American Gothic Tales Paperback – Dec 1 1996
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"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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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
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 . Read morePublished on July 9 2013 by blackrock woman
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!Published on Jan. 17 2013 by Karen Sampson
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. Read morePublished on June 18 2004
In her introduction, Joyce Carol Oates proves that "gothic" literature is not an attack on mankind's sameness. Read morePublished on Oct. 27 1999
With authors such as Poe, King, Bradbury and many other well known authors we can be nothing less than pleased with this genre. Read morePublished on Oct. 27 1999
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 morePublished on Oct. 27 1999
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 morePublished on Oct. 27 1999
By far American Gothic Tales is a magnificent book. The book includes many wonderful authors with spine-chilling stories. Read morePublished on Oct. 27 1999
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