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Includes "The Yellow Sign," the most horrific story from The King in Yellow, the classic horror collection by Robert W. Chambers featured on HBO's hit TV series True Detective. American Supernatural Tales is the ultimate collection of weird and frightening American short fiction. As Stephen King will attest, the popularity of the occult in American literature has only gro Includes "The Yellow Sign," the most horrific story from The King in Yellow, the classic horror collection by Robert W. Chambers featured on HBO's hit TV series True Detective. American Supernatural Tales is the ultimate collection of weird and frightening American short fiction. As Stephen King will attest, the popularity of the occult in American literature has only grown since the days of Edgar Allan Poe. The book 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 collection of stories. Part of a new six-volume series of the best in classic horror, selected by award-winning director Guillermo del Toro Filmmaker and longtime horror literature fan Guillermo del Toro serves as the curator for the Penguin Horror series, a new collection of classic tales and poems by masters of the genre. Included here are some of del Toro’s favorites, from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Ray Russell’s short story “Sardonicus,” considered by Stephen King to be “perhaps the finest example of the modern Gothic ever written,” to Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and stories by Ray Bradbury, Joyce Carol Oates, Ted Klein, and Robert E. Howard. Featuring original cover art by Penguin Art Director Paul Buckley, these stunningly creepy deluxe hardcovers will be perfect additions to the shelves of horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and paranormal aficionados everywhere.


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Includes "The Yellow Sign," the most horrific story from The King in Yellow, the classic horror collection by Robert W. Chambers featured on HBO's hit TV series True Detective. American Supernatural Tales is the ultimate collection of weird and frightening American short fiction. As Stephen King will attest, the popularity of the occult in American literature has only gro Includes "The Yellow Sign," the most horrific story from The King in Yellow, the classic horror collection by Robert W. Chambers featured on HBO's hit TV series True Detective. American Supernatural Tales is the ultimate collection of weird and frightening American short fiction. As Stephen King will attest, the popularity of the occult in American literature has only grown since the days of Edgar Allan Poe. The book 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 collection of stories. Part of a new six-volume series of the best in classic horror, selected by award-winning director Guillermo del Toro Filmmaker and longtime horror literature fan Guillermo del Toro serves as the curator for the Penguin Horror series, a new collection of classic tales and poems by masters of the genre. Included here are some of del Toro’s favorites, from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Ray Russell’s short story “Sardonicus,” considered by Stephen King to be “perhaps the finest example of the modern Gothic ever written,” to Shirley Jackson’s The Haunting of Hill House and stories by Ray Bradbury, Joyce Carol Oates, Ted Klein, and Robert E. Howard. Featuring original cover art by Penguin Art Director Paul Buckley, these stunningly creepy deluxe hardcovers will be perfect additions to the shelves of horror, sci-fi, fantasy, and paranormal aficionados everywhere.

30 review for American Supernatural Tales (Penguin Horror)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    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 havi 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.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Glenn Russell

    "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. Ame "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). VASTARIEN 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

  3. 4 out of 5

    Johann (jobis89)

    "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 "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).

  4. 4 out of 5

    Peter

    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 h 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!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mir

    [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 -- Th [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.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Hannah

    '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. '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.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Arisawe Hampton

    Full of great dark emotional twists. Easily a collection I’ll be coming back to.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mauoijenn

    Excellent group of tales to be read. I enjoyed myself so much reading these. I should look for some more of these type of books.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Quirkyreader

    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.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Benni

    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 intro 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...

  11. 5 out of 5

    Jessika

    If you are looking for a collection of "supernatural"/horror short stories, look no further. This was a solid sampling of stories from some of the genre's best authors. I was so excited to dive into this one to not only read selections from some of my favorite authors, but also to discover some of the other greats that I hadn't read before. As with any collection, there were some stories that I enjoyed more than others, but for the most part, I really liked what I read and even found a few new f If you are looking for a collection of "supernatural"/horror short stories, look no further. This was a solid sampling of stories from some of the genre's best authors. I was so excited to dive into this one to not only read selections from some of my favorite authors, but also to discover some of the other greats that I hadn't read before. As with any collection, there were some stories that I enjoyed more than others, but for the most part, I really liked what I read and even found a few new favorites. I also really enjoyed Joshi's introduction and found his commentary on the genre to be fascinating, although I highly disagree with his opinion of Stephen King. All in all, I thought this was a comprehensive anthology and one I'd like to add to my own shelves! Here's my rating of each story: --"The Adventure of the German Student" by Washington Irving: 3 stars --"Edward Randolph's Portrait" by Nathaniel Hawthorne: 3 stars --"The Fall of the House of Usher" by Edgar Allan Poe: 3 stars --"What Was It?" by Fitz-James O'Brien: 4 stars --"The Death of Halpin Frayser" by Ambrose Bierce: 2 stars --"The Yellow Sign" by Robert W. Chambers: 4 stars --"The Real Right Thing" by Henry James: 3 stars --"The Call of Cthulhu" by H. P. Lovecraft: 5 stars --"The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis" by Clark Ashton Smith: 4 stars --"Old Garfield's Heart" by Robert E. Howard: 5 stars --"Black Bargain" by Robert Bloch: 5 stars --"The Lonesome Place" by August Derleth: 5 stars --"The Girl With Hungry Eyes" by Fritz Leiber: 4 stars --"The Fog Horn" by Ray Bradbury: 5 stars --"A Visit" by Shirley Jackson: 4 stars --"Long Distance Call" by Richard Matheson: 5 stars --"The Vanishing American" by Charles Beaumont: 4 stars --"The Events at Poroth Farm" by T. E. D. Klein: 5 stars --"Night Surf" by Stephen King: 4 stars --"The Late Shift" by Dennis Etchison: 4 stars --"Vastarien" by Thomas Ligotti: 3 stars --"Endless Night" by Karl Edward Wagner: 2 stars --"The Hollow Man" by Norman Partridge: 4 stars --"Last Call for the Sons of Shock" by David J. Schow: 3 stars --"Demon" by Joyce Carol Oates: 4 stars --"In the Water Works (Birmingham, Alabama 1888) by Caitlin R. Kiernan: 4 stars

  12. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    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 ov 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.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Zach

    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). 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).

  14. 4 out of 5

    Cait

    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 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.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Ruby Tombstone Lives!

    Gorgeous, gorgeous edition. I'd have bought the Lovecraft volume too, except I have all those stories already. So much pretty printed paper. Gorgeous, gorgeous edition. I'd have bought the Lovecraft volume too, except I have all those stories already. So much pretty printed paper.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Gavin

    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 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)

  17. 4 out of 5

    Jeff

    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 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.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    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.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Shivani Maurya

    "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 ques "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.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Maria A 🌙

    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. 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.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lancelot du Lac

    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 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.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sara Dee

    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 th 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 Vastarien The Hollow Man Demon After HP Lovecraft it seems like EVERYONE was inspired by him...he really shaped the path for American Horror.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jack Wolfe

    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 ye 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!!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Micah

    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.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Ali

    Great anthology! I really enjoyed it. There were only a few stories that really didn't grab me, but even those were still well written and fit in this book. My favorite story over all was " the Events at Poroth Farm" bt T.E.D. Klein. That story had me in the edge of my seat! Great anthology! I really enjoyed it. There were only a few stories that really didn't grab me, but even those were still well written and fit in this book. My favorite story over all was " the Events at Poroth Farm" bt T.E.D. Klein. That story had me in the edge of my seat!

  26. 5 out of 5

    JW

    If this collection proves one thing, it's that the use of full, grammatical sentences has fallen out of favour in the last forty years of supernatural storytelling. Otherwise, a frighteningly good, thoroughly enjoyable collection worthy of its place on a horror fan's bookshelf. If this collection proves one thing, it's that the use of full, grammatical sentences has fallen out of favour in the last forty years of supernatural storytelling. Otherwise, a frighteningly good, thoroughly enjoyable collection worthy of its place on a horror fan's bookshelf.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Charlie

    This volume is currently the only way you can buy a reprint of T.E.D. Klein's utterly brilliant The Events at Poroth Farm, (which was later expanded into his slightly less obscure novel, The Ceremonies) and if you are interested in Weird Fiction then that novella absolutely justifies the price of entry by itself. A spectacularly strange and creepy story that also manages to weave a critical analysis of the genre's history into its narrative, by the end I found myself frustrated that Klein's othe This volume is currently the only way you can buy a reprint of T.E.D. Klein's utterly brilliant The Events at Poroth Farm, (which was later expanded into his slightly less obscure novel, The Ceremonies) and if you are interested in Weird Fiction then that novella absolutely justifies the price of entry by itself. A spectacularly strange and creepy story that also manages to weave a critical analysis of the genre's history into its narrative, by the end I found myself frustrated that Klein's other work is so utterly difficult to find. As for the rest of the volume, despite containing some pleasant surprises and very few duds, it is undermined by two contradictory and flawed premises. On the one hand, Joshi attempts to chart a history of American Supernatural Fiction by selecting single works from notable authors and arranging them chronologically. This is a rather bizarre way to represent a genre's development since it ignores how a writer's contribution may be diffused over multiple works as well as how multiple authors can cluster together to make a joint contribution to the field. Multiple examples of shorter stories would be a far superior way of introducing a reader to these characters rather than attempting to find single tales that 'represent' someone as diverse as Richard Matheson or Robert E. Howard. This is especially annoying partly because the two introductions to this book (one by Guillermo Del Toro, and the other by S.T. Joshi) are both entertaining and genuinely insightful about the genre's history, yet the collection is unable to embody their passion or their sense of history through the selection of the stories themselves. At the same time, this principle is also undercut by some stories apparently just being included because Joshi likes them, even if they don't reflect that writer's wider style, simply because they match Joshi's aesthetic preference for tales that mimic what he considers (as stated in other publications) to be the 'Golden Age' of Weird Fiction. So Ligotti's Lovecraftian tale 'Vastarien' appears, rather than his more idiosyncratic works like 'The Red Tower', 'Our Temporary Supervisor' or even 'The Nightmare Network' which are all more representative of his unique voice. (That said, I at least congratulate Joshi for not using his Lovecraftian pastiche, 'The Last Feast of the Harlequin'!) The effect of this is to narrow the range of every writer's voice, so that Clark Ashton Smith comes out looking like a Dr Who writer, Steven King like a poor man's Harlan Ellison, and Poe like an American Ann Radcliffe. The really unique qualities of many authors here are erased by Joshi's attempt to dig up their most conventional story, and if I was not already familiar with them then I do not think I would have sought out more of their work on the basis of what Joshi includes here. So what you have is an essentially arbitrary collection of stories, loosely connected by a supernatural theme that is not in itself all that specific. Ghosts, psychological abnormalities and far-flung cosmic terrors are all conscripted to a collection that cannot organise themselves into a more cohesive identity. This is not a representative history of the genre, yet it is not really the exploration of any particular strand or pressing idea within it either apart from some nebulous 'Americanness' which press-gangs these disparate tales together by national boundary. Yet as China Miéville points out in his essay, 'M.R. James and the Quantum Vampire', the Hauntological and the Weird are fundamentally different concerns within supernatural fiction, the former presuming "a present stained with traces of the ghostly, the dead-but-unquiet", i.e. the past refusing to stay dead and instead sticking around to hurt us, whereas the Weird is an encounter with something so alien that it remains permanently outside of ourselves even when it is claimed to be a part of our past, "The Weird is not the return of any repressed" since: The Weird entities have waited in their catacombs, sunken cities and outer circles of space since aeons before humanity. If they remain it is from a pre-ancestral time. In its very unprecedentedness, paradoxically, Cthulhu is less a ghost than the arche-fossil-as-predator. The Weird is if anything ab‑, not un‑, canny. In this light, do a ghost story, a Martian tomb-exploration, a post-apocalyptic plague narrative, an uplifting fable about social awkwardness, and a cosmic horror tale really belong in the same collection? One or two of these I'd describe as straight science-fiction, without any hint of the 'supernatural'. And for something published under Penguin Horror, what on earth is Charles' Beaumont's (admittedly very charming) 'The Vanishing American' doing here? The only identity here that's consistent (outside of Joshi's narrow taste) is the nationality of the authors. Of course, if you want to do nationalist literary criticism, then you can have an enjoyable time with it by saying something grandiose like the following: Ahem! [Radio crackle] American ghost stories have, until recently, been afflicted by an odd quality in that the nation did not have enough history to really have sufficient ghosts to worry about. As William Hazlitt joked, "No ghost, we will venture to say, was ever seen in North America. They do not walk in broad day; and the night of ignorance and superstition which favours their appearance, was long past before the United States lifted up their head beyond the Atlantic wave." Europe has its castles and its ground is built on the numberless dead, but until recently, surprisingly little thought was given to the sort of ghosts that colonialism might curse upon its practitioners by the bloody stains of modernity. Accordingly, many early writers approached America's ghosts as if the country were a necrological blank slate; Poe saw the uncanny in the state of the human mind itself, Hawthorne's Twice-Told Tales tried to invent a moral folklore for the new democracy that drew on the legacy of the Revolution as well as Puritan religious fervour, which was soon followed by Ambrose Bierce's use of the Civil War, abandoned mining towns, and other fresh tragedies to write the supernatural back into present-day America. The supernatural was constructed almost afresh, rather than drawing on ancient folklore in the same way that British ghost stories tended to do, and it is from this fresh spring that the American horror writer draws their unique power and strength. [Audience applause. Radio shuts off. You still do not know which room of your house these sounds are coming from.] This kind of grand sweep is fun to write, but it relies on a level of over-generalisation that somewhat falls apart when you start looking at the authors more closely. Whilst one can usually sense trends in the literary output of different nations, if only because of the linguistic barrier causing certain writers and readers to be more familiar with local voices, I've never felt comfortable with the hackneyed assertions that nationalist literary criticism seems almost predisposed to encourage. Surely what is truly weird and uncanny transcends those barriers? Ah, but maybe that's just my affection for Poe clouding my judgement... So if the theming of the collection is suspect, and the selection process is inconsistent, what is a reader left with? A curation of great stories? Well Joshi's attempt to provide a genre history means that many great stories have to be left out since he can only give one tale from each writer. After all, many important stories aren't going to be the author's best work, and much of their best work isn't necessarily all that innovative. Lovecraft, for instance, is represented by 'The Call of Cthulhu' - which is an excellent choice for demonstrating the arrival of Cosmic Horror, but as a story it does not represent the brilliance of his unique literary voice in the same way that 'The Outsider' or 'The Colour Out of Space' might have done. Poe similarly appears with the rather dreary 'Fall of the House of Usher', which leaves his more unsettling stories like 'The Masque of the Red Death' or the near-perfect 'Tell-Tale Heart' out in the cold. And why 'Old Garfield's Heart' is used as Robert E. Howard's entry rather than unbearably eerie 'Pigeons from Hell' is frankly beyond me. Furthermore, even where Joshi does try to provide a history of the genre, this is undermined by his raw, sneering, and hilariously vindictive attitude towards movements that he considers inferior to his beloved 'Golden Age'. The Splatterpunk movement of the 1980s, for instance, gets cursorily dismissed, with Joshi begrudgingly including a single story by David J. Schow that itself isn't even particularly Splatterpunk. But Splatterpunk nevertheless existed. You can critique it, analyse it, or even spit on it if you want, but you can't just ignore the movement and brush it under the carpet! And if you think Joshi's treatment of the Splatterpunk movement is bad, then dear god you should see the way he talks about Steven King! Joshi prefaces each story with a biographical essay - a nice idea undermined by the fact that he frequently includes spoilers about the upcoming tale. Nevertheless, the sheer unprofessionalism of Joshi's sneering remarks to Steven King who he chose to include in this book is remarkable, such as in the thinly veiled guffaw at how: King, although criticized by some for unoriginality in the use of supernatural tropes and for occasionally slipshod or verbose writing, received a National Book Award in 2003 for 'distinguished contributions to American letters.' (pg 355) This snide jab could perhaps have been inserted a little more gracefully if Joshi had not already written the following in his introduction: It is, of course, naive to think that the number of copies an author happens to sell has any correlation with his or her literary standing, and the majority of King's writing is indeed marred by clumsy prose; hackneyed conceptions derived from film, comics, and other media; and a rather dreary prolificity that does not bode well for the endurance of his work. (pg xli) You're not being subtle, Joshi, and you don't look clever for blowing raspberries at your contributors. Nevertheless, the weird part is that I still really enjoy reading Joshi as a critic. His knowledge of the field is vast, his insights keen, and even his sour persona offers a refreshing tang of actual personality in an academic world where Professor Dryasdust and his grey-bearded clones forever rule. But as the horror genre's main champion in the arena of scholarship, I can't help shaking my head at Joshi's aesthetic pedantry and petulant outbursts to authors who don't do exactly what he wants them to (consider, for instance, his demand that Ligotti write more Lovecraft pastiches rather than develop his own voice, or that Laird Barron stop poking fun at him). He never comes out of these complaints looking good, which is a shame because he can be a very astute critic when he wants to be one. Setting aside the book's limitations, I would like to single out the following stories as being of a particularly high quality, even if they are not assembled in a particularly consistent manner: - Ambrose Bierce's 'The Death of Halpin Frayser' - A bitterly funny little story that Joshi spoils the entire twist for in his introductory note. - H.P. Lovecraft's 'The Call of Cthulhu' - An obligatory classic, and magnificent in its telling, though 'The Outsider' is a better standalone tale for my money. - Ray Bradbury's 'The Fog Horn' - An unbearably beautiful lighthouse horror. Undoubtedly the most emotionally affecting tale in the whole collection. - T.E.D. Klein's 'The Events at Poroth Farm' - A masterpiece that hinges on a truly strange scene so inexplicable that I'm not sure who else could have pulled it off. To the best of my knowledge, it is unavailable to purchase anywhere else at a sane price. - Caitlin R. Kiernan's 'In the Water Works (Brimingham, Alabama 1888)' - An atmospheric tale far more engrossing than its title would have you believe. Overall the book contains two very good introductions to the subject matter, a questionably inconsistent selection criteria for its assorted tales, one utterly brilliant T.E.D. Klein novella, and a heavy spoonful of Joshi's most hilariously sour behaviour. I leave it to you whether or not that's worth the asking price.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kevin

    I was interested in reading some quality ghost stories, and this collection came up on a few lists, though they’re not all ghost stories. This chronology of American supernatural tales spans the likes of Washington Irving, Henry James, Poe, Lovecraft, Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, and Joyce Carol Oates. With such a broad time frame, some of the stories are sure to be dated and were likely included for historical purposes. The first few stories might as well be summed up with, “…but she turned o I was interested in reading some quality ghost stories, and this collection came up on a few lists, though they’re not all ghost stories. This chronology of American supernatural tales spans the likes of Washington Irving, Henry James, Poe, Lovecraft, Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, and Joyce Carol Oates. With such a broad time frame, some of the stories are sure to be dated and were likely included for historical purposes. The first few stories might as well be summed up with, “…but she turned out to have been DEAD the WHOLE TIME!” Probably they caused a raucous in their day, but they’ve lost their potency. The first story to get under my skin in the collection was a Martian tale called The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis by Clark Ashton Smith; the writing isn’t so stellar, but the finale is disturbing enough to leave a lasting impression. Some stories were more clever and fun than scary, like “Old Garfield’s Heart” by Robert E. Howard and “The Fog Horn” by Ray Bradbury. Some were kitschy, like “Long Distance Call” by Richard Matheson. The worst ones were self-important—ornate writing and the dressings of “deep psychology,” but little plot and character development. I love Shirley Jackson and wish Joshi had included something other than “A Visit,” though it does offer great scene-setting and creep-factor. The best story in here for me is easily “The Events at Poroth Farm” by T.E.D. Klein. Great world-building, voice, character, and creep-factor. Klein lays so much out there that you don’t know from which direction the threat will come, and the slow build is very effective. The climax didn’t unnerve the way the rest of it did (a bit of B-movie dialogue rather than true fright), but it’s still great. The second best was Norman Partridge’s “The Hollow Man,” a super-short tale from the point of view of a sadistic demon as it’s interrupted while feeding. So many visceral details, a clever style, and the only ending in the collection that made my breath catch a bit.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Fazal Ur Rehman

    I accidently stumbled upon this book while searching for some other works. The cover was alluring and the hardbound book had a mesmerizing effect. This was a copy of American Supernatural Tales, an anthology of twenty-six short stories related to supernatural horror, by American authors. The anthology, expertly curated and edited by S.T.Joshi for Penguin Books, comprises of one story per each author, placed chronologically, from the time of America's founding till the present. You can almost feel I accidently stumbled upon this book while searching for some other works. The cover was alluring and the hardbound book had a mesmerizing effect. This was a copy of American Supernatural Tales, an anthology of twenty-six short stories related to supernatural horror, by American authors. The anthology, expertly curated and edited by S.T.Joshi for Penguin Books, comprises of one story per each author, placed chronologically, from the time of America's founding till the present. You can almost feel the change in tone, selection of words, dialogues and even themes as you journey across this anthology. This is a great book to understand the horror genre at large and also serves as a sample of each author's work, giving you a general idea of each author's writing style and their ideas. It is also for those who want to study short story literature and the tropes utilized in them. My favorite short stories from this anthology are as following: 'The Fall of the House of Usher' by Edgar Allen Poe, 'The Yellow Sign' by Robert W. Chambers, ' 'The Call of Cthulhu' by H.P. Lovecraft, 'The Girl with the Hungry Eyes' by Fritz Leiber, ' The Fog Horn' by Ray Bradbury, 'The Events at Poroth Farm' by T.E.D. Klein and 'Last Call for the Sons of Shock' by David J. Schow. Overall it was a great read, especially when you're reading it alone, after midnight, under the blankets, as the cold winter wind howls in the night. I'll rate it as 5/5.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Max

    This was a really fun read, and I'm glad that I got the special Penguin Horror edition because Guillermo Del Toro's introduction is fascinating and has pointed me towards some other books I really need to read. For that matter, the stories in this book introduced me to a lot of good authors, and I'll be getting a lot of new books in the not too distant future to start reading some of their works. This collection is edited by S.T. Joshi, which is part of what made me pick it up - I enjoyed his ed This was a really fun read, and I'm glad that I got the special Penguin Horror edition because Guillermo Del Toro's introduction is fascinating and has pointed me towards some other books I really need to read. For that matter, the stories in this book introduced me to a lot of good authors, and I'll be getting a lot of new books in the not too distant future to start reading some of their works. This collection is edited by S.T. Joshi, which is part of what made me pick it up - I enjoyed his editing work on Penguin's set of HP Lovecraft collections, so I knew I'd be in for a good time with a selection of American horror stories done by him. As the title makes clear, Joshi has here focused purely on those tales that have a supernatural aspect to them. While some of these have psychological horror as well, and in fact a few are ambiguous as to whether the supernatural aspect is truly real or not, the focus is on monsters and magic. The collection is organized chronologically and runs from 1824 to 2000, which is pretty recent, especially given this was first printed in 2007. I do find the relative paucity of female authors disappointing. I'm not overly familiar with early female authors of supernatural horror, but I'm sure they're out there. I will have to seek out a good collection of female horror writers to make up for this flaw. Still, the stories that are present are generally enjoyable ones. There are a handful I've read before, like What Was It? and The Call of Cthulhu, and it was fun to reread them. (The latter made me realize I'm overdue for a Lovecraft reread.) Most of these were new, and my favorites included The Lonesome Place (Kinda like IT but short and sweet, and shows me that August Derleth's non-mythos stuff is probably worth checking out), The Fog Horn, Long Distance Call, and The Events At Poroth Farm. The last one is especially fun because the author is clearly familiar with much of the horror fiction that comes before him, as he makes use of some of the old tropes and nods at others, and his hero is rereading plenty of horror classics to prepare to teach a class. I also finally got to read The Yellow Sign as well as stories by a few authors I've been meaning to try. In a few cases I felt that the choices for a particular author were rather weak; most egregious was Night Surf for Stephen King. While it points towards The Stand, I think there are many other stories from Night Shift that would've worked better, especially Children of the Corn or Jerusalem's Lot (the latter is even a sort of Lovecraft pastiche). I don't feel the need to rush out and get books by every single one of the authors represented here, but I do now have a great source of reading suggestions, especially since I'm finding that I especially enjoy horror fiction when it's in short story form. While I feel there are some flaws and gaps in this collection, especially in terms of the relative lack of diversity amongst the authors, this still feels like a pretty good starting point for exploring horror fiction from the past two hundred years. And, equally as important, most of these stories were fun reads and I overall had a great time reading this collection, racing from one terrifying episode to the next. I definitely recommend this to anybody wanting to broaden their horizons into horror or anybody looking for a fun creepy Halloween read.

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