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Fantastic Tales: Visionary and Everyday Paperback – October 27, 1998

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 608 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage (October 27, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679755446
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679755449
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #969,556 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

The brilliant Italian writer Italo Calvino (1923-1985) compiled Fantastic Tales: Visionary and Everyday, a historical overview of great fantastic literature of the 19th century. Many of his 26 selections are from well-known authors (Sir Walter Scott, Honoré de Balzac, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, Ivan Turgenev, Guy de Maupassant, Robert Louis Stevenson, Henry James, Rudyard Kipling, and H.G. Wells), but Calvino largely avoided their best-known stories; the only inclusions likely to be familiar to many Americans are Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown," Poe's "The Tell-Tale Heart," and H.G. Wells's "The Country of the Blind." The remaining contributors range from moderately well-known to obscure. So the reader who purchases Fantastic Tales gains not only an intelligently annotated anthology of superb fiction, but, in one pleasant sense, a collection of mostly new stories.

Interestingly, some of the finest stories are by authors least known in America. Théophile Gautier's beautifully written, wrenchingly ironic "The Beautiful Vampire" establishes the traditions for romantic vampire fiction. Mérimée's "The Venus of Ille," a tale of culture clashes (Parisian and rural, ancient classical, and contemporary Christian), is sharp, well-written, and uncommonly horrific. With the gorgeous "A Lasting Love," the sole woman contributor, Vernon Lee, paints the most vivid portrait of obsessive, transcendent, destructive love.

Caveat: Calvino's introductions sometimes reveal more of the plot than readers will like. --Cynthia Ward

From Library Journal

The famed Italian novelist and folk literature scholar Calvino (1923-85) assembled a rich and wide-ranging anthology of 26 fantastic tales from the 19th century, first published in Italian in 1983. The collection includes imaginative selections from the pen of famed writers such as Nathaniel Hawthorne, Nikolai Gogol, Edgar Allan Poe, Charles Dickens, H.G. Wells, and Ivan Turgenev. The illuminating introduction traces the fantastic story from the beginning of 19th-century German Romanticism, with special attention to E.T.A. Hoffman (1766-1822), proclaimed the greatest author of the genre. Each of the stories, carefully selected, leaps immediately into intrigue and engages the reader with macabre descriptions and challenging juxtapositions. Concise, informative headnotes precede each story, identifying the author and the story's significance. These fascinating tales, along with Calvino's thoughtful comments, will be enjoyed by mature readers from the high school level and beyond.?Richard K. Burns, MSLS, Hatboro, Pa.
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By goblinmarket on June 28, 2000
Format: Paperback
The stories collected in this volume span through some several hundred years and many languages. The authors represented wrote not only in the genre of the fantastic, they are recognized masters. But here we find their finest, eeriest, most bizarre and phantasmagoric tales. Reading through the book provides a real sense of the development of the ghost story and the fantasy through the years.
Perhaps of even greater importance, for those of us who are Calvino fans, we can see what stories the Italian fabulist cherished most, what he read and what influenced him. He places each book in a historical and literary context, and the opening essay is truly key to understanding Calvino's theories of the fantastic, which in themselves make this book worth buying!
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Format: Paperback
Italo Calvino has collected 26 of his favorite imaginary tales here and, since each tale is worthy of its own review, I will chose one of my personal favorites: `The Holes in the Mask' by French fin-de-siècle decadent writer Jean Lorrain (1855-1906). Below is a brief synopsis of Lorrain's 6-page gem along with my observations on how his tale relates to several themes of decadent literature.

During a night of carnival, bedecked in his domino cloak, velvet mask, satin beard, silk stockings and dancing shoes, our 1st person narrator watches two long white candles burn in his bachelor apartment as he awaits the arrival of his friend, De Jacquels. No sooner does De Jacquels arrive, similarly dressed, then both men are off, traveling through the dark streets of Paris in a horse-drawn carriage. The two friends arrive at a strange high ceilinged hall with a well-stocked wine and liquor bar and De Jacquels tells him to remain silent, since to speak would reveal their identities, which would mean trouble.

The hall is filled with men and women dressed in bizarre costumes and wearing masks, some of the masks truly ghastly. De Jacquels drags him back to a door closed off by a red curtain. `Entrance to the Dance' is written above the door and a policeman stands guard, a policeman, the narrator realizes with horror and disgust when he touches one of his hand, made of wax. Once inside, the narrator finds more strangeness: this room is really an abandoned church and none of the maskers are dancing nor is there an orchestra.

After hours of roaming the hall, the narrator sees even more strangeness as he scrutinizes the maskers. We read, "There they remained, mute, motionless, as if withdrawn into mystery under long monk's cowls . . .
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5 of 11 people found the following review helpful By _mads on July 12, 2001
Format: Paperback
I was instead disappointed. I enjoyed Italo's Italian Folktakes so much that I thought this would be another endless read. Instead, I found it dry and methodical. While some of the stories were intriguing, the majority were immature works created by talented authors. Meaning, many of the stories just didn't have the direction, plot, or moral I expect from a "fantastic tale."
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