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American Gothic Tales (William Abrahams) Paperback – December 1, 1996
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
In this 1996 anthology, noted American author Joyce Carol Oates collects American tales of horror and/or the supernatural, from an excerpt from Wieland, or the Transformation (1798) by Charles Brockden Brown, to "Subsoil" (1994) by Nicholson Baker, so that the 50 stories here represent nearly 200 years of the darker side of the American psyche.
The stories, arranged in chronological order, show some clear trends. In early stories, by Brown, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and even Edgar Allan Poe, religion plays a prominent role. Interestingly, God and his creation are seen as at odds with one another. For example, in Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown," the forest and the darkness are where Satan meets humanity. "The Tartarus of Maids," an industrial creation of Herman Melville's, is set in a remote rural location, contrasted to another Melville story (not included here), "The Paradise of Bachelors," set in a London gentlemen's club. Perhaps this conviction that nature is a place of mystery, evil, and fear, explains the early (and current) American drive to conquer it.
Another theme is denial of responsibility for one's own terrible actions. When called to account for committing some of the most heinous crimes possible, Wieland's defense is inarguable: He has proved his faith in God by doing that which God desired of him. (Unlike Wieland, the reader will recognise that the "shrill voice" expressing God's bloody will from behind a "fiery stream" is more likely that of the fallen angel Lucifer.)
A second example is the famous Poe story, "The Black Cat," in which the narrator, noted from infancy for his "docility and humanity," becomes a cold-blooded maimer and killer of that which he loves most.Read more ›
Traditionally, Gothic literature deals with the dark and mysterious and with the tortured soul. I had great difficulty seeing some of these stories as being gothic at all. Some of these stories would better fit the category of "tales of the weird", but some don't even fit in that category. For example, there's a two-page story of a man leaving his wife and trying to wrest the baby from her arms in the dark. There's another with two men in a spaceship contemplating life. Another is merely a story of someone tripping on drugs.
Granted, there are some good gothic and weird stories here. The stories are placed in the book chronologically. Many of the earlier stories are anti-climatic with endings that are little more than a tiny "Boo!" (if that). Such a story is Oates' own attempt at a gothic story, "The Temple". Others are page-turners. In trying to put in some more obscure stories, she's left out better ones by the same author. For example, "Dr. Heidegger's Experiment" would have been a better Gothic literature choice for displaying Nathaniel Hawthorne's talents. And authors like H.P. Lovecraft and Edgar Allan Poe, who greatly inspired writers of this genre, should have more inclusions in the book.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A collection of suspenseful gothic tales that are fun reads. I bought this book for a class but ended up reading all of the stories multiple times even the ones that weren't... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Sarah F.
What a letdown. This anthology starts off great, using the Legend of Sleepy Hollow and a tale that could have been inspired by Cotton Mather himself, but it then devolves into a... Read morePublished 14 months ago by jaydynomite
The book was as promised, yes it was used but it had all the pages. The smell was a bit old too oldPublished 16 months ago by Not me
Good selection of tales. Not all of them are a hit. Some of them are more "weird tales" than truly "gothic," but I got a great price on it and some good reads and... Read morePublished 19 months ago by Liz in Indy
The collection assembled by Ms. Oates is superb. She has introduced me to the genre of Gothic writings and I am absolutely grateful for having purchased this anthology. Read morePublished on April 6, 2014 by Betty Bookworm
Oates writes a short but convincing Introduction which links our gothic horror genre to our Puritan past. First story is from Charles Brockden Brown's novel Wieland of 1798. Read morePublished on March 6, 2014 by Harrington B. Laufman
Wonderful collection of short stories. Really enjoyed reading them all!!! Would recommend it to others. Cheap for my class tooPublished on January 12, 2014 by dando
This book was very well put together and very well formatted with all the mixtures of different types and genres of gothic stories. Read morePublished on December 4, 2013 by swood556