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Strange Wine [Paperback]

Harlan Ellison

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Book Description

4 Aug 2009
Harlan Ellison's Deathbird Stories was selected by the American Library Association as one of the Best Books for Young Adults, 1975. School Library Journal said the same thing. This modern master of the macabre invites lovers of Poe, Kafka and Borges to a gourmet's sampling of the headiest wine since Montressor's Amontiillado. Strange Wine: the quaffing of deep drafts of imagination...unsettling visions by the man whom Pete Hamill called "the Dark Prince of American letters." Fifteen previously uncollected tales in which the Pied Piper of Hamelin is come again, this time to pipe the Apocalypse for humanity; the spirits of executed Nazi war criminals walk Manhattan streets; the damned soul of a Lizzie Borden-like murderess escapes from Hell; a horny young man is haunted by the ghost of his Yiddishe Momma; an amoral womanizer seeks his awful destiny among the derelicts and alligators living in the sewers beneath the city; gremlins write the fantasies of a gone-dry writer; the nephew of The Shadow wreaks terrible vengeance on the New York Literary Establishment; and the exquisite Dr. D'ArqueAngel injects her patients with immunizing doses of the distillate of death.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars  26 reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Drink deeply from Ellison's Strange is potent 17 Jun 2003
By Penguin Egg - Published on
It is good news that this book is soon to be republished. It's about time. I've been a fan of Ellison for a quarter of a century and this, by far, is my favourite book of his. If you have never come across Ellison before, you're in for a treat. A master story-teller, he breaks new ground with practically every story, whether it is in the style of the telling - such as "From A to Z, The Chocolate Alphabet"-, or in the subject matter - "Croatoan." Whatever the style or the subject matter, the voice of Ellison is unmistakable, -uncompromising, vivid, funny, and perceptive- so that even if an Ellison story did not have his name above it, you would quickly guess whom it was. The stories range from the humorous "Mom" to the serious "In Fear of K." Whatever he writes, he is thoroughly entertaining. What makes this collection of stories different from his others is that this collection has an introduction for every story. With any other writer, this would be an intrusion; but with Ellison, it works, because the man is funny, wise, and entertaining. They are basically a miscellany of anything that Ellison wants to talk about: How he came to write this or that story; where he wrote it; the ideas behind it- and sometimes the connection to the story is tenuous." The New York Review of Bird" for instance. You won't care. It is all good stuff. I usually find at least one story in any collection that I don't like, and this book is no exception. "Seeing" I found unreadable. This is a mere quibble. Everything else in here is just dandy. It even has a wonderful cover by Leo and Dianne Dillon. What more can a person want?
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You Won't Want It To End 29 Dec 2000
By "netchild" - Published on
Every story in this collection is truly strange, ranging from the humorous (Mom), to the outright terrifying (Croatoan). This book is a good sampling of the whole of Harlan's work. Strange Wine has stories of caustic satire, like Hitler Painted Roses, and The New York Review of Bird. At times Harlan slips into outright moralizing like in Emissary From Hamelin and The Boulevard of Broken Dreams, but when one reads these stories, one realizes that the moralizing may be very necessary. But never does it get boring. In one of his most unusually written stories, From A-Z In the Chocolate Alphabet, you get the full effect of Harlan's strange brand of storytelling. A great treat in this book is the intro which gives us a stern talking on the dangers of . . . can you guess . . . TV, that's right, TV. For those of you new to Harlan's brand of fiction this book will give you an appreciation for this extremely underrated writer. For those of you already familiar with Harlan, you already know what treasures there are in his stories.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Harlan Ellison drinks of the "Strange Wine" of imagination 7 Jan 2005
By Lawrance M. Bernabo - Published on
The biggest problem with Harlan Ellison's short story collection "Strange Wine" is that the introductory essay is so good. "Revealed at Last! What Killed the Dinosaurs! And You Don't Look So Terrific Yourself" is one of the best of Ellison's introductions, combining biography with diatribe, in this case a denunciation of watching television as being "soul deadening, dehumanizing, soporific in a poisonous way, ultimately brutalizing." Ellison finds watching television to be "a bad thing." In contrast he offers "Strange Wine" as a metaphor for imagination, the key element that the dinosaurs lacked that turned them into fossil fuels.

The fifteen stories collected in "Strange Wane" do not include any of the acknowledged classics of speculative fiction that Ellison has written over the years, but there is certainly enough food for thought here to make it well worth the reading. "Mom" is a nice tribute to Ellison's own mother (is there any other way to read this one?), and "From A to Z, in the Chocolate Alphabet" is the product of one of those stunts Ellison does when he writes in the window of a bookstore, but what he can do with one paragraph about a nonsense word is pretty impressive. "Lonely Women are the Vessels of Time" is a rather short, short story, but it is about loneliness, which is one of Ellison's better themes. "The Boulevard of Broken Dreams" is a harrowing little tale about a man having dreams of dead Nazi war criminals. "The Diagnosis of Dr. D'arque Angel" does a nice little twist on Faust, and "Hitler Painted Roses," another one of those stories written as a stunt, is based on the chilling idea that it is humanity and not God who determines who gets to go to Heaven and who gets dumped in Hell. Then again, "Working with the Little People" is actually rather cute, which is a rather disquieting idea when you are talking about the writings of Harlan Ellison.

There are a few misfires in the bunch: "Killing Bernstein" has a great premise when a toy company executive kills his ex-lover, only to have her show up the next day as if nothing had happened. I was thinking that this one would go in a different direction, so the ending rubbed me the wrong way, while "The Emissary from Hamelin" strikes me as being a trifle not worth Ellison's time. Even "CROATOAN" seems heavy-handed, despite the subject matter, although the final image is certainly disturbing enough. The rest of the stories are middling, with the title story being something of a disappointment given how the essay makes the phrase so significant.

So, if we were grading all of the stories in "Strange Wine" I think it is safe to say that Ellison would come out with a solid "B" average. I still maintain that once you read the essay you have gotten your money's worth with this collection, but with Ellison there are always going to be several unforgettable stories that you will enjoy having read, whether you are a big time fan or just checking out the book to see what he is ranting and raving about this time around.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Irrelevant, Intriguing Short Story Collection from Harlan Ellison 24 Dec 2007
By John Kwok - Published on
Harlan Ellison may be the only contemporary American writer I know of whose work contains the well-crafted irrelevance of Mark Twain's best, the brooding, foreboding tones of Edgar Poe's best, and the lyrical, often youthful optimism of Ray Bradbury's finest. He may be, along with Bradbury, our best writer of short fiction in any genre, but especially, in the realm of science fiction and fantasy. "Strange Wine" is the long overdue reprinting of a short story collection comprised of terse, and quite peculiar, tales published originally back in 1978, but reprinted finally only a few years ago. It remains memorable because of Ellison's hilarious, extensive introduction that's nearly twice as long as many of the short stories included in this collection, and, of course, for the stories too. These often intriguing tales range from very good to great, and do demonstrate Ellison's extensive range from horror to tragedy and comedy (and sometimes all three). My personal favorites include "Mom" (His science fictional Mother's Day "valentine"), "Killing Bernstein" (An odd, hilarious take on cloning and psychotic behavior which only Ellison could write,) and "The Boulevard of Broken Dreams" (On a congested Manhattan street, the protagonist witnesses the ghosts of Nazis he had executed, years after the end of World War II.). Anyone interested in Ellison's work will certainly wish to add "Strange Wine" to his or hers own private library; without question, it will be a most welcomed addition too.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Scarce for a's great 18 July 1997
By A Customer - Published on
Undoubtedly some of the author's finest work, this is a book worth coveting but beware the hidden costs. The first casualty may be our televisions and not the least may be any smugness and/or complacency we have in our society and humanity.
The stories are themselves superb, the author's notes excellent, the result is a book which once gotten is unlikely to ever leave your possession. Beyond getting the book, the next best piece of advice would be to skip ahead and read 'The New York Review of Bird' first
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