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American Fantastic Tales: Terror and the Uncanny from Poe to Now Hardcover – October 1, 2009
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What unites the stories in over 1500 pages is the quality of the writing and the choice of not the expected tale from such and such writer: I have read tales of terror for many years and have not previously come across the majority of stories included here. Which means we have Poe's Berenice and not The Tell Tale Heart, James's Jolly Corner and not The Turn of the Screw, Bradbury's The April Witch and not The Homecoming.
There are authors who should be better known (John Collier, Charles Beaumont) scattered among the usual suspects (Lovecraft, King) as well as new practitioners (Joe Hill-he of the "royal" pedigree, Poppy Bright).
One criticism could be in picking the odd choice, Straub avoids the best work of his authors. Another is inherent in the enterprise itself, i.e. he must needs avoid the great British practitioners, so no Algernon Blackwood, no M R James, no Arthur Machen, no Sheridan LeFanu. So while vast, these volumes are hardly definitive and therefore one wonders why do it in the first place as the rest of the Library of America project is about canon building. (just a thought).
Not all the stories are very scary but none bring shame to the Library of America imprimateur. And there are enough of them to darken your October evenings for years to come.
To reiterate, this is a horror anthology. Maybe 10% of the pieces herein are what may be called fantasy or SF, but even these are generally fairly somber and mature in their mood. No folktales, no Rip Van Winkle, no jumping frogs. Be sure you know what you are getting here.
What's not to like? Just a few items:
1. Editorial notes on content are non-existent. Compared to that other seminal horror anthology of a few decades back (Hartwell's Dark Descent) the Straub collection has little info on the stories herein or why the editor thinks they are worthy. We have basic author bios and that is about it. For the stories that are duds, we readers wonder why ol' Straubie included them, and for the selections included by the more prolific horror authors, we wonder why this piece and not XYZ instead? Understanding the mind of the editor in context is often what separates good anthologies from mediocre ones, and I am not sure if the decision to omit such notes altogether was Straub's decision or LoA policy. In any case, the absence of such text is the major deficiency of this set.
2. Explanatory notes are both too brief and not highlighted in the text. Want to know what that puzzling reference you just read means? Flip all the way to the back of the volume and scan through the page numbers. Find the number? Good, now you know. You didn't? Oh, well, turn back to the story and continue reading. This is standard with LoA volumes, as they evidently figure having note numbers or asterisks in the text (or footnotes) is somehow downscale.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
(4.5 out of 5 stars). These two volumes, obviously painstakingly edited by Peter Straub, present a fascinating overview of the American fantastic tale, the earliest being Charles... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Dallas Fawson
Great books by the older horror writers with a dash of the newer writers such as Stephen King and Joe Hill. I really enjoyed reading these books. Read morePublished on November 18, 2013 by Karen E
This is an outstanding collection of american fiction. Almost everyone you would you want to see a weird tale from is there, most with tales that have not been beaten to death in... Read morePublished on January 30, 2010 by Chris Van Epps