in the U.S. Civil War are among the toughest and most honest about the nature and brutality of war ever, from an era when war was too much romanticised. Awesome.
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on January 31, 2016
This is one of the great ones. Really. As a great sampler of this master's work I highly recommend it. True it is missing a few great things but no matter for a one stop Ambrose Bierce book one can hardly do better.

So many people over the years have misinterpreted Bierce. Missed his dark humor, his insights into human life and death.

I do wish some more of his writings on Politics could have been included because readers would see how far we have not advanced in the political arena since the late 19th century.

Still what is here is the thing dreams (and nightmares) are made of.

His Civil War writings fiction and nonfiction remain pretty much the gold standard on the subject. He had an advantage- he was there. Strangely he shows more respect toward his Southern foes that he fought (and shot him in the head at Kennesaw Mountain Georgia) than people have had toward them in the after times that weren't there. Just call it a peculiarity of the American character. Read especially 'Way down in Alabam' as it paints a excellent picture of the immediate post war South and just has some excellent turns of phrases (who can forget the smuggler's simple statement of faith "I am an Atheist by God"). Oh, wonderful stuff.

The fiction is filled to the brim with classics. 'The Devil's Dictionary' extraordinary. The Civil War autobiographic pieces stunning including 'What I saw of Shiloh' still one of the greatest things ever written about war by an American. He had a way with phrases that is incredible. The words he knew and employed he fielded them like armies and he has much more humor than people give him credit for.

Too bad 'Fantastic Fables' wasn't fitted in because that has some very playful humor that is still spot on about hypocrisy.

He is one of the greats. He should be remembered hopefully for all time (or a least until the Sun burns out).

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