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The New Gothic: A Collection of Contemporary Gothic Fiction Hardcover – October 15, 1991
"Rebound" by Kwame Alexander
Don't miss best-selling author Kwame Alexander's "Rebound," a new companion novel to his Newbery Award-winner, "The Crossover,"" illustrated with striking graphic novel panels. Pre-order today
From Publishers Weekly
Leading contemporary fiction writers from Anne Rice to Martin Amis to Jeanette Winterson contribute first-rank literary stories to this masterful, disturbing collection.
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Kirkus Reviews
Cadillac Gothic with new chrome stripping on stories going to the same old grave, by some heavy-hitters in the rich-prose department. At the Poe pinnacle of Old Gothic, all detail and landscape emerge from the tortured, fragmenting psyche of the hero. No such figure easily defines the New Gothic. Many of these tales--of which Paul West's ``Banquo and the Black Banana: The Fierceness of the Delight of Horror'' is the worst offender (it reads at times like a Burroughs cutup)--are overrich by half, and the straightforwardness of Ruth Rendell's ``For Dear Life,'' Joyce Carol Oates's ``Why Don't You Come Live with Me It's Time,'' and Angela Carter's ``The Merchant of Shadows'' blow like breaths of fresh air through the heavy vapors. The single, most well-focused story herein is Rendell's, about the cramps of horror besetting an old dowager taking her first subway ride in London. The best stylist may well be John Edgar Wideman, whose plague tale, ``Fever,'' opens marvelously: ``He stood staring through a window at the last days of November. The trees were barren women starved for love and they'd stripped off all their clothes, but nobody cared.'' The most far-out tale (that still tells a story) is Robert Coover's ugly but cuckoo ``The Dead Queen,'' a reworking of Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs from the point of view of Prince Charming on the wedding night: no matter how madly Charming performs in bed, Snow White awakens in the morning with hymen restored (as she has awakened after endless sex with the seven dwarfs before Prince Charming awakened her in the coffin that the vanity-ridden queen now lies in). Most fanciful is a tossup, but John Hawkes's ``Regulus and Maximus,'' about the sins of monks, is superpurple. Anne Rice presents a lacy Lestat the Vampire excerpt from Interview with the Vampire. All weighed together, too much and not enough. Should do well, though. -- Copyright ©1991, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.
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Complicating matters further is the editors' use of novel excerpts, rather than stories specifically crafted to fit here. The Anne Rice and Peter Straub excerpts, at least, were some of the better writing on display, and somewhat suited to the theme.
I most enjoyed the short stories of Jeanette Winterson, Jamaica Kincaid, Joyce Carol Oates and Angela Carter, all of them inventive, colorfully told and evocative. Otherwise, the most interesting stories were by writers I previously knew by name only, like Ruth Rendell and Scott Bradfield, or hadn't heard of before, as in the case of Jamaica Kincaid and Emma Tennant.
Conversely, some of the more established names whose work I looked forward to here -- Martin Amis, John Hawkes, Robert Coover, Kathy Acker and William T. Vollman -- disappointed. At least Acker and Vollman displayed a knack for stringing together a nicely-formed sentence. Amis, Hawkes and Coover all three lost me early on. Their stories seemed less about engaging the reader and more about amusing the writers themselves with puns, crudity and pointless wackiness.
I know some readers frown upon fiction writers, who are also editors, including work in their own edited anthologies. It's interesting that two of the better stories here are by the editors of The New Gothic, Bradford Morrow and Patrick McGrath. Morrow's "The Road to Nadeja" drew me in as much as anything in the book. A compellingly drawn narrative. McGrath's "The Smell" was strongly narratived, a great imitation of the old-fashioned Gothic in terms of both voice and tone.
In the end, I was left thinking this "New Gothic" movement, if there ever was such a thing (this was released in 1992), lacked the vitality and momentum to deserve a title, let alone to support a themed anthology of this kind.
However, there are a few outstanding items here that made it a worthwhile read, and most of them were from women. Do women have a greater ability to write in the gothic mode than men? I loved Angela Carter's "The Merchant of Shadows", a witty take on a Sunset Boulevard-esque scenario. Ruth Rendell contributes one of her cold gems, this one a satirical piece about a posh lady who finds herself taking her first ride on a London tube train and beginning to freak out. Emma Tennant (another British female) checks in with "Rigor Beach", a very dark and perverse little number about a black widow-type who lures a man to her apartment, has sex with him, poisons him , and then has a little fun with the corpse. John Edgar Wideman's "Fever", a story I have seen turn up in other anthologies, is a brilliant (and yes, feverish) depiction of a pandemic disease ravaging a city (that might be Philadelphia) in some decade long past. Other good ones were Jamaica Kincaid's wildly creative "Ovando", McGrath's "The Smell" about a puritanical man's obsession with a strange smell in his home, Jeanette Winterson's sketch of a neighborhood oddball, and Scott Bradfield's "Didn't She Know", in which a sexy girl flirts (harmlessly, she thinks) with a bunch of lonely old retirees. Morrow's story about a man who compulsively steals little prized possessions from people was interesting as well.
Some of the other pieces were well-written, but the content did not particularly grab me. Overall this was a mixed bag. I am not sure how much the editors had to work with - I mean, there are a few McGraths and Rendells out there, but is adult gothic fiction really a big field that produces a lot of short stories? Maybe not.