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Library of America Fantastic Tales Collection

Peter Straub
American Fantastic Tales Vol. 1 (LOA #196) by Peter Straub
American Fantastic Tales Vol. 2 (LOA #197) by Peter Straub

Library of America Fantastic Tales Collection : Titles in Order

Book 2
The second volume of Peter Straub’s pathbreaking two-volume anthology American Fantastic Tales picks up the story in 1940 and provides persuasive evidence that the decades since then have seen an extraordinary flowering. While continuing to explore the classic themes of horror and fantasy, successive generations of writers—including Shirley Jackson, Ray Bradbury, Charles Beaumont, Stephen King, Steven Millhauser, and Thomas Ligotti—have opened up the field to new subjects, new styles, and daringly fresh expansions of the genre’s emotional and philosophical underpinnings. For many of these writers, the fantastic is simply the best available tool for describing the dislocations and newly hatched terrors of the modern era, from the nightmarish post-apocalyptic savagery of Harlan Ellison’s “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream” to proliferating identities set deliriously adrift in Tim Powers’ “Pat Moore.”

“At its core,” writes editor Peter Straub, “the fantastic is a way of seeing.” In place of gothic trappings, the post-war masters of the fantastic often substitute an air of apparent normality. The surfaces of American life—department store displays in John Collier’s “Evening Primrose,” tar-paper roofs seen from an el train in Fritz Leiber’s “Smoke Ghost,” the balcony of a dilapidated movie theater in Tennessee Williams’ “The Mysteries of the Joy Rio”—become invested with haunting presences. The sphere of family life is transformed, in Davis Grubb’s “Where the Woodbine Twineth” or Richard Matheson’s “Prey,” into an arena of eerie menace. Dramas of madness, malevolent temptation, and vampiristic appropriation play themselves out against the backdrop of modern urban life in John Cheever’s “Torch Song” and Shirley Jackson’s unforgettable “The Daemon Lover.”

Nearly half the stories collected in this volume were published in the last two decades, including work by Michael Chabon, M. Rickert, Brian Evenson, Kelly Link, and Benjamin Percy: writers for whom traditional genre boundaries have ceased to exist, and who have brought the fantastic into the mainstream of contemporary writing.

The forty-two stories in this second volume of American Fantastic Tales provide an irresistible journey into the phantasmagoric underside of the American imagination.

LIBRARY OF AMERICA is an independent nonprofit cultural organization founded in 1979 to preserve our nation’s literary heritage by publishing, and keeping permanently in print, America’s best and most significant writing. The Library of America series includes more than 300 volumes to date, authoritative editions that average 1,000 pages in length, feature cloth covers, sewn bindings, and ribbon markers, and are printed on premium acid-free paper that will last for centuries.
Book 1
From early on, American literature has teemed with tales of horror, of hauntings, of terrifying obsessions and gruesome incursions, of the uncanny ways in which ordinary reality can be breached and subverted by the unknown and the irrational. As this pathbreaking two-volume anthology demonstrates, it is a tradition with many unexpected detours and hidden chambers, and one that continues to evolve, finding new forms and new themes as it explores the bad dreams that lurk around the edges—if not in the unacknowledged heart—of the everyday. Peter Straub, one of today’s masters of horror and fantasy, offers an authoritative and diverse gathering of stories calculated to unsettle and delight.

This first volume surveys a century and a half of American fantastic storytelling, revealing in its forty-four stories an array of recurring themes: trance states, sleepwalking, mesmerism, obsession, possession, madness, exotic curses, evil atmospheres. In the tales of Irving, Poe, and Hawthorne, the bright prospects of the New World face an uneasy reckoning with the forces of darkness. In the ghost-haunted Victorian and Edwardian eras, writers including Henry James, Edith Wharton, Mary Wilkins Freeman, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, and Ambrose Bierce explore ever more refined varieties of spectral invasion and disintegrating selfhood.

In the twentieth century, with the arrival of the era of the pulps, the fantastic took on more monstrous and horrific forms at the hands of H. P. Lovecraft, Robert E. Howard, Robert Bloch, and other classic contributors to Weird Tales. Here are works by acknowledged masters such as Stephen Crane, Willa Cather, Conrad Aiken, and F. Scott Fitzgerald, along with surprising discoveries like Ralph Adams Cram’s “The Dead Valley,” Emma Francis Dawson’s “An Itinerant House,” and Julian Hawthorne’s “Absolute Evil.”

American Fantastic Tales offers an unforgettable ride through strange and visionary realms.

LIBRARY OF AMERICA is an independent nonprofit cultural organization founded in 1979 to preserve our nation’s literary heritage by publishing, and keeping permanently in print, America’s best and most significant writing. The Library of America series includes more than 300 volumes to date, authoritative editions that average 1,000 pages in length, feature cloth covers, sewn bindings, and ribbon markers, and are printed on premium acid-free paper that will last for centuries.
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