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American Gothic Tales

4.05  ·  Rating Details ·  980 Ratings  ·  36 Reviews
Joyce Carol Oates has a special perspective on the “gothic” in American short fiction, at least partially because her own horror yarns rank on the spine-tingling chart with the masters. She is able to see the unbroken link of the macabre that ties Edgar Allan Poe to Anne Rice and to recognize the dark psychological bonds between Henry James and Stephen King. This remarkabl ...more
Paperback, 544 pages
Published December 1st 1996 by Plume
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Jun 20, 2007 John rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: horror buffs
Shelves: booksilike
This is a nice little collection of classic gothic tales by well-known American authors. Most of them aren't "horror writers," per se, but all of them have written one or more books that fall within the realm of "dark Romanticism." If you're into modern horror, you may find some of these stories too dull and "literary"--not a lot of gore or monsters or graphic violence. Instead, most of these are more subtle stories of psychological terror--think "The Others" or "Donnie Darko" rather than "The E ...more
Oct 17, 2009 Mark rated it it was amazing
Oates is no stranger to the gothic genre herself and she has created one hell of an anthology here. Some of the authors are the usual suspects that crop up in high school anthologies (A Rose for Emily, The Yellow Wallpaper, The Black Cat). But Oates moves beyond the usual syllabus to include Lovecraft (she should get some credit for helping to mainstream him) and contemporary writers like King and Thomas Ligotti, an author I think deserves more critical attention. Surveying the entire history of ...more
This huge collection was used as a textbook for one of my graduate classes. The forty-six stories included follow the development and evolution of the Gothic genre from an excerpt of Charles Brockden Brown’s 1798 novel Weiland, or The Transformation through Nicholson Baker’s 1994 short story “Subsoil.” The collection is intended, as far as I can tell, to gather not only the more significant stories of the genre, but also important stories that may typically go unnoticed by most readers. It is th ...more
May 28, 2008 Laura rated it really liked it
Edited and compiled by Joyce Carol Oates, with whom I think many may have a love/hate relationship...although, in the end, I am not entirely sure what sort of influence that should have on anyone deciding whether or not to read this...

That said, I think this is a fantastic compilation of Gothic tales, past and present. Oates, I feel, was thorough in including a breadth of short stories that was reflective of the genre. I read many (not all) of these stories in my Gothic lit class a few years ago
Stasa Fritz
Sep 12, 2008 Stasa Fritz rated it liked it
Recommends it for: short story readers and those comparing literature from different times/authors.
This is an interesting set of short stories, mildly "gothic" in the sense of having a bit of dark mystery/horror. The choices of stories are mixed. Some are very well done, some are obvious, some just don't fit. What makes this interesting is the timeline progression. The authors are from early 1800s to almost present.

As always, I am "amused" that so many stories have what is a fantasy, or science-fiction, twist and yet "my" genre always gets a bad rap.

Worth the read, but not worth buying.

Dec 20, 2007 Martin rated it really liked it
Some of the selections are really pushing the definition of "gothic" -- c'mon, "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow?" -- and it's nuts not to include biographical info for the authors, but this is a pretty nice anth, all things considered.
Mar 22, 2010 Jia is currently reading it
picked up this lil bad boy for a buck at the Dollar Scholar on Hawthorne. lets see what fun it brings.
Jun 25, 2008 Cristina rated it it was amazing
Tons of great gothic stuff from Hawthorne, Melville, Faulkner, Joyce Carol Oates,Plath and W.S. Merwin. Great classic writing ready to be read by you on a stormy night.
Dec 11, 2008 Amdietrich2159 rated it it was amazing
Awesome book. A collection of short spine tingling stories. Great read.
Jan 15, 2009 Ashley is currently reading it
Short story scariness! Lots of classic and a few really cool obscure authors in here. My favorite short story from high school is in here: "The Yellow Wallpaper".
Johnny D
Feb 10, 2009 Johnny D rated it it was amazing
a gorgeous anthology compiled by joyce carol oates. explores the dark romantic imagination in america from poe to king
Jun 29, 2011 Hannah rated it it was amazing
"American Gothic Tales" is a superb collection of gothic stories published by American authors, ranging from the late 18th century to the present. I'm about halfway through the anthology, and so far none of the stories have been anything but excellent and enjoyable, although some stand out more than others.

A few of the stories I've read before, like "The Black Cat," "The Yellow Wallpaper," and of course "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," but what makes this collection so interesting is the inclusio
Oct 02, 2010 Nick rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 20, 2014 Jaksen rated it it was ok
I am a huge JCO fan. HUGE. And her own contribution to this anthology, excellent. But as for her other choices, even taking into consideration she did this compilation in the 1990's - wow. And that's a negative wow. I could not finish many of them, and several were written as if the writer were on drugs or high or something. (Considering many were written in the 1980's or 1990's, this is a definite maybe.)

I like quirky, offbeat and weird, especially with horror, but when I can't figure out a sho
Aug 17, 2010 Mike rated it it was amazing
I bought this book in high school and have read it more times than I can remember because it has classics like "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," and "The Tartarus of Maids," and strange stories from heavy hitters like Sylvia Plath ("Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams") and E.B. White ("The Door").

I think I love it so much because it shows that the Literati can write ghost stories and creepy tales without being condescending. It's a great historical perspective on the Gothic theme and I don't even
Oct 18, 2016 John rated it it was ok
I had high hopes for this book, but the reality of it fell far short. I find it hard to give most compilations anything other than three stars because the stories are often a mixture of very good to very bad, to everything in between. Unfortunately the number of dull stories in this book far exceeded the good. That is not to say that there weren't a few gems in here, but far too often I just wished for the stories to end.
Katie Thomason
Sep 25, 2014 Katie Thomason rated it it was amazing
Shelves: for-fiction
I am starting an MFA program and wanted to read a wide variety of authors with a darker sensibility. This collection was phenomenal. Not only did I discover new writers, I also discovered stories I had never read from some favorites. Excellent anthology and I would expect nothing less from Joyce Carol Oates.
Lee Delamater
May 31, 2014 Lee Delamater rated it it was amazing
This was an excellent book. I love the short story genre, and this one was filled with excellent authors both old and new. Classic tales, each one a little vacation from my constantly running mind. I highly recommend it. I like being taken to the dark side and this book did that. Five stars.
Overall, a good anthology. Most of the stories were very good, although there were two or three that were so bad that I couldn't bring myself to finish them. I would recommend the anthology to any fan of gothic or horror literature.
Oct 05, 2011 Rebecca rated it really liked it
Several familiar tales, all eerie. Arranged chronologically ranging from 19th century to the present. A great collection of creepy stories.
Nov 25, 2009 Aras rated it liked it
Some good stories, but maybe a few too many that were too modern and over-written.
Katie McMullen
Oct 18, 2012 Katie McMullen rated it it was amazing
read this in high school and i loved it so much i still have it. i should bring it back out for halloween!
Danielle Alexandria
Jul 23, 2011 Danielle Alexandria rated it it was amazing
An amazing anthology of classic and contemporary horror fiction. I highly recommend it.
Jan 12, 2017 Mandy rated it did not like it
I could not get into any of these stories.
Aug 29, 2011 Addy rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2011
I just wanted to check this book out because I wanted to read Sylvia Plath's short story Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams, which I thoroughly enjoyed.
 Danielle The Book Huntress (Back to the Books)
I believe this is where I read The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
Mauoijenn ~ *Mouthy Jenn* ~
Most excellent book filled with some great classic and new stories, to send chills down your spine!
Jul 30, 2010 Ash added it
American Gothic Tales (William Abrahams) by Joyce Carol Oates (1996)
Feb 05, 2016 Soccermom174 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
It was something fabulous development of this fictional story
so I'm not sure how to shelve this. I read about half of this collection, and quite enjoyed it. I plan to pick it up and finish it next Halloween. So is that read, or unread?
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Joyce Carol Oates is a recipient of the National Book Award and the PEN/Malamud Award for Excellence in Short Fiction. She is also the recipient of the 2005 Prix Femina for The Falls. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University, and she has been a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters since 1978. Pseudonyms ... Rosamond Smith and Laure ...more
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