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Library of America #197: American Fantastic Tales: Terror and the Uncanny from the 1940's Until Nowby Peter Straub
Another indispensable collection from the American Fantastic Tales series. These short stories demonstrate the evolving themes and tone of the genre, and reveal not only what has changed in the field but what has endured, what is essential to the telling of such stories. Straub's picks feature the genre's canonized luminaries alongside more obscure writers. This collection shows the breadth and deep appeal that fantasy and horror hold on our culture.
Synopses & Reviews
The second volume of Peter Straub's pathbreaking anthology American Fantastic Tales picks up the story in 1940 and provides persuasive evidence that the decades since then have seen an extraordinary flowering. While continuing to explore the classic themes of horror and fantasy, successive generations of writers- including Shirley Jackson, Ray Bradbury, Charles Beaumont, Stephen King, Steven Millhauser, and Thomas Ligotti-have opened up the field to new subjects, new styles, and daringly fresh expansions of the genre's emotional and philosophical underpinnings. For many of these writers, the fantastic is simply the best available tool for describing the dislocations and newly hatched terrors of the modern era, from the nightmarish post- apocalyptic savagery of Harlan Ellison's I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream to proliferating identities set deliriously adrift in Tim Powers' Pat Moore.
At its core, writes editor Peter Straub, the fantastic is a way of seeing. In place of gothic trappings, the post-war masters of the fantastic often substitute an air of apparent normality. The surfaces of American life-department store displays in John Collier's Evening Primrose, tar-paper roofs seen from an el train in Fritz Leiber's Smoke Ghost, the balcony of a dilapidated movie theater in Tennessee Williams' The Mysteries of the Joy Rio-become invested with haunting presences. The sphere of family life is transformed, in Davis Grubb's Where the Woodbine Twineth or Richard Matheson's Prey, into an arena of eerie menace. Dramas of madness, malevolent temptation, and vampiristic appropriation play themselves out against the backdrop of modern urban life in John Cheever's Torch Song and Shirley Jackson's unforgettable The Daemon Lover.
Nearly half the stories collected in this volume were published in the last two decades, including work by Michael Chabon, M. Rickert, Brian Evenson, Kelly Link, and Benjamin Percy: writers for whom traditional genre boundaries have ceased to exist, and who have brought the fantastic into the mainstream of contemporary writing. The 42 stories in this second volume of American Fantastic Tales provide an irresistible journey into the phantasmagoric underside of the American imagination.
An encompassing and essential voyage to the dark side of the moon of American literature. -Jonathan Lethem
"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." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
About the Author
Peter Straub is one of Americas 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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