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American Gothic Tales [Paperback]

Joyce Carol Oates
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Dec 13 1996 William Abrahams
Joyce Carol Oates has a special perspective on the “gothic” in American short fiction, at least partially because her own horror yarns rank on the spine-tingling chart with the masters. She is able to see the unbroken link of the macabre that ties Edgar Allan Poe to Anne Rice and to recognize the dark psychological bonds between Henry James and Stephen King. This remarkable anthology of gothic fiction, spanning two centuries of American writing, gives us an intriguing and entertaining look at how the gothic imagination makes for great literature in the works of forty-six exceptional writers.

In showing us the gothic vision—a world askew where mankind’s forbidden impulses are set free from the repressions of the psyche, and nature turns malevolent and lawless—Joyce Carol Oates includes Henry James’s “The Romance of Certain Old Clothes,” Herman Melville’s horrific tale of factory women, “The Tartarus of Maids,” and Edith Wharton’s “Afterward,” which are rarely collected and appear together here for the first time.

Added to these stories of the past are new ones that explore the wounded worlds of Stephen King, Anne Rice, Peter Straub, Raymond Carver, and more than twenty other wonderful contemporary writers. This impressive collection reveals the astonishing scope of the gothic writer’s subject matter, style, and incomparable genius for manipulating our emotions and penetrating our dreams. With Joyce Carol Oates’s superb introduction, American Gothic Tales is destined to become the standard one-volume edition of the genre that American writers, if they didn’t create it outright, have brought to its chilling zenith.


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From Amazon

"Many of the writers in this volume are not 'gothic' writers but simply--writers. Their inclusion here is meant to suggest the richness and magnitude of the gothic-grotesque vision and the inadequacy of genre labels if by 'genre' is meant mere formula." So writes Joyce Carol Oates in a historical introduction to this anthology of 46 tales--tales that span a range from the Puritan paranoia of Charles Brockden Brown (1798) to the biological surrealism of Nicholson Baker (1994). Some critics have written that the gothic sensibility has no relevance in contemporary literature: by showing how gothic tales portray the all-too-current phenomenon of "assaults on individual identity and autonomy," Oates proves them wrong. I predict this will in time be considered a classic and influential anthology.

From Publishers Weekly

In compiling 40 short stories that represent the 200-year history of "gothic" fiction in America, from Washington Irving's classic "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" to Stephen King's "The Reach," Oates employs a eclectic and elastic definition of the genre. In her cogent introduction, she writes that she sought "the range, depth, audacity and fantastical extravagance of the human imagination." The result is a tad confusing, straying as far as science fiction and surrealism, but Oates's taste in the quality of stories is always impeccable. The pieces also all share a certain darkness. Entries range from Edgar Allen Poe's sadistic "The Black Cat" to Charlotte Perkins Gilman's classic psychological horror story, "The Yellow Wallpaper." Shirley Jackson, Anne Rice and Katherine Dunn are also represented. Among the more idiosyncratic selections are Herman Melville's "The Tartarus of Maids"; Don DeLillo's beautiful tale of astronauts floating above the earth in "Human Moments in World War III"; and Paul Bowles's strange and powerful "Allal," about a Moroccan orphan boy who so identifies with a snake that they mysteriously change bodies-and meet gory fates. Fright-seekers and those with a taste for the frankly macabre might be won over by Oates's more artistic, subtle and compelling take on the gothic, where the "essential subject is the human psyche in confrontation with something (divine? demonic?) beyond human comprehension and control."
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars nibbles July 9 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I love to take my time and sample my way thru this type of book.. it truly is a bag of candy. even a story by Shirley Jackson I hadn't seen . I love short stories and would influence anyone to nibble through them. sharon
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5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating Read Jan. 17 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I had not read a great deal of Joyce Carol Oates before this so was very happy to find these stories so compelling and beautifully written. Highly recommend!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Not my usual June 18 2004
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
I usually stick to bestsellers or Oprah club selections like THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER or McCrae's THE BARK OF THE DOGWOOD, but this one caught my eye. Then again, it does that that southern gothic title, so this was probably the reason, and the McCullers and McCrae are at their core, gothic. At any rate, I'm not a Oates fan, but this is by far the best thing she's done. I'd give it ten stars if they allowed it. VERY well written and entertaining without being overly commercial.
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4.0 out of 5 stars The dark side of the American psyche May 13 2003
Format:Paperback
American Gothic Stories ed. and with an introduction by Joyce Carol Oates. Highly recommended.
In this 1996 anthology, noted American author Joyce Carol Oates collects American tales of horror and/or the supernatural, from an excerpt from Wieland, or the Transformation (1798) by Charles Brockden Brown, to "Subsoil" (1994) by Nicholson Baker, so that the 50 stories here represent nearly 200 years of the darker side of the American psyche.
The stories, arranged in chronological order, show some clear trends. In early stories, by Brown, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and even Edgar Allan Poe, religion plays a prominent role. Interestingly, God and his creation are seen as at odds with one another. For example, in Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown," the forest and the darkness are where Satan meets humanity. "The Tartarus of Maids," an industrial creation of Herman Melville's, is set in a remote rural location, contrasted to another Melville story (not included here), "The Paradise of Bachelors," set in a London gentlemen's club. Perhaps this conviction that nature is a place of mystery, evil, and fear, explains the early (and current) American drive to conquer it.
Another theme is denial of responsibility for one's own terrible actions. When called to account for committing some of the most heinous crimes possible, Wieland's defense is inarguable: He has proved his faith in God by doing that which God desired of him. (Unlike Wieland, the reader will recognise that the "shrill voice" expressing God's bloody will from behind a "fiery stream" is more likely that of the fallen angel Lucifer.)
A second example is the famous Poe story, "The Black Cat," in which the narrator, noted from infancy for his "docility and humanity," becomes a cold-blooded maimer and killer of that which he loves most.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A great book to read on a wet, lazy day. Oct. 28 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
American Gothic Tales, edited by Joyce Carol Oats, is a wonderful compilation of short stories from the bizzare and twisted to the utterly grotesque. This book includes authors known for their horrific tales like Edgar Allen Poe and Anne Rice, to others such as Charolette Perkins Gilman and Mark Twain, who I would not expect to be included in this anthology of gothic tales. "Freniere" by Anne Rice (one of my favorite storytellers) takes your imagination to the mysterious and historical city of New Orleans.In some hotel room in the French Quarter, a vampire named Louis tells the agonizing story of his life as the undead. Shirly Jackson's perplexing story "The Lovely House" will keep you guessing the entire time you are reading this haunted tale. The most thought provoking story I read was "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charolette Perkins Gilman. This is a tale of a woman who's greatest enjoyment comes from writing, but due to the repression by her husband and the times she lives in, she is denied her greatest pleasure. As you turn each page, you will find yourself joining in her downward spiral to insanity. Of coarse a collection of gothic tales would not be complete without a story from Poe. Oats pick, "The Black Cat" explores the maddness of a man addicted to alcohol and the cruelties he inflicts upon his beloved cat Pluto, and wife.
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By A Customer
Format:Paperback
From stories that leave you wondering what you just read, to stories that will make you turn all the lights, American Gothic Tales has them. Edited by Joyce Carol Oates, it contains stories that date back to the late Nathaniel Hawthorne to the present day writings of Nicholas Baker. Of the 32 stories compiled into one i enjoyed reading many of them. "The Yellow Wallpaper" by Charlotte Perkins Gillman, is one of the strangest stories I have read. In the story, a woman, who today would be considered fine, is locked up in isolation to help restore her to proper mental stature. In another story, Shirley Jackson's "The Lovely House", a young lady is always preoccupied by a ghost with which only she can see, keading her friends to think she is somewhat crazy. Lisa Turtle's "The Replacments" is one of those creepy stories that make you check under the bed for monsters. In the story, women find these small alien creatures and make them their primary companios over boyfriends and husbands in an eerie non-hostile take over. Another story that leaves you wondering is Breece D'J Pancake's "Time and Again". The narrator, who turns out to be a mass murderer leads you through a dreary day of his life plowing snow. This story makes you analyze every aspect of it just to understand it. One of the final stories I read was Bruce McAllister's "The Girl Who Loved Animals" in which the setting takes place 50 years in the future. When a young girl is impregnated with a gorilla embryo, much controversy is stirred up. Through everything though the mother and child remain oddly familiar to each other throughout the future which makes for a trange and unique ending.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars An array of interesting and strange gothic tales.
Joyce Carol Oates has created the ultimate collection of gothic tales. Oates has included some of the most popular writers of gothic literature such as Edgar Allen Poe and... Read more
Published on Oct. 28 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars Oates provides a great mix of soul-stirring tales.
In her introduction, Joyce Carol Oates proves that "gothic" literature is not an attack on mankind's sameness. Read more
Published on Oct. 28 1999
4.0 out of 5 stars An entertaining and suspensful genre of literature
With authors such as Poe, King, Bradbury and many other well known authors we can be nothing less than pleased with this genre. Read more
Published on Oct. 28 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating Literature and Mind Boggling Horror
American Gothic Tales is a masterpiece of collected short stories edited by Joyce Carol Oates. You find a diverse variety of authors from Poe, who is very well known for conveying... Read more
Published on Oct. 28 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars This collection of gothic literature is awesome.
The book, American Gothic Tales, by Joyce Carol Oates, compiles classics from Charles Brocken Brown (1798) and continues with works that cover up to 1994 by Nicholson Baker. Read more
Published on Oct. 27 1999
5.0 out of 5 stars A book of value
By far American Gothic Tales is a magnificent book. The book includes many wonderful authors with spine-chilling stories. Read more
Published on Oct. 27 1999
4.0 out of 5 stars Intense momentum building literature
Only knowing a few of the writers (Anne Rice, Poe, Stephen King), I was delightfully shocked at how these writers went about writing these gothic/horror tales. Read more
Published on Oct. 27 1999
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