Friday, August 21, 2015

Bailed: "American Fantastic Tales" edited by Peter Straub

Bailed: American Fantastic Tales: terror and uncanny from Poe to the pulps edited by Peter Straub, 2009, 9781598530476.

Todd Mason recommended this and Volume Two a few Fridays ago. I quit on page 378 of 713. The first story is from 1805. My point in getting the book was to try out the older stories. The writing style would often clash with my preferences. I've supposed this is not just an issue of changing language but of reading style. 1805 surely had less reading option and variety. No need to rush through a novel with another pile waiting to be read. No TV and radio to compete with a novel; read at your leisure for as long as you want to burn the light.

I write that because some of the stories are thick.  Loooong sentences with lots of commas. Long-winded, too. Just say it, damn it. As I leaf through the book I see quite a few stories that were fun. The lame stories fill in between the fun stories and I lost steam.

1. There are a few authors in the last half of the book like Robert E. Howard and Robert Bloch that I am interested in but I've had this book too long.
2. My favorite was Lukundoo by Edward Lucas White. Explorers in Africa meet another Anglo in the jungle who is there to ask them for help. They travel to the other man's camp where his colleague has hidden himself in his cabin. The hidden man has been growing bumps, those bumps are tiny human heads. That was creepy and much like Stephen King's I Am The Doorway.
3. I bailed on the Henry James story. Bleah.
4. Ambrose Pierce's The Moonlit Road has two people and ghost telling their version of a killing and disappearance, Rashomon style.
5. I've never seen Rashomon.
6. I recall F. Marion Crawford's tale about a murder and ghost being good.
7. Frank Norris had a Grendel-like vampire in Iceland.
8. Gertrude Atherton has a man looking for his missing friend who was presumed drowned.
9. Madeline Yale Wynne's story was good. Two spinster sisters raise a girl. The girl tells her daughter of her favorite room in the house. The room is missing on the next visit - only a pantry is there. The sisters say the room never existed - the room reappears a few years later on another visit by the daughter of the now grown girl.
10. Ralph Adams Cram's narrator tells of a boyhood walk that detoured into The Dead Valley. Years later the man tries to find the haunted place.
11. Robert W. Chambers was interesting because it was set in the future year of 1920 in a fascist state with recently constructed suicide buildings. Chambers published the story in 1895 and could not foresee automobiles, machine guns, and WWI. His main character is insane and believes himself the inheritor the royal seat of King in Yellow.


Unknown said...

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Todd Mason said...

Sorry it was such a mixed bag...but, yes, it was a rare writer who could be bothered to say what they meant concisely before Twain and Bierce came on the scene, and the Edwardians in Britain (the Bensons and Saki and their peers)...and the paring down continued in the '30s (Bloch in horror, Hammett in mystery, Heinlein in sf, Hemingway in contemporary mimetic getting a lot of the credit). Henry James is not part of that trend, no. Though he nonetheless did some good work...though I read more of his work before I was a teen than I have since.

Try reading Akutagawa in the better translation before seeing RASHOMON, perhaps...