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American Fantastic Tales Boxed Set [Hardcover]

Peter Straub

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 1500 pages
  • Publisher: Library of America; Slp edition (Oct 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1598530593
  • ISBN-13: 978-1598530599
  • Product Dimensions: 21.8 x 14.7 x 7.1 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,146,640 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Amazon.com: 4.7 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
51 of 53 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The October Country 1 Oct 2009
By Charlus - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Peter Straub, who knows his way around a scary tale, has collected a vast two volume anthology for The Library of America consisting of over 2 centuries of what he labels American Fantastic Literature. More accurately although not more helpfully it would be labeled American Gothic. The Fantastic in this case involves both the supernatural and the natural with tales of ghosts (James), vampires (Crawford), madness (Gilman), and much that defies easy classification.

What unites the stories in over 1500 pages is the quality of the writing and the choice of not the expected tale from such and such writer: I have read tales of terror for many years and have not previously come across the majority of stories included here. Which means we have Poe's Berenice and not The Tell Tale Heart, James's Jolly Corner and not The Turn of the Screw, Bradbury's The April Witch and not The Homecoming.

There are authors who should be better known (John Collier, Charles Beaumont) scattered among the usual suspects (Lovecraft, King) as well as new practitioners (Joe Hill-he of the "royal" pedigree, Poppy Bright).

One criticism could be in picking the odd choice, Straub avoids the best work of his authors. Another is inherent in the enterprise itself, i.e. he must needs avoid the great British practitioners, so no Algernon Blackwood, no M R James, no Arthur Machen, no Sheridan LeFanu. So while vast, these volumes are hardly definitive and therefore one wonders why do it in the first place as the rest of the Library of America project is about canon building. (just a thought).

Not all the stories are very scary but none bring shame to the Library of America imprimateur. And there are enough of them to darken your October evenings for years to come.
63 of 72 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent collection of "literary" horror, with some minor issues 23 Oct 2009
By Severian - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Taken as a whole, these volumes offer about 1,400 pages of American supernatural literature in handsome and durable LoA bindings. If you like horror, and / or are an open-minded literary elitist, there is much to like here.

To reiterate, this is a horror anthology. Maybe 10% of the pieces herein are what may be called fantasy or SF, but even these are generally fairly somber and mature in their mood. No folktales, no Rip Van Winkle, no jumping frogs. Be sure you know what you are getting here.

What's not to like? Just a few items:

1. Editorial notes on content are non-existent. Compared to that other seminal horror anthology of a few decades back (Hartwell's Dark Descent) the Straub collection has little info on the stories herein or why the editor thinks they are worthy. We have basic author bios and that is about it. For the stories that are duds, we readers wonder why ol' Straubie included them, and for the selections included by the more prolific horror authors, we wonder why this piece and not XYZ instead? Understanding the mind of the editor in context is often what separates good anthologies from mediocre ones, and I am not sure if the decision to omit such notes altogether was Straub's decision or LoA policy. In any case, the absence of such text is the major deficiency of this set.
2. Explanatory notes are both too brief and not highlighted in the text. Want to know what that puzzling reference you just read means? Flip all the way to the back of the volume and scan through the page numbers. Find the number? Good, now you know. You didn't? Oh, well, turn back to the story and continue reading. This is standard with LoA volumes, as they evidently figure having note numbers or asterisks in the text (or footnotes) is somehow downscale. Not much explanation is needed for these tales, and this combined with the hit and miss method of notation means the reader will soon learn to ignore the existing endnotes altogether.
3. Minor works by big names. Oh, look, Tennessee Williams wrote a ghost story and Stephen Crane wrote about a canine psychopomp. Whoop de doo. These mediocre pieces are meant to defend the "ghetto" reputation of horror, but horror fans will care less about justification through inclusion of lame tales, and true snobs will not even be reading these volumes in the first place. Slight trifles by famous writers to prove some "cultural cringe" defense are pointless. To be fair, some of the stuff included here by the literati (e.g. Capote & Cheever) is actually excellent.
4. Present Imperfect - in Volume II, Straub arguably includes work by modern "serious" writers which is not especially good and which also slights excellent horror writes practicing in the same period. We get tales by Chabon and Saunders, but nothing by Laird Barron or Dennis Etchison. Yes, Mr. Barron has not been published in The New Yorker, but he is a serious and deeply talented author who is dedicated to the genre supposedly being exemplified by this collection. We also get some "postmodern" work in here by The New Eggheads of Horror, including what can charitably be called fragments by Kiernan & Vandermeer, and a whimsical (though likeable) surrealistic piece by Joe Hill. This stuff isn't terrible, but it means we are missing out on seeing excellent work from the 70s and 80s by more "genre" writers like Ed Bryant, Charles Grant, Karl Edward Wagner, Theodore Sturgeon etc. IMO Straub has made the mistake of thinking that recent quirky postmodern stuff is somehow representative of some massive advance in literature and has slighted the later 20th century in order to showcase 21st Century authors whom he personally knows and likes. As a result, New Yorker subscribers will be somewhat more pleased with Volume II than Datlow fans will.

Those are all my complaints and really they are just fully explained quibbles. A solid 75% of this material is excellent and fully gratifying and the remaining quarter is more subjective and some people may well adore the stories I don't like and / or may have been bored stiff by some of the pieces I would have liked to see included. This is the case with virtually any collection of stories.

For those who like their horror a bit more fully seated within the tradition and scope of the genre, you may prefer Hartwell's Dark Descent if you want to own only one comprehensive anthology. For those who are more experimental minded, and / or those who would consider owning more than one horror anthology, this is a great collection and a pleasant reading experience that will give you many hours of pleasure.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars best collection since the popular library anthology 7 Nov 2009
By C. Holland - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
this is the finest, most comprehensive collection of short spook-writing since the popular library GREAT TALES OF TERROR AND THE SUPERNATURAL. Side by side with well-known work like Charlotte Perkins Gilman's THE YELLOW WALLPAPER and Edith Wharton's AFTERWARD Straub has found wonderful old and forgotten stories, many by women; as you read, the body of work exposes a wider theme, a sense of the common American psyche, which is extraordinary. Anybody who loves spooky stories, and who believes that alternative writing is the real American mainstream, will treasure this set.
23 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshingly original in its story selection. 29 Oct 2009
By A. MacEwen - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I think I speak for many when I say that some of the the most widely anthologized horror stories are not the authors' best works. "The Repairer of Reputations" is a greater achievement than "The Yellow Sign," and "For the Blood is the Life" surpasses the over-rated "The Upper Berth." "The Jolly Corner" is not only the equal of "The Turn of the Screw," it is deeper and more multi-faceted. (Besides, the latter is too long for inclusion here, hence no "The Willows" or "The Mist.") Furthermore, while Library of America is about the "best," we need to examine our largely conditioned assumptions about what the best is. The conventional wisdom of the canon should not be followed with slavish obeisance. And lastly, an editor in Straub's position should not shackle himself to the standard of "the best" as the uppermost thought in his mind for every story selection, because there are other aims that should be striven for: breadth and scope, some kind of consistency of vision or recurrence of theme (as well as variation), and stories that represent something about the American landscape. An anthology like this is not the same as a collection of a single author's works: one wants the editor to bring a provocative perspective revealed through his story selection, not the least because this anthology is as much about the milieu of American writing as it is about the horror genre. For this reason, the omission of British writers should not be viewed as a weakness. On the contrary, it is liberating, for it allowed Straub to focus on an American Gothic context. And yes, some flat-out curve balls are thrown by Straub in his story selection, although it should be noted that some of his choices have been favored in recent years by other editors over stories that had traditionally been given priority for the better part of a century. Library of America is not just about looking backward but about looking forward as well. I am very happy they didn't release the same old anthology, although, bafflingly, that is what some seem to have wanted. New ground has truly been broken here.

Vol. 1, Contents:
Charles Brockden Brown, "Somnambulism: A Fragment"; Washington Irving, "The Adventure of the German Student"; Edgar Allan Poe, "Berenice"; Nathaniel Hawthorne, "Young Goodman Brown"; Herman Melville, "The Tartarus of Maids"; Fitz-James O'Brien, "What Was It?"; Bret Harte, "The Legend of Monte del Diablo"; Harriet Prescott Spofford, "The Moonstone Mass"; W.C. Morrow, "His Unconquerable Enemy"; Sarah Orne Jewett, "In Dark New England Days"; Charlotte Perkins Gilman, "The Yellow Wallpaper"; Stephen Crane, "The Black Dog"; Kate Chopin. "Ma'ame Pelagie"; John Kendrick Bangs, "Thurlow's Christmas Story"; Robert W. Chambers, "The Repairer of Reputations"; Ralph Adams Cram, "The Dead Valley"; Madeline Yale Wynne, "The Little Room"; Gertrude Atherton, "The Striding Place"; Emma Francis Dawson, "An Itinerant House"; Mary E. Wilkins-Freeman, "Luella Miller"; Frank Norris, "Grettir at Thorhall-stead"; Lafcadio Hearn, "Yuki-Onna"; F. Marion Crawford, "For the Blood Is the Life"; Ambrose Bierce, "The Moonlit Road"; Edward Lucas White, "Lukundoo"; Olivia Howard Dunbar, "The Shell of Sense"; Henry James, "The Jolly Corner"; Alice Brown, "Golden Baby"; Edith Wharton, "Afterward"; Willa Cather, "Consequences"; Ellen Glasgow, "The Shadowy Third"; Julian Hawthorne, "Absolute Evil"; Francis Stevens, "Unseen--Unfeared"; F. Scott Fitzgerald, "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button"; Seabury Quinn, "The Curse of Everard Maundy"; Stephen Vincent Benet, "The King of the Cats"; David H. Keller, "The Jelly-Fish"; Conrad Aiken, "Mr. Arcularis"; Robert E. Howard, "The Black Stone"; Henry S. Whitehead, "Passing of a God"; August Derleth, "The Panelled Room"; H.P. Lovecraft, "The Thing on the Doorstep"; Clark Ashton Smith, "Genius Loci"; Robert Bloch, "The Cloak"

Vol. 2, Contents:
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. Klein, "The Events at Poroth Farm"; Isaac Bashevis Singer, "Hanka"; Fred Chappell, "Linnaeus Forgets"; John Crowley, "Novelty"; Jonathan Carroll, "Mr Fiddlehead"; Joyce Carol Oates, "Family"; Thomas Ligotti, "The Last Feast of Harlequin"; Peter Straub, "A Short Guide to the City"; Jeff VanderMeer, "The General Who Is Dead"; Stephen King, "That Feeling, You Can Only Say What It Is in French"; George Saunders, "Sea Oak"; Caitlin Kiernan, "The Long Hall on the Top Floor"; Thomas Tessier, "Nocturne"; Michael Chabon, "The God of Dark Laughter"; Joe Hill, "Pop Art"; Poppy Z. Brite, "Pansu"; Steven Millhauser, "Dangerous Laughter"; M. Rickert, "The Chambered Fruit"; Brian Everson, "The Wavering Knife"; Kelly Link, "Stone Animals"; Tim Powers, "Pat Moore"; Gene Wolfe, "The Little Stranger"; Benjamin Percy, "Dial Tone"
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantasy and horror 3 Jan 2014
By T-Whit - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Great little collection of short stories that will keep you awake at night or make sleep a bit uncomfortable. I haven't finished reading all of them and keep them on the shelf for rainy days and sleepless nights.
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