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McSweeney's Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories Paperback


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McSweeney's Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories + McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; First Edition edition (November 16, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400078741
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400078745
  • Product Dimensions: 8 x 6.4 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #975,717 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

With this varied collection of enchanting though not always astonishing tales, Chabon (who also edited McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales) aims for an anthology full of "genre bending and stylistic play." There's quite a lineup of writers taking a stab at "genre" fiction here: many expected (Margaret Atwood, Stephen King), but a few surprises as well, and a newcomer or two. Atwood offers a fantastical tale of a human "lusus naturae" (freak of nature) who suffers from a nameless disease that results in yellow eyes, red fingernails and fangs—how does such a creature fit into a family? Jonathan Lethem's charming "Vivian Relf," which concerns two strangers who seem familiar to each other and who continue to cross each others' paths, is a kind of love story, but there are also tales creepy (Jason Roberts's "7C") and strange (China Miéville's "Reports of Certain Events in London"). Stephen King's "Lisey and the Madman" is full of engaging detail and feeling. While a couple of stories fail to reach the high-water mark, this collection will offer readers plenty of pleasure and perhaps even a sense of doing good (an endnote says that "this book benefits 826 Valencia," the San Francisco writing lab founded by Dave Eggers and Co.).
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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By J. N. Mohlman VINE VOICE on December 8, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
In his excellent introduction to "McSweeney's Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories", Michael Chabon decries what one might call the "genre-fication" of modern literature. He quite rightly points out that there is romance in the fantastic, science fiction in the literary, mystery in romance, etc., etc. It is therefore the stated ambition of this collection to gather authors who would otherwise not be lined up side by side, in an effort to blur these distinctions of genre, and introduce the reader to new styles and authors. I am glad to report that the result is spectacularly successful. While there is no connection between the stories, the uniformly excellent writing and passion displayed by the contributors results in a collection of diverse entries that somehow works as a whole.

The collection begins with Margaret Atwood's "Lusus Naturae" which immediately captures the spirit of the book with a romantic/gothic/science fiction entry. An ideal first piece, it sets the tone for the subsequent entries. Next is the remarkable David Mitchell with "What You Do Not Know You Want"; a noir-ish mystery with a supernatural twist. Readers of his recent "Cloud Atlas" will particularly enjoy this entry as it definitely echoes the themes and settings of that work. Moreover, like Atwood's entry, this blurring of genres adds to the cohesiveness of the work as a whole.

Jonathan Lethem's "Vivian Relf" carries things forward with an enigmatic romance written in a literary style. It is a classic short story, and a good change of pace which keeps the reader on their toes. Next is "Minnow" by Ayelet Waldman which probably had more of an impact on me than any other stories.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Royce E. Buehler on January 23, 2005
Format: Paperback
There must be millions of us who share Michael Chabon's enjoyment of both literary fiction and genre fiction, and count among our greatest pleasures works that live on the border between. But it's not that easy to summon up that borderland at will, and in this grab bag of poplit, dallying with the genres of fantasy, thriller, and horror, there are as many pieces that fizzle as there are pieces that pop.

I agree with the other reviewers that the finest of the lot is from the hitherto unkown Jason Roberts, whose "7C" ushers in the end of the world with the intensity of delirium, the clarity of a theorem, and a chilling tendresse all its own. By itself, it's worth the price of entry. We will, I hope, be hearing much more from Roberts.

No one experiments with the Gothic form more freely or successfully than Joyce Carol Oates, and her Poe tribute "The Fabled Lighthouse at Vina del Mar", with its claustrophobic Galapogan landscape of mental decay, is another high point. Daniel Handler's "Delmonico" is another tribute, bringing Spider Robinson's Callahan's Saloon out of SF into the world of the hardboiled private eye, a journey which only improves its genial flavor.

Other standouts are "Zeroville", an eerie trip into the metaphysic of film; Jonathan Lethem's deceptively straightforward and naturalistic antiromance "Vivian Relf"; and China Mieville's tale of a secret society of urban naturalists, "Reports of Certain Events in London", a marked departure from his usual style that suits the story like a glove.

Most of the big marquee names here (Poppy Z. Brite, Stephen King, and Margaret Atwood) turn in solid journeyman offerings, but not ones that will linger in your memory. A few of the stories - "Minnow", "The Child", "The Scheme of Things" - are derivative one-finger exercises that may not make it into your short term memory.

If you're prepared to sift the gems from the chert, you'll be well rewarded by this collection.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By gac1003 on December 4, 2004
Format: Paperback
This new collection of stories, edited by Michael Chabon, aims to "reinvigorate the stay-up-all-night, edge-of-the-seat, fingernail-biting, page-turning tradition" (taken from the book's back cover) of literary short fiction. For me, that was about half right. Half the stories had me on the edge of my seat and didn't let up for a moment, such as "Lusus Naturae" by Margaret Atwood, "The Fabled Light-house at Viña del Mar" by Joyce Carol Oates, and the astonishing "7C" by Jason Roberts (probably the best of the collection). The other half seemed a bit unclear and left me wondering what I had just read.

The collection includes some already well-known authors - Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, Peter Straub - and introduces some welcome newcomers (to me, anyway) - Ayelet Waldman, Jason Roberts, Roddy Doyle. As a whole, this collection was hit and miss; however, the hits make it worth reading.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By JEREMY WELLS on August 8, 2009
Format: Paperback
So with a title like "Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories" one is whisked away to the days of pulp writers, Robert E. Howard, Robert Bloch, and H.P. Lovecraft. However you are in for a big disappointment. This book has more flops than gems, sad to say most of the stories downright suck. I'm not sure when it became popular to start writing plot less stories but that's exactly how some of them will read. Once I finished reading them I was tempted to go back thinking, "Did I miss something?" On the contrary, this book is hardly an enchanted chamber of astonishing stories, but a decent volume of worthless, ho-hum reading. Here is the list of stories with a quick overview.
Lusus Nature-Good story. This is about a girl who starts to have features resembling a werewolf.

What you do not know you want-This was also a good story. A guy is on a quest to track down a valuable artifact that was originally used as a suicide blade.

Vivian Relf-Skip it! A guy & a girl continue to run into each other over the years, with no romantic connection. No climax or anything. Waste of time.

Minnow-Skip it! As usual any story associated with pregnancy I tend to hate, this one is no different. A woman has a miscarriage and can't seem to get over it.

Zeroville-Skip it! A former film director is convinced in every movie for a split second of frame a door in visible in the shot. There is no climax.

Lisey and the Madman-Ah Stephen King doing what he does best, boring the crap out of me. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, I've come to easily recognize King's style of writing and its typical ramble on, get off the subject everyday dull story go nowhere plot. I hated this story.

7C-This story is worth reading.
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