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American Fantastic Tales: Terror and the Uncanny from Poe to Now Hardcover – October 1, 2009

4.8 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Peter Straub is one of America’s foremost authors of supernatural and suspense fiction. He is the New York Times bestselling author of a dozen novels, including the horror classic Ghost Story and The Talisman, which he cowrote with Stephen King. His latest novel, Black House—also written with King—is a #1 New York Times bestseller. A past president of the Horror Writers of America and multiple award winner, he lives in New York City.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1500 pages
  • Publisher: Library of America; Slp edition (October 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1598530593
  • ISBN-13: 978-1598530599
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 2.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #776,920 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Peter Straub, who knows his way around a scary tale, has collected a vast two volume anthology for The Library of America consisting of over 2 centuries of what he labels American Fantastic Literature. More accurately although not more helpfully it would be labeled American Gothic. The Fantastic in this case involves both the supernatural and the natural with tales of ghosts (James), vampires (Crawford), madness (Gilman), and much that defies easy classification.

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.
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Format: Hardcover
Taken as a whole, these volumes offer about 1,400 pages of American supernatural literature in handsome and durable LoA bindings. If you like horror, and / or are an open-minded literary elitist, there is much to like here.

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.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
this is the finest, most comprehensive collection of short spook-writing since the popular library GREAT TALES OF TERROR AND THE SUPERNATURAL. Side by side with well-known work like Charlotte Perkins Gilman's THE YELLOW WALLPAPER and Edith Wharton's AFTERWARD Straub has found wonderful old and forgotten stories, many by women; as you read, the body of work exposes a wider theme, a sense of the common American psyche, which is extraordinary. Anybody who loves spooky stories, and who believes that alternative writing is the real American mainstream, will treasure this set.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Great little collection of short stories that will keep you awake at night or make sleep a bit uncomfortable. I haven't finished reading all of them and keep them on the shelf for rainy days and sleepless nights.
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