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Interior Darkness: Selected Stories Hardcover – February 16, 2016
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“Since the publication of Ghost Story in 1979, Peter Straub has been one of the dominant figures in contemporary horror fiction. Like his friend and occasional collaborator Stephen King, he has taken on a marginalized subgenre and elevated it, demonstrating, in the process, its largest, darkest possibilities. There may be no better introduction to Straub’s accomplishments than this new, aptly titled career retrospective…Interior Darkness is a book for those who think they dislike horror, as well as for those who love and respect the genre. Filled with terror, wit and unexpected grace notes, it’s a remarkable achievement that reflects the arc of a lengthy and celebrated career.”
--The Washington Post
“Peter Straub's shorter fictions are like tiny novels you drown in: perfectly pitched, terrifyingly smart, big-hearted, dangerous, and even cruel. Interior Darkness shows off his range, his intelligence, his bravery and, sometimes, at the edges, allows glimpses of his fierce sense of humour. Straub deploys a host of voices that cajole and whisper and talk to you from the darkness. If you care about the short story, you should read this book, and watch a master at work.”
--Neil Gaiman, author of The Ocean at the End of the Lane
“There is nothing conventional or familiar in Peter Straub’s exquisitely unsettling stories. Questions of genre be damned; Interior Darkness embraces a dizzying array of literary styles and structures and defies easy categorization. What a thrill to read an audacious storyteller writing at the very top of his game.”
--Bill Clegg, author of Did You Ever Have A Family
"Though he's one of the most successful practitioners ever of the art of scary stories, Peter Straub has never been satisfied with its common limits. These stories show him ranging far and high into the uplands of literary fiction without ever leaving behind the dark impulses and fears that make his work so powerful."
--John Crowley, author of Little, Big and the Aegypt Cycle
"If the only mass-market horror writer you've ever read is Stephen King, you owe it to yourself to check out Peter Straub....These stories take a while to work on you. Reflection and rereading is sometimes necessary. But nobody said art is always easy and readers who invest in this collection will feel more rewarded than not."
“There’s a twisted beauty, a bracing taste for experimentation and a chilly sense of humor in Straub’s shorter fiction. Even if we can’t always tease out a definitive meaning from every selection in “Interior Darkness,” rarely do the stories fail to provide a tantalizing view of the darkest reaches of the imagination.”
--San Francisco Chronicle
"Within the collection there’s an evolution of thematic concerns and an increasing willingness to experiment with form without sacrificing Straub’s trademark narrative drive, his impeccable style, his fierce wit and deep empathy for his characters, or his ability to move his readers. Peter’s stories hit you with a bouquet of flowers and a cudgel at the same time."
--Los Angeles Review of Books
"Brilliant, spooky, almost addictive in the way the stories roll out before the readers’ eyes, Interior Darkness is the definitive collection of Peter Straub’s best short works....Interior Darkness is the perfect collection for those who want a taste of the Straub magic but haven’t braved diving into any of his brilliant novels. And, for those familiar with his work, it is a chance to revisit some classics that deserve a fresh release. A “Best of” or not, Interior Darkness is sure to entertain and dazzle all who take in its exceptionally crafted words."
--New York Journal of Books
“This outstanding collection of 16 reprints highlights what makes Straub such a master of genre-bending horror and suspense, and it’s an effective introduction for readers new to his considerable body of work…Straub has a proven knack for black humor, and he coaxes the nightmarish out of the mundane with startling ease. This is a powerful collection from an enduring favorite in literary chills.”
--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Straub’s stories stopped me in my tracks, often with a chuckling grimace, and forced me to take stock anew of a world I wrongly thought I understood….Straub is a funny, engaging, quick man, with a dark restless mind, a cantankerous streak, and lacerating self-awareness.”
--ElectrictricLiterature.com, Adrian Van Young
"A must-read for the author’s fans and a perfect introduction for anyone new toStraub’s brilliantly original and unsettling brand of fiction."
About the Author
PETER STRAUB is the New York Times bestselling author of more than a dozen novels, most recently A Dark Matter. In the Night Room and Lost Boy, Lost Girl are winners of the Bram Stoker Award, as is his collection 5 Stories. Straub is the editor of numerous anthologies, including the two-volume The American Fantastic Tale from the Library of America. He lives in Brooklyn.
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If you don't know the world of Peter Straub, this is a must buy.
The first story, Blue Rose, is one of the most chilling, most terribly great stories Straub has ever written. This is probably why once I was partway into it, I suddenly remembered the middle and ending exactly after all these years, with over a thousand works of fiction read between then and now. I also suspect this story may have been featured in multiple collections, although I don’t know it for a fact. Likewise, the stories featured from his Houses Without Doors collection were all stories I remembered having read more recently.
However, I found three stories that had been published earlier in Magic Terror that had somehow slipped my attention. In particular, “Porkpie Hat” and “Mr. Clubb and Mr. Cuff” are particularly well done. I became a Straub fan before I finished college, and also before I was a literature teacher. It is gratifying to go back and look at all the miraculous ways he uses imagery and other devices in these two stories to build dread in the reader and connect us in a nearly-visceral way to his protagonists. There is only one story in this collection that pushes my ick button—that part of my gut that turns over when something goes from being sick in an entertaining way to being sick in a way that makes me really feel sick and regretful at what I’d read; this is “The Ballad of Ballard and Sandrine”, originally published as a novella.
One sad thing in coming back to Straub’s work with more depth of knowledge than I had when I first read it is that I see a problem I didn’t notice before. Straub cannot develop female characters, and falls prey to every stereotype imaginable. There is one story in the “Noir” section where he deliberately uses stereotypes tongue in cheek, but this apparently hasn’t caused him to notice that he practices many of the same habits in the rest of his prose. It is this failure that denies him the fifth star in my rating.
Horror writers love to use kiddies, and Straub is no exception. If you cannot bear to read stories in which fictional children are subjected to cruelties in order to move the story forward, don’t read this book. In fact, if that’s the case for you, this may not even be your genre. Sometimes Straub rescues the kid at the end of the story, but then again, sometimes he doesn’t. And sometimes, it’s gruesome. I would not have cared to read these tales when I was pregnant or raising young children; I was way too close to his fictional characters at that time in my life. I mention this in case it’s true for you right now.
Conservative Christians won’t like this book.
Most of these stories were written for the book buying public of the late twentieth century, the majority of which was Caucasian and perhaps more clueless than most white folks are today. I could not help but notice that none of his scary characters had blue eyes. However, there’s one nicely done story involving allegory as well as wry humor titled “Little Red’s Tango”. In this story a Japanese book buyer turns up and stays awhile; Straub avoided every stereotype and the character was both believable and respectfully drawn. I appreciated it.
Between what I have said here and the table of contents that you can find online, you should know now whether this collection is in your wheelhouse and whether it’s something you want to pursue. It is available for purchase now.
Straub has a rather academic tone - he could be a member of his Chowder Society from his classic, Ghost Story. Readers used to the more in-your-face emotional style of other horror writers (Stephen King, for instance) may not enjoy the scholarly arms-length writing of Straub. Personally, I love it every bit as much as I love King's style. Variety is a spice I enjoy.
Most of these tales have been in print elsewhere, so check the table of contents if you've collected a lot of his work.