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McSweeney's Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories Paperback – November 16, 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
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From the Inside Flap
Margaret Atwood- Lusus Naturae
David Mitchell- What You Do Not Know You Want
Jonathan Lethem- Vivian Relf
Ayelet Waldman - Minnow
Steve Erickson- Zeroville
Stephen King- Lisey and the Madman
Jason Roberts - 7C
Heidi Julavits- The Miniaturist
Roddy Doyle - The Child
Daniel Handler - Delmonico
Charles D'Ambrosio - The Scheme of Things
Poppy Z. Brite - The Devil of Delery Street
China Mieville- Reports of Certain Events in London
Joyce Carol Oates - The Fabled Light-house at Vi-a del Mar
Peter Straub - Mr. Aickman's Air Rifle
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
The work by Margaret Atwood and Jason Roberts was the best, while Heidi Julavitz sets her story up and flubs with a predictable ending that made me want to throw the book across the room. I think that some of those people who would like to separate themselves as "literary" artists have the very mistaken notion that genre writing must be predictable, either that, or Julavitz simply couldn't come up with a better ending, which would prove the anti post-modernists correct in their assumption that today's literary fiction is intended to obfuscate because the writers don't have a handle on the basics of story telling. Julavitz's ending didn't work. It was like one of those hilarious jump-cuts in the "Funkenstein" skits on Mad TV and it disappointed because it started out so well.
David Mitchell's What You Do Not Know You Want, also had a quickie ending that didn't quite work, but still managed to raise hackles, while Steve Erickson's Zeroville was superb. At any rate, this collection is definitely more enjoyable than the first and I hope that McSweeney's continues to put these out periodically.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Not so much astonishing tales, as horror tales. But not really horror tales, either. So, astonishing is right? Read morePublished on March 14, 2014 by Wheeler
Sorry McSweeney, the chamber is less than enchanted and the stories are only marginally astonishing. Read morePublished on April 22, 2012 by Badbob
Just plain mediocre, especially considering the fact that many of these folks are well established authors. Read morePublished on October 28, 2011 by Ethan Fode
It may make a difference to say I was given the book so I didn't financially invest in it butt I loved it and Chambon's intro set the tone off well. Read morePublished on January 6, 2010 by sojourner8
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. Read morePublished on August 8, 2009 by JEREMY WELLS
Obviously with a collection of this sort, you're going to have your hits, your misses, and your mediocrities. Read morePublished on October 28, 2007 by Matt M. Martin
I've often said that a collection of short stories is going to contain some good, some bad, and some indifferent. Read morePublished on October 12, 2005 by Frank J. Konopka
At last, a collection of short fiction that spans genres as easily as sliding across a dark, icy lake at midnight, plummeting towards the black void of the thorns that await you at... Read morePublished on June 15, 2005 by Schtinky