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The Modern Weird Tale

3.86 of 5 stars 3.86  ·  rating details  ·  72 ratings  ·  14 reviews
This is a critical study of many of the leading writers of horror and supernatural fiction since World War II. The primary purpose is to establish a canon of weird literature, and to distinguish the genuinely meritorious writers of the past fifty years from those who have obtained merely transient popular renown. Accordingly, the author regards the complex, subtle work of ...more
Paperback, 278 pages
Published June 30th 2001 by McFarland & Company (first published March 8th 2001)
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Bill  Kerwin
Joshi treats the weird tale--as all critics should treat it--as a distinct and worthwhile genre, and consequently seeks to establish a canon of works by using the criteria of 1) literary merit, 2) the presence of the weird and uncanny (as opposed to mere horror or suspense) and 3) the consistent logic of the author's world. Using these criteria, he judges Shirley Jackson, Robert Aickman, Ramsey Campbell, T.E.D. Klein and Thomas Ligotti as masters of the form, Stephen King, Clive Barker, Peter St ...more
S. T. Joshi, the eminent Lovecraft scholar, is not so much a literary critic as a bibliographer with opinions. Strong ones. But his opinions are invariably worth reading, even – perhaps particularly – at their most truculent and (occasionally) pedantic.

He is unashamedly elitist, while at the same time aware that the literature that he loves most is considered, by other shameless elitists, as rubbish. This makes him simultaneously critical and defensive, which may be why he often seems in a bad
Out of the cannon of horror writers since the pulp era (particularly the 50's onward) who can be considered truly "weird"? This is the underlying topic of The Modern Weird Tale by S.T. Joshi, preeminent Lovecraft scholar.

What I learned from Joshi regarding the "weird" authors of the post-Lovecraft/Machen/Blackwood era:
Shirley Jackson,T.E.D. Klein, Ramsey Campbell, Robert Aickman and Thomas Ligotti are class A writers.

Peter Straub, Anne Rice, Clive Barker and Stephen King are shite.

It is clear
Nicole Cushing
This book is a collection of literary criticism focusing on several late-20th century authors of what is often called "horror fiction" and sometimes called "the weird tale". Joshi focuses on the following authors: Shirley Jackson, William Peter Blatty, Stephen King, T.E.D. Klein, Clive Barker, Robert Bloch, Thomas Harris, Bret Easton Ellis, Thomas Tyron, Peter Straub, Robert Aickman, Anne Rice, and Thomas Ligotti.

I greatly enjoyed the Shirley Jackson essay. I've not read a huge amount of Jackso
Benjamin Uminsky
Well, I can't say I entirely agree with Joshi's views on everything in this book, but by and large, his evaluation of the modern weird tale is well researched and reflective of a quality review and assessment. Much of this book is one chapter after another deconstructing an author who he sees making very little literary contribution through their work, juxtaposed with another chapter evaluating an author whose work has literary merit. Joshi is of course very high on the less commercialized but c ...more
Nathan Sturm
This borderline-polemic survey of weird/horror fiction post-Lovecraft is entertaining as well as informative. Joshi's attacks on poorly-thought-out religious messages and on several of the dull conventions of popular writing approach laugh-out-loud territory, even if I don't fully agree with him on everything (as I feel that some of Stephen King's and Clive Barker's early short stories are actually quite good). However, even when critical of an author overall, he usually has nice things to say a ...more
I disagree with Joshi on many, if not most of his points.

There are plenty of reasons to criticize Stephen King, but "he doesn't give reasons for the weird stuff" seems a poor one, especially since plenty of the authors that he praises don't give any justification (scientific or otherwise) for the weird phenomena in their stories.

The larger problem is that too much of this book is a summary of plots, which gets tedious quickly. I would rather Joshi spent more time analyzing fewer works.
Jack Wolfe
For the young person of discerning literary taste who wants to get into "weird" fiction, S.T. Joshi is a godsend. What he have here is a practically heroic undertaking: an effort to evaluate horror and science fiction stories purely on their aesthetic merits; i.e., not on their nerdy or sociological aspects. The man is incredibly well-read and a pretty damn aesthetic writer himself, so I trust him when he says, for example, that Shirley Jackson and Ramsey Campbell have captured the "weird" far m ...more
I wanted to rate this higher. After reading the first half though I was tempted to put it down and rate it even lower than I did after I finished it.[return][return]The problem is that the chapter on King and Barker are just too long. I tend to like everything that S. T. Joshi recommends, so I'm going to hunt down the authors I hadn't heard of. I'd rather he had focused more on those folks than lambasting other authors. Indeed, the inclusion of so much harsh material on Blatty seems odd, as it s ...more
I like horror fiction or "weird" fiction as Joshi calls it, but I was hoping for a way more intellectual examination than what we get here. What you basically get is a laundry list of poorly written summaries of various horror writer's work. Joshi constantly ruins the endings and over and over again will write things like, " doubtlessly, this sounds silly when it is poorly summarized, but it's chilling when actually read." As if the problem is that all summaries of books are poorly written when ...more
Nick Urciuoli
The Modern Weird Tale is an insightful and refreshingly unpretentious bit of literary criticism. However, I could have done without Joshi's compulsion to doggedly promote his atheistic worldview, especially given that many of his jabs at religion were not very persuasive. Take his dismissal of William Peter Blatty's belief that the presence of tangible evil proves the existence of good, or even of God. Blatty's position - as presented by Joshi - is of course too strong: evil can only serve as ci ...more
From an index card that fell to the floor when I dropped the book: S. T. Joshi, you are piquant. Let's go have mule kicks and shoot the bull.

I don't remember writing that, but I do remember actually laughing out loud a few times when reading this, and how often does that happen with literary criticism. There were also several oh-no-he-didn't moments (in the delightfully and deservedly scathing Stephen King chapter), much vigorous nodding (Shirley Jackson, William Peter Blatty), and a few exagger
Jim Phillips
The subtitle here is more correct that you might think. Joshi has very little complementary to say about any of the modern authors he covers. There are a few exceptions (T. E. D. Klien and Ramsey Campbell to name two) but otherwise is very aggressive about his dislike of most modern authors in the genre. An Joshi's strong (very strong) dislike of anything religious comes pounding through. Many of his entires (most notably Blatty, for whom Joshi is especially vituperative) come off as little more ...more
John Hughes
Joshi's previous 'The Weird Tale' is an absolute cornerstone of Weird literary criticism. This later, lesser work is more problematic. It suffers in two major ways: the lack of firm editorial guidance, which may have pared away much of the casual, idiosyncratic put-downs and other personal foibles from the actual insights (of which, to be fair, there are many); and the fact that though published in 2001, there is little examination of any work after 1990. Given that it largely deals with current ...more
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Sunand Tryambak Joshi (b. 22 June 1958 in Pune, India) is an Indian American literary scholar, and a leading figure in the study of Howard Phillips Lovecraft and other authors. Besides what some critics consider to be the definitive biography of Lovecraft (H. P. Lovecraft: A Life, 1996), Joshi has written about Ambrose Bierce, H. L. Mencken, Lord Dunsany, and M.R. James, and has edited collections ...more
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