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American Fantastic Tales:Terror and the Uncanny from the 1940's to Now (Library of America) Hardcover – October 1, 2009

4.4 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this second installment, Straub ventures onto somewhat more adventurous ground. His selections bring readers completely up to date with the genre, featuring tales from even the newest writers, such as M. Rickert and Joe Hill. This thorough anthology is likely to replace Fraser and Wise's 1944 Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural as a lib. It foreshadows the careers of writers who may very well turn out to be classics. Straub's reach is admirably broad, bringing to light worthy but under the radar talents such as Jane Rice and Jack Snow, both pulp writers who flourished briefly at the beginning of the "modern" era. Yet, he leaves room for the more mainstream writers: Jerome Bixby, Donald Wandrei, Fritz Leiber, Richard Matheson, and Poppy Z. Brite alongside Shirley Jackson, Paul Bowles, Joy Carol Oates, and Truman Capote. Straub incorporates such writers with originality: choosing, for example, to use Tennessee Williams' "The Mysteries of the Joy Rio" for once rather than his more common "The Vengeance of Nitocris." The anthology has genuinely imaginative writing and editorial vision.

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

  • Series: Library of America (Book 197)
  • Hardcover: 750 pages
  • Publisher: Library of America (October 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1598530488
  • ISBN-13: 978-1598530483
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.3 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #296,059 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
As Amazon doesn't list the contents, I will list them here. Information is often more useful than opinion, so hopefully some of you will agree and find this of use (in lieu of an actual review). If the length of this listing interferes with your review scrolling, let me know and I'll delete it.

John Collier
Evening Primrose

Fritz Leiber
Smoke Ghost

Tennessee Williams
The Mysteries of the Joy Rio

Jane Rice
The Refugee

Anthony Boucher
Mr. Lupescu

Truman Capote
Miriam

Jack Snow
Midnight

John Cheever
Torch Song

Shirley Jackson
The Daemon Lover

Paul Bowles
The Circular Valley

Jack Finney
I'm Scared

Vladimir Nabokov
The Vane Sisters

Ray Bradbury
The April Witch

Charles Beaumont
Black Country

Jerome Bixby
Trace

Davis Grubb
Where the Woodbine Twineth

Donald Wandrei
Nightmare

Harlan Ellison
I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream

Richard Matheson
Prey

T.E.D.
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Format: Hardcover
Like Volume I of this series, Straub has put together a big and generally impressive volume of American supernatural tales, which is confined in an impressively elegant and durable physical format that is of collectable quality. This second volume is a tad rockier going than the first volume, as Straub pursues the lofty illusion of literary quality rather than the workmanlike cause of offering specific works from the horror genre. As a a result, horror cognoscenti will feel more than a few errors of both omission and inclusion occurred...

Surprisingly the stuff by the more well know literary figures like Nabokov, Williams, Bowles, Capote, and Cheever is at least decent and actually surprisingly strong in some cases and probably will not offend genre fans. The names missing is probably a more distressing roster: no Ted Sturgeon, Manly Wade Wellman, Ed Bryant, no Karl Edward Wagner (worst absence of all IMO), no Russell Kirk and (another gaping hole) no Dennis Etchison. This trend also is seen chronologically with more work being selected from later decades and the 60s-80s being covered pretty lightly. Straub obviously has weighted this collection more towards authors he knows personally and views as being relevant to contemporary literary trends.

So we get such luminaries included as Crowley, Chabon, and Powers, good writers, but who are more beloved of NYRB readers than of Cemetery Dance subscribers. None of this is really problematic save perhaps the tedious Crowley piece which is drawn out, meandering, and which has not the least aspect of "terror" or "the uncanny" in it. We also have the required Kelly Link piece. To my perhaps more plain styled tastes, Ms Link strikes me as quaint and cutesy, the Lorrie Moore of our genre. She is to horror as Sinatra is to death metal.
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Format: Hardcover
This is the second of two Library of America collections edited by Peter Straub, this one covering the period since 1940. "Fantastic tales" is not an easy term to define--basically these are stories with an uncanny twist, such as used to pop up on the old "Suspense radio program, or on "Twilight Zone" (in fact, several of the authors wrote for that classic TV series). "Spooky" stories, but not tales of "horror." Like all LoA volumes, this one has many helpful features, especially when dealing with a story collection. Straub offers a very helpful introduction, placing the stories within loose categories. One of the most interesting features consists of brief "biographical notes" on each of the authors, outlining their backgrounds. There are also 5 pages of notes which define terms which might be unfamiliar, especially since many of the stories were written in the late 1940's and the 1950's.

The authors range from the well known (e.g., Capote, King, Nabokov, Bradbury, Joyce Carol Oates, Jack Finney, and even Tennessee Williams) through many with whom I was not familiar. All told, there are around 40 or so stories in the 684 page collection. I only found one that was not excellent; so the editor has done a fine job in making his selections. I do want to make it clear, though, the these "uncanny" stories are not science fiction, as I would understand the term, though some have a bit of sf overtones. Really, their key characterstic is a "gotcha" unique twist or two that is most surprising. Straub has edited a second earlier volume covering "Poe to the Pulps" which I bet is equally fascinating. Since this volume contains stories bridging such a long period, it is interesting to see how fantastic stories have evolved over time. Even younger readers will, I think, find these stories well worth reading.
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