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American Supernatural Tales

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As Stephen King will attest, the popularity of the occult in American literature has only grown since the days of Edgar Allan Poe. American Supernatural Tales celebrates the richness of this tradition with chilling contributions from some of the nation’s brightest literary lights, including Poe himself, H. P. Lovecraft, Shirley Jackson, Ray Bradbury, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and—of course—Stephen King. By turns phantasmagoric, spectral, and demonic, this is a frighteningly good addition to Penguin Classics.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

478 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2007

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About the author

S.T. Joshi

591 books408 followers
Sunand Tryambak Joshi 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 of their works.

His literary criticism is notable for its emphases upon readability and the dominant worldviews of the authors in question; his The Weird Tale looks at six acknowledged masters of horror and fantasy (namely Arthur Machen, Algernon Blackwood, Dunsany, M. R. James, Bierce and Lovecraft), and discusses their respective worldviews in depth and with authority. A follow-up volume, The Modern Weird Tale, examines the work of modern writers, including Shirley Jackson, Ramsey Campbell, Stephen King, Robert Aickman, Thomas Ligotti, T. E. D. Klein and others, from a similar philosophically oriented viewpoint. The Evolution of the Weird Tale (2004) includes essays on Dennis Etchison, L. P. Hartley, Les Daniels, E. F. Benson, Rudyard Kipling, David J. Schow, Robert Bloch, L. P. Davies, Edward Lucas White, Rod Serling, Poppy Z. Brite and others.

Joshi is the editor of the small-press literary journals Lovecraft Studies and Studies in Weird Fiction, published by Necronomicon Press. He is also the editor of Lovecraft Annual and co-editor of Dead Reckonings, both small-press journals published by Hippocampus Press.

In addition to literary criticism, Joshi has also edited books on atheism and social relations, including Documents of American Prejudice (1999), an annotated collection of American racist writings; In Her Place (2006), which collects written examples of prejudice against women; and Atheism: A Reader (2000), which collects atheistic writings by such people as Antony Flew, George Eliot, Bertrand Russell, Emma Goldman, Gore Vidal and Carl Sagan, among others. An Agnostic Reader, collecting pieces by such writers as Isaac Asimov, John William Draper, Albert Einstein, Frederic Harrison, Thomas Henry Huxley, Robert Ingersoll, Corliss Lamont, Arthur Schopenhauer and Edward Westermarck, was published in 2007.

Joshi is also the author of God's Defenders: What They Believe and Why They Are Wrong (2003), an anti-religious polemic against various writers including C. S. Lewis, G. K. Chesterton, T. S. Eliot, William F. Buckley, Jr., William James, Stephen L. Carter, Annie Dillard, Reynolds Price, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, Guenter Lewy, Neale Donald Walsch and Jerry Falwell, which is dedicated to theologian and fellow Lovecraft critic Robert M. Price.

In 2006 he published The Angry Right: Why Conservatives Keep Getting It Wrong, which criticised the political writings of such commentators as William F. Buckley, Jr., Russell Kirk, David and Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Phyllis Schlafly, William Bennett, Gertrude Himmelfarb and Irving and William Kristol, arguing that, despite the efforts of right-wing polemicists, the values of the American people have become steadily more liberal over time.

Joshi, who lives with his wife in Moravia, New York, has stated on his website that his most noteworthy achievements thus far have been his biography of Lovecraft, H. P. Lovecraft: A Life and The Weird Tale.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 131 reviews
Profile Image for Bill Kerwin.
Author 1 book81.5k followers
March 6, 2019

This is a well-chosen anthology. If it is inconsistent in quality, the problem is not to be found in Joshi's choices, but in the decline of supernatural fiction during the latter part of the 20th century.

The older stuff is the best. Irving's "German Student" is nothing more than a campfire story for boy scouts, and not really a very good one at that. The Hawthorne tale about Randolph's portrait is better, but not exactly gripping. Then comes Poe's "The Fall of the House of Usher," and--not having read this story in thirty years--I was astonished at what a masterpiece it is--not a word out of place, artfully alternating vague menace with Gothic claptrap in a way that makes both of them more terrifying. O'Brien's "What Was It?" is still unsettling, and Bierce's "Halpin Frayser"--a story with which I was not familiar--is elliptical and perverse in a very modern way. Henry James' "The Real Right Thing," in which a biographer may or may not have the permission of his ghostly subject, was also new to me, and I found it very effective, as was Shirley Jackson's "The Visitor."

The Lovecraft and Clark Ashton Smith pieces are excellent as well, but except for T.E.D Klein and Ligotti (both masters of the form) the rest--about a third of the book--is pretty forgettable. Civilization may or may not be in decline, but the supernatural tale certainly is.
Profile Image for Glenn Russell.
1,357 reviews11.8k followers
June 9, 2019

"A certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces must be present; and there must be a hint, expressed with a seriousness and portentousness becoming its subject, of that most terrible conception of the human brain - a malign and particular suspension or defeat of those fixed laws of Nature which are our only safeguard against the assaults of chaos and the daemons of umplumbed space." Thus spake S. T. Joshi as to what qualifies as a tale of the supernatural.

American Supernatural Tales - a treasure for lovers of great literature of the dark weird variety. S. T. Joshi has collected twenty-six bone chillers penned by American masters of the craft, from Washington Irving, Edgar Allan Poe, Henry James, H. P. Lovecraft, Clark Ashton Smith to Shirley Jackson, Stephen King and Joyce Carol Oats. Mr. Joshi has also included a most informative Introduction providing historical and cultural context.

As a way of sharing what a reader is in store for, I will pull back the purple satin curtain to reveal the book's unique rasa by focusing on one selection I found among the most hair-raising: Vastarien by Thomas Ligotti (born 1953).

In the very first short paragraph Thomas Ligotti establishes the atmosphere of dread so essential for a tale of the supernatural: "Within the blackness of his sleep a few lights began to glow like candles in a cloistered cell. Their illumination was unsteady and dim, issuing from no definite source. Nonetheless, he now discovered many shapes beneath the shadows: tall buildings whose rooftops nodded groundward, wide buildings whose facades seemed to follow the curve of the street, dark buildings whose windows and doorways tilted like badly hung paintings. And even if he found himself unable to fix his own location in this scene, he knew where his dreams had delivered him once more."

The author's unique voice in writing his fiction is all about precision - subtle shades of character, nuanced images and foreshadowing, impeccable timing to build mystery, suspense, surprise and, of course, horror. Every word counts. This to say, as much as I attempt to capture the tale's flavor, for the full impact and encounter with Vastarien, you must read for yourself.

Back to the main character's dream: although he sees the distorted buildings propagate, he not only possesses a sense of intimacy with each of the many buildings but also the spaces within the buildings and the streets coiling around the buildings. Similar to previous occasions, he knows a good bit relating to particulars: how deep their foundations, the location of specific inhabitants, "a secret civilization of echoes flourishing among groaning walls."

But, alas, as he examines the interiors of the buildings more closely, difficulties present themselves: stairways lead nowhere, caged elevators give the impression they are traps, ladders "ascending into a maze of shafts and conduits, the dark valves and arteries of a petrified and monstrous organism." Such descriptions bring to mind the etchings of Piranesi or M. C. Escher's graphic enigmas - a stroke of Ligotti dusky foreboding.

Moving about in his dream, a myriad of choices and questions press upon him, foremost among these queries: should he leave or remain with the occasional manikin he finds sitting in a plush chair starring back at him? And once outside on the streets, what is he to think when he looks up at one of the towers and sees "vague silhouettes that moved hectically in a bright window, twisting and leaning upon the glass like shadow-puppets in the fever of some mad dispute."

This dream continues until he encounters two figures standing beneath a street lamp, figures whose faces are "a pair of faded masks concealing profound schemes." The dreamer awakens and it is only here we learn his name: Victor Keirion - a nice authorial touch since the question arises: in all the many dreams we have had in our lifetime, how many times have we heard our own name? If your experience is similar to mine, the answer is unambiguous: never. We only return to our name when we wake up.

The creepiness progresses and we come to know much more about Victor Keirion, a name befitting his personality since Keirion and carrion are homonyms and Victor means victory, thus our main character is victorious carrion. What?! What is meant by this? Ah, mystery.

Victor enters a bookstore in the shape of a ten sided polygon and is approached by a crow-man which eventually leads to Victor's obsession with one book in particular and a certain hallucinated world. "Each day thereafter he studied the hypnotic episodes of the little book; each night, as he dreamed, he carried out shapeless expeditions into its fantastic topography."

The tale takes even darker, more maddening turns but I've written enough. I encourage you to hunt down this Penguin edition for Thomas Ligotti's onyx gem as well as the other tales included in this fine collection.

S. T. Joshi, Born 1958 - American scholar and literary critic, a lover of weird and fantastic fiction

“Who knows what wonders, what horrors, may have transpired in the dim past, before our race stood erect? Who can guess at the mysteries of the future, when we and all our works are passed away and the sun itself grows old?"
― S.T. Joshi
Profile Image for Johann (jobis89).
643 reviews4,264 followers
April 13, 2018
"That's life for you," said MacDunn. "Someone always waiting for someone who never comes home. Always someone loving some thing more than that thing loves them. And after a while you want to destroy whatever that thing is, so it can't hurt you no more." - The Fog Horn. Ray Bradbury.

A collection of American supernatural tales ranging from the years 1824 to 2000. Ghosts and elder gods and vampires and demons... oh my!

This collection was a really interesting read, I really liked how the stories are presented chronologically, so it's almost like you can track the evolution of these supernatural tales and how they change over time. However, in terms of the quality of the stories themselves, they were mostly hit and miss, but overall I'd say that the good outweighs the bad. I had the opportunity to reread some great stories such as The Fall of the House of Usher by Edgar Allan Poe, The Call of Cthulhu by HP Lovecraft and Night Surf by Stephen King - The Call of Cthulhu in particular was even better on a second read. If I ignore my rereads within this collection, the stand-out stories were the following: The Fog Horn by Ray Bradbury, The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis by Clark Ashton Smith and The Events at Poroth Farm by T. E. D. Klein.

First of all, The Fog Horn by Ray Bradbury... consider my mind blown. It was simply stunning. It was heartfelt and touching, whilst also being quite atmospheric and chilling. It actually prompted me to pick up a Bradbury short story collection. The writing was absolutely gorgeous and the idea for the story itself was just so unique and unexpected. Highly rate this one!

The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis was just fucking crazy and I was 100% ON BOARD. I read it while having a bath and the water was almost cold when I was getting out, as I just couldn't stop!! It was basically like a Lovecraft story set on Mars with an Alien vibe. I honestly never thought I'd be the type to enjoy stories like that, and yet here we are... I adored this story and am also a major Lovecraft fan!! This one was pretty tense and scary, and will be hard to forget.

The Events at Poroth Farm was pretty much a story that is right up my street. Once there's some kind of demonic possession involved, I'm there. And I'm revelling in it. Read this one if you can, it was fantastic. The sense of foreboding was overwhelming and had me livin' on the edge. There's also a lot of great references to horror and weird fiction as our protagonist is spending his summer reading lots of books out at this farm. So that was an added bonus!

Other highlights for me were Old Renfield's Heart by Robert E. Howard (which I actually read aloud to Matthew and we both enjoyed), The Lonesome Place by August Derleth and What Was It? by Fitz-James O'Brien. Fun fact: recently after reading this book I randomly found out that there is actually an August Derleth award (that King has won I believe) - weird how these things happen. There was also a Shirley Jackson story (The Visit), but I was quite disappointed by this one...which makes me sad.

I had kept a list of ratings for each story, and the average was 3.4, so I think an overall rating of 3.5 seems most fair, doesn't it? This collection is worth it for the stories I highlighted (as well as the Poe, Lovecraft and King ones, if you haven't read those).
Profile Image for Peter.
2,623 reviews471 followers
February 19, 2020
Excellent anthology of fine horror stories. If you want to get into horror you definitely should start here: Washington Irving, Poe, Lovecraft, Klein, Leiber, King... there are many big names with their stories in here starting with Irving as one of the earliest authors in horror and ending with Caitlin Kiernan. The stories are from classic to pulp fiction to more science fiction orientated horror. Sometimes the science fiction share in the stories was a bit too strong for me (I prefer classic horror). Recommended!
Profile Image for Mohammed.
430 reviews533 followers
August 26, 2019
إدمان الرعب، حالة يصعب الشفاء منها بكل تلك الأعراض التي تباغت المصابين.

رغبة ملحة في الحكايات المظلمة، احتياج قاهر لرؤية ما لا يُرى، للانصات لهمسات قد تكون أو لا تكون مسموعة.

يشعر المدمن بالحكة والتنميل، يحتاج إلى حقنة على شكل رواية، إلى قرص على هيئة فلم أو مسحوق على هيئة قصة.

أنا مدمن، واعترف بذلك. وللسيطرة على إدماني فكرت بهذه الحيلة: الاحتفاظ بمجموعة قصص رعب في كتاب واحد بجانب فراشي. كل ما داهمتني الأعراض بقصة أو قصتين حتى تزول الرغبة.

بصراحة أحببت هذا الكتاب من أول نظرة، كان ذلك بسبب تغليفه الرائع، اللون الأحمر الممزوج بالأسود، الملمس الجلدي المقبض والحواف الورقية السوداء. للأسف كنت أضعف من أن أقاوم.

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يتألف الكتب من قصص رعب وغموض انتقاها المحرر من الأدب الأمريكي. كعادته المجموعات المنوعة، هناك قصص ممتازة وأخرى متوسطة المستوى والبعض لم تعرف على أي أساس اختيرت. هناك طبعا عوامل لا تهم القارئ الباحث عن المتعة مثل التنويع بين الأصناف والأساليب.
هناك أسماء كبيرة مثل لافكرافت، كنج، شيرلي جاكسون و إدجار آلان بو. لم تعجبني قصتا كنج ولا جاكسون، أما قصتا بو و لافكرافت فهما رهيبتان وإن سبق لي قراءتهما من قبل.

من القصص الجميلة التي أذكرها -قرأت الكتاب بالتقسيط على مدى ستة أشهر- قصة مكالمة من البعيد، قصيرة وبسيطة وذات نهاية تسبب القشعريرة.

تلك القشعريرة...هي بالذات...مايبحث عنه المدمنون.
Profile Image for Mir.
4,862 reviews5,005 followers
Want to read
April 26, 2019
[Note: Originally published in 2007 as part of Penguin Classics series editions; republished with introduction by series editor Guillermo del Toro.]

Naturally, I've already read a number of these over the years, some, like "The Fall of the House of Usher," so long ago (middle school!) that they certainly merit rereading. Stories which I've reviewed on goodreads already are hyperlinked.

The adventure of the German student / Washington Irving -- Edward Randolph's portrait /
Nathaniel Hawthorne -- The Fall of the House of Usher / Edgar Allan Poe -- What was it? / Fitz-James O'Brien -- The death of Halpin Frayser / Ambrose Bierce -- The yellow sign / Robert W. Chambers -- The real right thing / Henry James -- The Call of Cthulhu / H. P. Lovecraft -- The vaults of Yoh-Vombis / Clark Ashton Smith -- Old Garfield's heart / Robert E. Howard -- Black bargain / Robert Bloch -- The lonesome place / August Derleth -- The girl with the hungry eyes / Fritz Leiber -- The fog horn / Ray Bradbury -- A visit (The lovely house) / Shirley Jackson -- Long distance call / Richard Matheson -- The vanishing American / Charles Beaumont -- The events at Poroth Farm / T. E. D. Klein -- Night surf / Stephen King -- The late shift / Dennis Etchison -- Vastarien / Thomas Ligotti -- Endless night / Karl Edward Wagner -- The hollow man / Norman Partridge -- Last call for the sons of shock / David J. Schow -- Demon / Joyce Carol Oates -- In the water works (Birmingham, Alabama 1888) / Caitlin R. Kiernan.
Profile Image for Hannah.
143 reviews45 followers
June 9, 2018
'It upset me to see how little I've actually read, how far I still have to go. So many obscure authors, so many books I've never come across...' A beautifully collected book full of hidden gems that I enjoyed and some I skimmed over. There is something for every horror enthusiast in this book of American Supernatural Tales.
Profile Image for Arisawe Hampton.
Author 3 books74 followers
September 27, 2018
Full of great dark emotional twists. Easily a collection I’ll be coming back to.
Profile Image for Quirkyreader.
1,514 reviews41 followers
February 7, 2017
S.T. Joshi has presented a good collection of strange tales from American fiction. It gives one a taste of what there is and what you will find if you seek it out.

This collection only touched the tip of the iceberg of great American weird fiction.
Profile Image for Benni.
501 reviews14 followers
November 20, 2014
Review: http://bennitheblog.com/bookbiters/am...

American Supernatural Tales collects twenty-six short stories by American authors organized in chronological order, from Washington Irving’s 1824 tale, “The Adventure of the German Student,” to Caitlín R. Kiernan’s 2000 tale, “In the Water Works (Birmingham, Alabama 1888). This collection was edited by S. T. Joshi, and the 2013 reissue of this book as part of the Penguin Horror series also includes an introduction by Guillermo Del Toro.

In the introduction, Mr. Joshi—best known as critic and biographer of H. P. Lovecraft—distinguishes “supernatural horror” from “psychological horror,” and while this book concentrates on the former, quite a few stories have elements of both (Stephen King’s “Night Surf” seems to be the only story with no supernatural element).

In compiling this volume, Mr. Joshi seems intent on refuting British critic William Hazlitt’s critiques on American horror, though Joshi admits that Hazlitt did raise a valid question, one that American authors have sought to answer:

Since so much of supernatural fiction appears to find the source of its terrors in the depths of the remote past, how can a nation that does not have much of a past express the supernatural in literature?

It’s interesting, then, that we begin with Washington Irving’s “The Adventure of the German Student,” a tale set in Paris and featuring a German protagonist, perhaps to show that the earliest American horror stories were still strongly influenced by European history. According to Henry A. Pochmann:

The tale is pitched in the vein of [E. T. A.] Hoffmann and has all the earmarks of a German tale; yet I have found no German source for it. Very possibly Irving’s own statement of its source in his mock-acknowledgment of sources for Tales of a Traveller is to be taken at face value. He says “The Adventures of the German Student . . . is founded on an anecdote related to me as existing somewhere in French . . . .”

While the tale references the guillotine, often associated with the French, similar folktales have been circulating elsewhere in the United States (though I have not been able to trace whether they pre- or post-date Irving’s story). Even where there may not be lingering fear of beheadings, there persists a fear of the woman who is not what she seems.

Up next is Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1838 tale, “Edward Randolph’s Portrait,” a tale that may have crossed the seas in the opposite direction, influencing one of London’s most popular playwrights, the Irish Oscar Wilde, in his only novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray. According to Kerry Powell:

[E]nough evidence exists to conclude that the numerous and detailed resemblances between Hawthorne and Wilde’s stories cannot be convincingly explained away as merely coincidental. If Oscar Wilde was not directly influenced by Hawthorne, it is safe to infer that Dorian Gray would not be the novel it is without Hawthorne in the background, at least, as a shaping influence of “prophetic picture” fiction as it developed later in the nineteenth century.

The book does not dwell on the European-American divide in horror for that long, however. As Mr. del Toro wrote in his series introduction, “[t]o learn what we fear is to learn who we are.” The stories from American Supernatural Tales therefore present further illumination on the American cultural zeitgeist at that time, the anxieties that we as Americans faced.

Of particular interest to me was Fritz Leiber’s 1949 tale, “The Girl with the Hungry Eyes.” The tale is concerned with consumerism and the rapid growth of the American advertising industry, but also male anxieties about female sexuality. While the fear of falling for the allure of women is not a new topic, and indeed has been previously treated in other folklore as vampiric (see huli jing, kitsune), Leiber’s tale infuses such fear with one of Marxist alienation—it’s one thing to be seduced by a woman in the flesh, but what happens when men are seduced by the mere image of a woman?

I love, then, that two stories later, we’re given Shirley Jackson’s 1952 tale, “A Visit.” What constitutes horror, from a female perspective, is being tied to a house, forever doomed to wait for the men to return, over and over—a horror perpetuated by patriarchal tradition, and even by the women from prior generations.

In anthologizing past stories, I imagine that it’s difficult to obtain the rights to all the stories one wishes to include (or to afford them). Mr. Joshi, as the editor of so many horror anthologies, perhaps also wished for the collected stories not to overlap with his other books. Unfortunately, with American Supernatural Tales, the short story featured may not be a particular author’s best work, or even one of his or her more exemplary works.

A massive shift also takes place once H. P. Lovecraft started publishing his stories. His influence was far-reaching, and I enjoyed the post-Lovecraft tales much more than the pre-Lovecraft tales.

In terms of enjoyment, I would have rather learned more about the author and the tale after each story instead of before; many introductions contained spoilers for the stories.

Just as 1980’s heavy metal music sounds tame by today’s standards, we are continually desensitized to horror tropes, and thanks also to graphic horror movies, it takes a lot for us to be horrified—at least by the printed word. The collection’s title leaves out the word “horror” altogether, and indeed, American Supernatural Tales is more effective as evidence of the evolving landscape of horror literature rather than a book read for scares.

Accordingly, I would recommend American Supernatural Tales for those who are more interested in the evolution of American horror than for those looking for scary stories.

Review: http://bennitheblog.com/bookbiters/am...
Profile Image for Frankenoise.
195 reviews16 followers
October 16, 2020
As with all compilations there's going to be some great ones and some duds. I did find that there was only a couple stories I didn't care for and they were more towards the 2nd half of this book. That being said that means they were from the more recent authors as this book has it's tales listed chronologically by year. Guess that means I prefer the older scary stories and that hardly suprises me seeing as how I adore HP Lovecraft and Poe but can't stand Stephen King. Still a great collection overall if you can find it.
Profile Image for Zach.
285 reviews272 followers
July 21, 2016
Some great stories and some mediocre ones average out to an acceptable but disappointing overview of the American supernatural tradition. Includes an extensive historical introduction and biographical notes for each author, which is nice, but which all reflect Joshi's usual partisan blind spots, which is less nice.

Joshi opens by noting that the supernatural genre emerges in the 18th century as science delineated what is natural and what is beyond rational bounds (there's that liminality again). No one should be surprised that he then immediately turns to Lovecraft, "one of the leading theoreticians of the genre as well as one of its pioneering practitioners," although how he could be a pioneer of something that emerged a century before he was born is unclear.

HPL: The true weird tale has something more than secret murder, bloody bones, or a sheeted form clanking chains according to rule. A certain atmosphere of breathless and unexplainable dread of outer, unknown forces must be present; and there must be a hint, expressed with a seriousness and portentousness becoming its subject, of that most terrible conception of the human brain--a malign and particular suspension or defeat of those fixed laws of Nature which are our only safeguard against the assaults of chaos and the daemons of unplumbed space.

Following Lovecraft, Joshi considers the weird and the supernatural to be synonyms and distinguishes them from "psychological horror," where "the horror is generated by witnessing the aberrations of a diseased mind." One wonders if the publisher insisted on the lack of "Horror" in the title of the collection, because Joshi is sure that what he is putting together here are all horror stories. Actually, he seems to think that the supernatural is, by definition, horrific ("Since so much of supernatural fiction appears to find the source of its terrors in the depths of the remote past, how can a nation that does not have much of a past express the supernatural in literature?") and therefore leaves out the numinous or benevolent ghost stories or whimsical fantasy. This is, frankly, fine by me, but let's call a spade a spade - these are American Supernatural Horror Tales.

Or, being even more honest, White American Supernatural Horror Tales. It will surprise no one that Joshi, the world's foremost HPL partisan, has selected stories almost exclusively by white men. Joshi himself is the only person of color involved, and only three of the 26 authors are women (Jackson, Oates, and Kiernan). All the authors are American, I'll give him that, but I wish a bit more care had gone into selecting/situating the stories as quintessentially American in content or theme - we start with Washington Irving, for example, who Joshi identifies as America's first supernaturalist, inspired by the "Dutch legendry" of New England, but his selection is about a German student in the midst of the French Revolution.

Off the top of my head, some names that could (should) have been included to make this a more comprehensively American collection, sticking to Joshi's year-2000-cutoff: Henry Dumas, Edith Wharton, Nancy Holder, Joanna Russ, C. L. Moore, Octavia Butler (based on the odd inclusion of some science stories here), Samuel R. Delany...

The stories are presented chronologically, and not explicitly grouped together, but may be thought of, broadly, as The Early Tradition (1824-1899), The Big Three of the Pulp Era (1928-1933), Lovecraft's Pupils (1941-1955, with Shirley Jackson as the odd one out), and Modern (1972-2000). Joshi particularly falters with his selections in the latter era - perhaps due to lack of interest on his part (it's probably telling that the last selection here, published in 2000, takes place in 1888).

The Adventure of the German Student • (1824) • Washington Irving
"He was, in a manner, a literary ghoul, feeding in the charnel house of decayed literature."

A melancholic and capital-R-Romantic German student studying in Paris during the Revolution makes the acquaintance of a beautiful guillotine victim. An anti-Enlightenment tale where the "Goddess of reason" sweeps away "old prejudices and superstitions" and unleashes something much worse. Also in Straub’s “American Fantastic Tales” and many other places, and the origin of the trope of the woman with the ribbon around her neck (see also Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, Carmen Maria Machado's masterful "The Husband Stitch," and so on). Starting here literalizes the hold of Europe on (white) American fiction, I suppose.

Edward Randolph's Portrait • (1838) • Nathaniel Hawthorne
Also backwards-looking - but at least it's American historical fiction this time, the story of a haunted painting during the American Revolution, with an excellent eye to place and setting and local folktales. Makes sure that we know that women are more in touch with the spirit world than are men.

The Fall of the House of Usher • (1839) • Edgar Allan Poe
Decadent stagnation, sickness, trances, a beautiful woman's death, obsessive fixations, etc etc. I'm just going to start copying and pasting that for all of my Poe reviews.

What Was It? • (1859) • Fitz-James O'Brien
A man in a haunted boarding house engages a friend in some metafictional musings about horror, smokes some opium, and then is attacked by an invisible monster as he tries to sleep. The opium and the invisibility would seem to be setting up a who-knows-if-it-was-real-or-imagined ending, but O'Brien pivots and has the defeated monster witnessed and investigated (fruitlessly) by the powers of modern science. An anthology warhorse, I'm not sure how many times I've read this one at this point.

The Death of Halpin Frayser • (1891) • Ambrose Bierce
A man moves from the South to California after some time at sea and is perhaps murdered by the ghost of his mother, with whom he enjoyed an unpleasantly close relationship. A puzzling experiment in narrative that jumps around chronologically and leaves a lot to the imagination - not entirely successfully, but I admire Bierce for trying. Joshi's introduction sets forth one possible explanation (revolving around Oedipus and amnesia) as The Truth, but it doesn't seem to hold up to much scrutiny. Is apparently held up by some as one of America's earliest vampire stories, although that was also not my interpretation at all.

The Yellow Sign • (1895) • Robert W. Chambers
A painter and model strike up a (very sentimental, melodramatic) romance even as they are menaced by a living corpse and a mind-melting play. A solid story with a fantastically hopeless denouement, although I must admit that I vastly prefer "The Repairer of Reputations," with its unreliable narrator and demented, surreal proto-science-fiction landscape.

The Real Right Thing • (1899) • Henry James
A writer's widow commissions another man to write a biography. The dead man makes his presence known. The most understated ghost story of all time (a possible tie with Mary Hunter Austin's "The Readjustment")? James stories are always so hard for me to follow on the sentence level that the forest gets lost for the trees - I guess I'm not cut out for this whole "modernism" thing.

The Call of Cthulhu • (1928) • H. P. Lovecraft
A mosaic that bounces around the world with various documents pertaining to the cult of Cthulhu among the "degenerates" of the world that Lovecraft was so afraid of/fixated on. More of a fictional newspaper article than a story in any real narrative sense, although it's not like anyone reads Lovecraft for the characterization anyway. "We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity, and it was not meant that we should voyage far."

The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis • (1932) • Clark Ashton Smith
Smith is a tough one because he's unarguably one of the big names of the early 20th Century Weird Tales authors, but his fiction tends not to be American in place or, really, approach - even more than his contemporaries, he favored fantastical settings of decadence and ancient decay (and prose of a similar flavor). This story, about an ancient temple on Mars infested with brain slugs, is somewhat frontier-flavored (to the point that it could just as easily have been set in the American West), but including a science fiction story instead of a fantastical one isn't really consistent with the other choices here.

Old Garfield's Heart • (1933) • Robert E. Howard
An inverted lich ("A livin' thing in a dead thing is opposed to nat'er.") in the American Southwest, complete with a wholeheartedly Othered Apache witch doctor. This story made no impression on me whatsoever.

Black Bargain • (1942) • Robert Bloch
A conversational narrative drawing out the occult shadows behind everyday, modern life by means of a misanthropic druggist and a deal with the devil. Leiber's (superior) "Smoke Ghost" is often held up as the model for this kind of modernized, urban horror, but Bloch does have his moments here:
"Once again I sensed the presence of wonder in the world of lurking strangeness behind the scenes of drugstore and high-rise civilization. Black books [including De Vermis Mysteriis, Bloch's answer to the Necronomicon] still were read, and wild-eyed strangers walked and muttered, candles burned into the night, and a missing alley cat might mean a chosen sacrifice." Not a bad choice - Bloch's serious, Lovecraft-inflected horror is vastly superior to his humorous pieces.

The Lonesome Place • (1941) • August Derleth
Derleth was a great posthumous popularizer of Lovecraft, and that is where his historical importance, such as it is, should lie. His fiction is pedestrian at best, and here we have a bit of proto-Bradbury fluff about a boy avoiding a possibly-monster-infested area near his small-town home. "What do grown-up people know about the things boys are afraid of?"

The Girl with the Hungry Eyes • (1949) • Fritz Leiber
A photographer discovers a model who takes the world by storm because men become fixated on pictures of her. "There are vampires and vampires, and not all of them suck blood." Leiber, for my money, is far and away the standout of this generation of genre writers, and this story is just one of many excellent examples of his timeless skewerings of capitalism/consumerism/commodification - and, this time, misogyny and the male gaze.

The Fog Horn • (1951) • Ray Bradbury
The deep sea as the timeless final frontier, unchanged and apathetic to modernity or humanity at large. The theme would appear to be Lovecraftian, but our living fossil - a dinosaur amorously interested in a lighthouse - is treated with too much sympathy for that.

A Visit • (1952) • Shirley Jackson
In which happiness leads to domestic imprisonment in a beautiful house, infinite and/or labyrinthine and/or recursive in both space and time; fairy-tale-ish and, you have to assume, an influence on Kelly Link (certainly a precursor, at any rate). As Joanna Russ once said (about a Fritz Leiber story): "The less I say about this story, the less I will slobber over the page and make a nut of myself."

Long Distance Call • (1953) • Richard Matheson
An elderly woman receives some mysterious, creepy calls. Quite underwhelming after Jackson; inferior, even, to the Twilight Zone episode (adapted by Matheson himself), where a personal connection between the woman and the caller lends some pathos to what is otherwise a barely-fleshed-out urban legend.

The Vanishing American • (1955) • Charles Beaumont
A white, mid-century everyman accountant begins to fade away before reimagining himself through sheer force of will and immaturity. A mediocrity, the ending of which removes it from the category of horror altogether. This is especially galling because Beaumont's "Black Country" would have been an ideal selection.

The Events at Poroth Farm • (1972) • T. E. D. Klein
In which an eldritch spirit possesses a cat and learns to be evil by reading horror fiction.

Inspired, in more ways than one, by Machen's "The White People," as our hapless grad student protagonist relocates to farm in New Jersey for some summer reading for a course he's putting together on the Gothic tradition course. Everything is disconcerting, but what is really Wrong, and what is due to our narrator's increasingly-unreliable state of mind? He seems to be kind of an addled sort anyway, and is on top of that an urban intellectual surrounded by nature and religious country folk, breathing in copious amount of industrial-strength insecticide, out of his element in every imaginable way, reading the most terrifying fiction that the world has produced, seeing and hearing things that shouldn't be there...

An interesting counterpoint to Straub's Ghost Story (1979), both Machen-inspired modern tales of horror and metafiction and monsters with a sense of humor.

Night Surf • (1974) • Stephen King
Post-apocalyptic slice of life with obnoxious teenagers in a world dying out from a super-flu (a first pass at what would become The Stand). You can't have a collection of American supernatural horror without King, I guess, but including a story of his with no supernatural elements was an odd choice.

The Late Shift • (1980) • Dennis Etchison
Late capitalism, all-encompassing and totalizing, overpowers a pair of losers in California after they stumble onto the existence of a company renting out the bodies of the newly dead for low wage night shift work. Right up my alley.

Vastarien • (1987) • Thomas Ligotti
Reading-as-escapism meets the trope of the Necronomicon, here revisioned as the book Vastarien, which finds its ideal reader in Victor Keirion (the significance of V-T-R-I-N I haven't quite puzzled out yet), a man who "belonged to that wretched sect of souls who believe that the only value of this world lies in its power-at certain times-to suggest another world," and the book becomes the man's world, leaving him as so many Lovecraft stories left their protagonists. I should love this, but it just never really connected for me - I need to spend some more time with Ligotti's work at some point to figure out exactly how I feel about it.

Endless Night • (1987) • Karl Edward Wagner
A nightmarish, clipped prose poem about evil and Nazis and psychiatry, not particularly supernatural, not particularly a tale, even. Again, Wagner is an obvious choice for inclusion, but why this one over "Sticks" or "Where the Summer Ends" or etc?

The Hollow Man • (1991) • Norman Partridge
A worthy take on the Wendigo, the personification of the snowy wastes of Canada enlisted by writers of weird tales from Algernon Blackwood to Siobhan Carroll, presented by Partridge with a scalier and more concrete physicality than the others. I am a sucker for these kinds of stories of wintry desolation and isolation. Also reminiscent of David Drake's "The Barrow Troll," which is similarly blood-drenched, short, and to-the-point.

Last Call for the Sons of Shock • (1991) • David J. Schow
Universal Studios movie monsters (Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, and the Wolf Man) mashed up with shock rock and goth club culture. I suppose this is very American, but it's not anything I'm interested in (as is true in general for the two modes in which Schow operates, splatterpunk and horror movie metafiction).

Demon • (1996) • Joyce Carol Oates
A short bit of fractured prose about a demon child and an accursed eyeball... or, in a simpler reading, mental illness. It's tough to justify the inclusion of this one.

In the Water Works (Birmingham, Alabama 1888) • (2000) • Caitlín R. Kiernan
A schoolteacher/amateur paleontologist (Kiernan's field of training) has a run-in with a monster under fin de siecle Birmingham. Lesser Kiernan, but still a solid creature feature with some worthwhile musings on science versus industry and class/labor. Includes a variety of annoying and unnecessary compound word descriptors like "rustdark" and "crystalwet" which seem especially incongruous with our POV character as an ultra-rational man of science. Less impressionistic/more clearcut than many of her works, where the intrusion of weirdness is tantalizingly right out of sight (of the reader and/or the characters).
Profile Image for Shawn.
794 reviews232 followers
Want to read
March 8, 2023

Robert Bloch's “Black Bargain” features a despondent pharmacist, sick of being a glorified “soda jerk,” intrigued by a customer who seems to be gathering materials for a black magic ceremony. Later, the stranger returns as an overnight success and befriends the pharmacist, who begins to realize there is something increasingly wrong about the man's shadow... A tight little story, this is Bloch putting a modern spin on Adelbert von Chamisso's 1814 classic “Peter Schlemihl”, about a man who sells his shadow to the Devil. Bloch updates the story and finds a new angle in, and the whole thing works by being compact and punchy.
Profile Image for Joseph Hellion.
17 reviews4 followers
January 7, 2022
An eclectic selection of short stories with varying styles and effect. Most of them do adhere to the tradition of the weird tale and cosmic horror, with some stories being more mundane and ordinary. It is well and good to bring the abstract cosmic horror to the ground, but it's necessary to not shatter it in the process. The tendency of the later stories to bring the horror out of the mundane does not work consistently. Generally however most the stories are good, some are great. Some are unreadable like the one by Stephen King. Did you have to include that ? The tendency of some new American authors to always have witty ironic dialogue is just so uniquely American that it doesn't work for me at all.
Profile Image for Cait.
30 reviews10 followers
June 20, 2008
A good primer for me, so uncultured in American Literature (really: I'd never read anything by Nathaniel Hawthorne, HP Lovecraft, Shirley Jackson, etc, etc). A lot of the stories are merely so-so, with two notable exceptions:
Shirley Jackson's the Visit and T.E.D. Klein's The Events at Poroth Farm. The former's a subtle but psychologically f'ed up "why is this scary" story - I hate conversations where characters appear not to hear each other at all, so CREEPY! The latter scared the shitting shit out of me, oh my God. I read it while watching documentaries about huge storms and tsunamis, too, and was just completely jangled afterwards and had to lie in bed thinking happy thoughts about friendly alive people not dying in violent waves but like, giving each other hugs instead.
Profile Image for Gavin.
1,085 reviews319 followers
August 21, 2018
I usually find horror fiction sort of pathetic, but this cherry-picking of two centuries is varied, trend-setting, often golden. Hawthorne, Poe, Bloch, Matheson, Oates. I have no patience for Lovecraft and his legion.

The phases: High Gothic to Pulp to magic realism to splatterpunk, blessedly omitting the most recent and hypersuccessful form, urban fantasy / paranormal romance. Henry James’ prose is every bit as clotted and unpronounceable as reputed. High point (apart from Poe’s ‘House of Usher’ – a hellhound in a fluffy corset) is probs Theodore Klein’s ‘The Events at Poroth Farm’, a queer sleepy beast with its own internal supernatural anthology and unnerving sidelong glances.

(Read aloud)
Profile Image for Jeff.
558 reviews10 followers
June 21, 2020
This is a very impressive collection indeed. It begins with "The Adventure of the German Student" by Washington Irving (0riginally published in 1824) and ends with "In the Water Works (Birmingham, Alabama 1888) by Caitlin R. Kiernan (originally published in 2000), and covers a lot of stories from various authors in between: Edgar Allan Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, Robert Bloch, Robert E. Howard, Clark Ashton Smith, Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont, Thomas Ligotti, Shirley Jackson, Stephen King, David J. Schow, Joyce Carol Oates, to name a few. There is not a weak story in the book.
Profile Image for Jennifer.
100 reviews1 follower
November 24, 2018
Some of these stories made me roll my eyes so far back in my head that they just did a complete 360 degree rotation in my eye socket.

This disproportionate nature of stories from people of color and women speaks volumes to the priorities American (read: Western) literature favors.

A good introduction overall to some less popular authors while reinforcing why the popular authors are so famous (Poe, Jackson, King). It’s a disservice to put them in an anthology with some seriously ridiculous prose.
Profile Image for Shivani.
196 reviews48 followers
December 30, 2018
"To learn what we fear is to learn who we are."

What is horror exactly? Is it in details of a tale by the fireside? Is it the unseen, the unnatural? Or is it in the details left out? Has supernatural become its only trope? Or does it in fact hide within our minds? Waiting for our beliefs to crumble, so it can seize control of our petrified beings? While I was reading this book, I found myself wondering about these and many more questions. After all that's what horror does best..makes one question oneself. And at best, makes them question everything.

As a genre, horror has an almost belligerent attitude to boundaries and beliefs. The horror that connects with the reader, has the uncanny ways of rooting out the worst fears and nightmares. It is the parallels drawn with this uprooted dreamscape that reinforce the dread against all rationale. There were times when science could be considered a bulwark against the unnatural. Then Shelly came along and suddenly science sided with the monsters. It came up with ways for perversion of nature and became the breeding ground of monsters that turned on their creators. On the other hand, faith in divinity with its inherent acceptance of inexplicable things made it impossible to deny the fantastic, let alone pray it away. And when both science and religion give up the ghost, the reign of horror begins.

Having the wish to start sampling Joshi's editorial works, I am glad this was my first. Couple it with introduction from del Toro and we have one of the best anthologies at hand, bringing together a wide variety of works. The absolute lack of monotony speaks volumes about the selections made by the editors. From house infestations, alien life forms, wendigo and vampires to talismans, myths, psychopathy and unknowns, the tales serve a flavor as varied as their readers. And I can't help but mention each with a rating.

3★ The Adventure of the German Student
3.5★ Edward Randolph's Portrait
4★ The Fall of the House of Usher
3★ What Was It?
4★ The Death of Halpin Frayser
4★ The Yellow Sign
3★ The Real Right Thing
5★ The Call of Cthulhu
4.5★ The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis
4★ Old Garfield's Heart
3.5★ Black Bargain
3.5★ The Lonesome Place
3★ The Girl with the Hungry Eyes
3★ The Fog Horn
3.5★ A Visit
3.5★ Long Distance Call
3.5★ The Vanishing American
5★ The Events at Poroth Farm
3★ Night Surf
3.5★ The Late Shift
3.5★ Vastarien
3.5★ Endless Night
4★ The Hollow Man
4★ Last Call for the Sons of Shock
3★ Demon
4★ In the Water Works

For me as a reader, the unknown trope hits a chord deeper than the tales with a known cause. The unknown coupled with lack of details, where the reader is constantly playing the "What If" game.

Oh, yeah, that game..the What If game. I probably play it too often. (Vain attempt to enlarge realm of the possible? Heighten my own sensitivity? Or merely work myself into an icy sweat?)

Anyways, the speculations get me going, get me more involved and at times lead to more dread than intended. Each to their own, I say. But if you are into monsters, there's plenty of those between these covers. Maybe not always upto no good. Sometimes even they need to kick back in a bar someplace. And just maybe..it's the one you frequent.
Profile Image for Jack Rabbit.
30 reviews
October 11, 2021
Some duds, as you tend to get in such collections, but over all a pretty good selection of tales. Vary in length, notoriety, and taste.

If you like the supernatural, give this book ago. Particularly if you’re a fan of Lovecraft, as his legacy seeps through to many of the writers within these pages.
Profile Image for carson.
412 reviews
April 26, 2023
read for class--
I won't be rating this since it is a collection of stories where I experienced such a wide range of enjoyment, but this truly does feature some of the greats of the horror/gothic genres.

It was a great learning experience since I hardly ever read horror. It was cool to see what makes the genre so prolific.
Profile Image for Jena.
316 reviews2 followers
October 14, 2017
Estos cuentos sobrenaturales son tan viejos que, sólo aquellos que han leído poco sobre el tema tendrían que leerlo. Como ejemplo están "La caída de la Casa de Usher", y el "Llamado de Cthulhu". Barnes & Noble ha publicado mejores antologías.
Profile Image for Maria A 🌙.
200 reviews34 followers
June 29, 2019
Great introduction to some authors I didn't know, but it's a mixed bag. Some great stories while others were rather boring and bad.
Profile Image for Lancelot du Lac.
57 reviews9 followers
October 3, 2018
All the 26 horror stories have been carefully chosen from different sub-genres such as psychological horror, science-fiction, post-apocalyptic, gothic etc spanning 19th and 20th centuries. A must read for those who really appreciate this kind of literature and who want to see different aspects of it. If you're looking for clichéd stuff or jumpscares reminiscent of today's horror movies, then this book is not for you, as hardly 3 to 4 stories have a tiny pinch of that element (you might not even sense it). But still, all are enjoyable, some in a confusing way. This book is also good as a collectible for horror/supernatural lovers as there is no reputed american author (of this genre) that you won't find in this book, from the oldest-Washington Irving (born 1783) to the latest-Caitlín R. Kiernan (born 1964). All the stories have been arranged chronologically and each story is preceded by a brief sketch of the author along with his/her works.
Profile Image for Zach.
13 reviews
November 13, 2022
Great collection of short stories. Some of the early works were a little slow, but that just might be personal tastes.
Profile Image for Sara Dee.
89 reviews17 followers
November 3, 2014
This was my scifi/fantasy/horror book club pick for October.

It was a fun read, but it did have some downsides...

First of all, I've realized that I am not a huge fan of most American authors, especially when it comes to horror. Some I love of course, but it's just like with horror movies...we aren't up to par with other parts of the world and their horror.

I also did not like the fact that the little blurbs were before the stories, most of them gave spoilers. I would have liked it A LOT more if they were put AFTER the stories.

The last thing I didn't love was that I felt they picked some lame stories from authors. FOr example, I love Stephen King's shorts, but this one was kind of blah. In the blurbs they talked about other stories but didn't include them...meh.

Stories I loved!!

What Was It?
The Yellow Sign
The Call of Cthulhu
The Lonesome Place
The Fog Horn
A Visit
The Events at Poroth Farm
The Hollow Man

After HP Lovecraft it seems like EVERYONE was inspired by him...he really shaped the path for American Horror.
Profile Image for Jack Wolfe.
436 reviews26 followers
October 24, 2020
Shocktober #5. The grand-arch-dean-master of the Weird's collection of American supernatural tales is... pretty decent! I'll go story by story for maximum scares.

- The Adventure of the German Student (Washington Irving) - *** - As stuffily and overelaborately written as any pre-Poe American horror (or American anything), but with an awesomely disgusting ending.

- Edward Randolph's Portrait (Nathaniel Hawthorne)- ** - As stuffily and overelaborately written as any pre-Poe American horror... And yeah. That's Hawthorne, for you.

- The Fall of the House of Usher (E.A. Poe)- **** - Hell yeah! Now THIS is horror! Genuinely freaky and perverse. One of those stories that announces early on that it's a spooky classic, and never relents.

- What Was it? (Fitz O'Brien) - **- I read this is a different collection years ago and didn't feel the need to read it again, because it's just not that good.

- The Death of Halpin Frayser (Ambrose Bierce) - **** - Effective little twisted literary mystery. Gotta seek out more of my boy Bierce.

- The Yellow Sign (Robert Chambers) - ***** - Maybe my favorite in the collection. A work of dark art that'll drive you mad, about a work of dark art that'll drive you mad. I'm a sucker for this stuff, which is as clever as it is eerie.

- The Real Right Thing (Henry James) - *** - James smothering you with language, which I guess sort of works when you're talking about claustrophobic horror shit. Another "meta" story about storytelling, which Joshi (and the weird tradition, interestingly) is big on.

- The Call of Cthulu (H.P. Lovecraft) - **** - Very Lovecraftian.

- The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis (Clark Ashton Smith) - **** - Seemed like a hokey Mars story at first... But is actually a pretty engaging, fun hokey Mars story, in the end! More dark questing and weird rituals, another prominent feature in this collection...

- Old Garfield's Heart (Robert E. Howard) - ** - Jon Arbuckle goes insane and murders his cat.

- Black Bargain (Robert Bloch) - *** - The R. Howard, Bierce, and even the Smith story sort of do an "American spooky Western" thing... this Bloch tale begins the "urban/noir" horror segment of the book. It's the Faust myth transplanted to a world of corporate climbers and soda shoppes. Interesting, with neat images, but not particularly scary.

- The Lonesome Place (August Derleth) - ** - "Lonesome" is just not a creepy word. "Lonely" is... see the fantastic noir novel "In a Lonely Place"... but this story was just the Hardy Boys meet a ghoul, or whatever.

- "The Girl with the Hungry Eyes" (Fritz Lieber) - **** - The sexy vampire as social comment. Could probably spawn a whole college level course on, oh, Desire and the Object and Neoliberalism and Lacan or whatever.

- "The Fog Horn" (Ray Bradbury) - *** - Impossible not to like Ray Bradbury! Reminiscent of "The Lighthouse," but maybe not as stomach-churning as that odd, perverted little nightmare.

- "A Visit" (Shirley Jackson) - ***** - I read it once, went "HUHHH??," and then read it again. The "is it live or is it Memorex" school of horror can be tiresome but Jackson is shirley the undisputed queen. A classic.

- "Long Distance Call" (Richard Matheson) - *** - We're in THE TWILIGHT ZONE! The next few reviews should all be read in Rod Sterling's voice. "The telephone. An essential component in the lives of Americans today. But the mysteries of sound, of human communication, are eternal. Who can we say is truly on the other end of the line?" Yeah.

- "The Vanishing American" (Charles Beaumont) - **** - A powerful piece of social commentary. Thought the ending was a little doofy. Again, very Twilight Zone-esque, and with good reason, as Beaumont wrote a lot of the classic episodes.

- "The Events at Poroth Farm" (T.E.D. Klein) - **** - Not writing any more about this damn writer, goddammit!

- "Night Surf" (Stephen King) - *** - A strangely affecting piece of social anti-realism, about a plague that devastates the world. Felt surprisingly humble and charmingly underwritten, from Mister "I read seven books a day and that's how I write seven books a year" Prolific-Ass Movie Man.

- "The Late Shift" (Dennis Etchison) - **** - Oooh this was good. A pulse-pounding detective creeper, but with a (cold, black) heart: like "The Vanishing American," it's about how little we know or care about each other.

- "Vastarien" (Thomas Ligotti) - **** - Probably the best writer of pure horror I've ever encountered. Everything he touches turns to gold. Another "story about a story," totally in the Lovecraft vein but also wholly original and bizarre.

- "Endless Night" (Karl Edward Wagner) - *** - Nazis, nightmares, repressed memories, etc. Poetic, good, etc.

- "The Hollow Man" (Norman Partridge) - **** - One of the few stories in the collection about a flesh-and-blood monster, and it's a doozy, full of really creative graphic violence and suspense.

- "Last Call for the Sons of Shock" (David Schow) - *** - The inventor of splatterpunk has a modern-day Dracula, Frankenstein's monster, and Wolfman shoot the shit. Probably the most shamelessly goofy tale of the bunch, but not without some poignancy.

- "Demon" (Joyce Carol Oates) - **** - Read this one! It takes two minutes and it rules. Just makes you wanna go ARGHHHHH

- "In the Water Works" (Caitlin Kiernan) - **** - And of course Joshi ends his collection with one of his favorites... An expertly paced, evocatively detailed foray into Southern Lovecraftian horror. BLUH!!

277 reviews1 follower
June 26, 2008
Very good collection for those looking to get a good hold on American horror stories from throughout the history of the whole country. I found some of the stories in the last third of the book not up to the level of the rest of the collection but everything was solid to say the least. I read this around Halloween and it did a good job getting me in the right mood for that celebration.
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