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The Penguin Book of Ghost Stories: From Elizabeth Gaskell to Ambrose Bierce (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 25 Feb 2010

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About the Author

Michael Newton was both an undergraduate and postgraduate at University College London. He is the author of Savage Girls and Wild Boys: A History of Feral Children (Faber & Faber, 2002) and of a book on Kind Hearts and Coronets for the British Film Institute's Film Classics series (2003). He has also edited Edmund Gosse's Father and Son for Oxford World's Classics and Joseph Conrad's The Secret Agent for Penguin. He has taught at UCL, Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, and Princeton University, and currently works at the University of Leiden. At present he is completing a book on the history of assassination and political violence.

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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Starter Collection 8 May 2010
By Charlus - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This newest collection of great ghost stories sticks pretty closely to the title as advertised: an actual ghost is present within most the stories which refuse to haunt other avenues of the supernatural. The editor's intention is admirable and clearly stated early on: "I felt it best not to shy away from some obvious choices. In my view, some very good anthologies of ghost stories are weakened by a desire to pick surprising, neglected or substandard stories by the best writers in the genre, or second rank stories by largely forgotten writers. As a result, the editors produce anthologies for people who collect such anthologies and who already own the classic tales. While this book aims to provide something for such readers, it aims more at the person who will buy only one such book for private reading or study, and for those who want one volume that brings together the very best examples of the genre". He also mentions authors he couldn't get for copyright reasons: Blackwood, Machen, de la Mare, Hitchens, Onions.

He addresses what I perceived to be a fault with the new Library of America anthology by Peter Straub: too many second tier stories by famous authors. And while his own anthology corrects this fault to a degree, it lapses into other errors. Some of the most famous stories are not always the author's best or there are other works that ought be equally famous and are much less anthologized (though hardly unknown): I would take MR James "Casting the Runes" before yet another inclusion of the overly available and disappointing "Oh, Whistle". As "The Monkey's Paw" is probably the best ghost story ever written both in its economy of story and proper eeriness, I have no problem with its ghostly presence. But Fitz-James O'Brien's "What Was It?" is not very frightening and Henry James' "The Jolly Corner" is well written and famous but a ghost story in name only. So if I would complain it would be of overall taste, a hard thing to defend or even define.

Newton writes a very admirable introduction to the whole topic of ghost stories and gives readers many directions for further reading. But if I were to choose a single anthology that does what Newton aimed to do, I would choose Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural (Modern Library) or the Dark Descent anthologies. Both are unsurpassed in picking the best written, scariest stories and are still in print. But yet another anthology that seriously aims for quality and frequently achieves it should not be shunned either, like an old dark house in a deserted part of town.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Decent starter collection but there are better (see review) 6 Sep 2010
By E. A. Lovitt - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"The Penguin Book of Ghost Stories" is an anthology of 19 oft-collected ghost stories--Michael Newton's selection of what he considers to be the cream of the crop from Elizabeth Gaskell's "The Old Nurse's Story" (1852) and Sheridan Le Fanu's "Green Tea" (1869) through Edith Wharton's "Afterward" (1910).

The stories in this book are already in print in several anthologies, most notably "The Oxford Book of English Ghost Stories (Oxford Books of Prose & Verse)" (1986), the twenty-volume Fontana books of 'Great Ghost Stories,' and the classic "Great Tales of Terror and the Supernatural (Modern Library)" (1944). I would rank any of these anthologies over this Penguin starter collection.

The editor, Michael Newton says in his 'Note on the Texts' that this collection "aims more at the person who will buy only one such book [of ghost stories] for private reading or for study, and for those who want one volume that brings together the very best examples of the genre."

I think he succeeds, for the most part in his choice of stories. The only one I had never read before was Lafcadio Hearn's "Nightmare-Touch" which reads more like a dream diary than a short story. I'm not certain I would have included so many stories told in dialect, most especially Robert Louis Stevenson's "Thrawn Janet" (1887), but there are extensive notes at book's end, plus a "Glossary of Scots Words." "What Was It?" by Fitz-James O'Brien is not a ghost story, so strictly speaking, it probably should have been excluded from this collection.

Be sure to read Mr. Newton's "Introduction" to this anthology in which he analyzes the purpose of the ghost story, and gives us a brief history of the genre.

The stories in this collection: "The Old Nurse's Story" by Elizabeth Gaskell; "What Was It?" by Fitz-James O'Brien; "The Haunted and the Haunters: or, The House and the Brain" by Edward Bulwer Lytton; "The Cold Embrace" by Mary Elizabeth Braddon; "The North Mail" by Amelia B. Edwards; "No. 1 Branch Line: The Signal-man" by Charles Dickens; "Green Tea" by Sheridan Le Fanu; "The Ghost in the Cap'n Brown House" by Harriet Beecher Stowe; "Thrawn Janet" by Robert Louis Stevenson; "The Open Door" by Margaret Oliphant; "At the End of the Passage" by Rudyard Kipling; "Nightmare-Touch" by Lafcadio Hearn; "The Monkey's Paw" by W.W. Jacobs; "The Wind in the Rose-Bush" by Mary Wilkins Freeman; "'Oh, Whistle, and I'll Come to You, My Lad'" by M.R. James; "The Moonlit Road" by Ambrose Bierce; "The Jolly Corner" by Henry James; "The Readjustment" by Mary Austin; "Afterward" by Edith Wharton.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Five Stars 13 Oct 2014
By C.L. - Published on
Format: Paperback
Love ghost stories and this has some goodies.
1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Not very scary and most of the stories arn't well known (for a reason) 8 May 2014
By William E. Sinkhorn - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Although the authors of these short stories are well known, these are lesser known short stories by them and that's for a reason--they aren't their best work. I might also mention that to the best of my knowledge all of these works are in the public domain; therefore, you might get them in a collection of works form one of the public domain sites. All in all though, if you already have an extensive library of authors of short stories but are missing some of their lesser known works and want to round out your collection more completely, then you would enjoy this book. If you are new to collecting the masters then you would do better to start elsewhere.
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