American Supernatural Tales (Penguin Horror)

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9780143122371: American Supernatural Tales (Penguin Horror)

Part of a new six-volume series of the best in classic horror, selected by award-winning director of The Shape of Water Guillermo del Toro

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. This volumes also 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. By turns phantasmagoric, spectral, and demonic, this is a frighteningly good collection of stories.

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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About the Author:

 


GUILLERMO DEL TORO is a Mexican director, producer, screenwriter, novelist, and designer. He both cofounded the Guadalajara International Film Festival and formed his own production company—the Tequila Gang. However, he is most recognized for his Academy Award-winning film, Pan’s Labyrinth, and the Hellboy film franchise. He has received Nebula and Hugo awards, was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award, and is an avid collector and student of arcane memorabilia and weird fiction.

S. T. JOSHI is a freelance writer and editor. He has edited Penguin Classics editions of H. P. Lovecraft’s The Call of Cthulhu and Other Weird Stories, and The Thing on the Doorstep and Other Weird Stories, as well as Algernon Blackwood’s Ancient Sorceries and Other Strange Stories. Among his critical and biographical studies are The Weird TaleLord Dunsany: Master of the Anglo-Irish Imagination, and H. P. Lovecraft: A Life, and The Modern Weird Tale. He has also edited works by Ambrose Bierce, Arthur Machen, and H. L. Mencken, and is compiling a three-volume Encyclopedia of Supernatural Literature.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

INTRODUCTION
 
The supernatural in literature can be said to have its roots in the earliest specimens of Western literature, if we take cognizance of such monsters as the Cyclops, the Hydra, Circe, Cerberus, and others in Greek myth. There is, however, a question as to whether, prior to a few centuries ago, such entities would have been regarded as properly supernatural; for a given creature or event to be regarded as supernatural, one must have a clearly defined conception of the natural, from which the supernatural can be regarded as an aberration or departure. In Western culture, the parameters of the natural have been increasingly delimited by science, and it is therefore not surprising that the supernatural, as a distinct literary genre, first emerged in the eighteenth century, when scientific advance had reached a stage where certain phenomena could be recognized as manifestly beyond the bounds of the natural. H. P. Lovecraft, one of the leading theoreticians of the genre as well as one of its pioneering practitioners, emphasized this point somewhat flamboyantly in his essay “Supernatural Horror in Literature” (1927):
 
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 un-plumbed space.
 
What this means is that the supernatural tale, while adhering to the strictest canons of mimetic realism, must have its emotional and aesthetic focus upon the chosen avenue of departure from the natural—whether it be a creature such as the vampire, the ghost, or the werewolf, or a series of events such as might occur in a haunted house. If all the events of a tale are set in an imaginary realm, then we have crossed over into fantasy, because the contrast between the natural and the supernatural does not come into play. Conversely, the supernatural tale must be clearly distinguished from the tale of psychological horror, where the horror is generated by witnessing the aberrations of a diseased mind. Lovecraft, in discussing William Faulkner’s tale of necrophilia, “A Rose for Emily” (1930), made clear this distinction, also pointing out the degree to which the supernatural tale is tied to developments in the sciences:
 
Manifestly, this is a dark and horrible thing which could happen, whereas the crux of a weird tale is something which could not possibly happen. If any unexpected advance of physics, chemistry, or biology were to indicate the possibility of any phenomena related by the weird tale, that particular set of phenomena would cease to be weird in the ultimate sense because it would become surrounded by a different set of emotions. It would no longer represent imaginative liberation, because it would no longer indicate a suspension or violation of the natural laws against whose universal dominance our fancies rebel. (Letter to August Derleth, November 20, 1931)
 
Given the fact that the commencement of supernatural literature in the West is canonically dated to the publication of Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto (1764), there is no intrinsic reason why Americans need feel any inferiority to Europe in regard to their contributions to the form; for it was just at this time that American literature was itself beginning to declare its own aesthetic independence from that of Great Britain. And yet, less than half a century after the United States became a distinct geopolitical entity, British critic William Hazlitt threw down the following gauntlet: “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” (Edinburgh Review, October 1829). Hazlitt may have been seeking merely to emphasize the new nation’s continued cultural inferiority to the land that gave it birth, and he may also have been guilty of exaggerating the rationality that governed the founding of the American colonies, but in spite of all caveats he does appear to raise a valid point. 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? The Gothic novels of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries were predicated on horrors emerging from the “ignorance and superstition” of the British or European Dark Ages, but if a country did not experience the Dark Ages, how could those horrors be depicted plausibly? The authors represented in this volume, covering nearly the entirety of American history, sought to answer these questions in a multiplicity of ways, and their varying solutions shed considerable light on the development of the supernatural tale as an art form.
 
Although there is considerable evidence that the British Gothic novel was voraciously read in the United States, few Americans attempted their hand at it: the sole exponent of the form was Charles Brockden Brown (1771–1810), who chose to follow the model of Ann Radcliffe in making use of what has been termed the “explained supernatural,” where the supernatural is suggested at the outset but ultimately explained away as the product of misconstrual or trickery. As a result, Brockden Brown does not qualify as America’s first supernaturalist, and that distinction remains with the unlikely figure of Washington Irving: unlikely because his writing as a whole—lighthearted, urbane, comic, even at times self-parodic—would seem as far removed from the flamboyant luridness of Matthew Gregory Lewis or the guilt-ridden intensity of Charles Robert Maturin as anything could possibly be. And yet, the supernatural comprised a persistent thread in Irving’s work, notably in his two story collections, The Sketch Book (1820) and Tales of a Traveller (1824). That Irving was able to find inspiration in the Dutch legendry of New York and New England—a legendry already two centuries old by the time he began writing—suggests that even a “new” land (new, of course, only in terms of European settlement) could quickly gain a fund of superstition that had the potential of generating supernatural literature.
 
In the next generation, two towering figures—Edgar Allan Poe and Nathaniel Hawthorne—chose starkly different means to convey the supernatural. Hawthorne, plagued by an overriding sense of sin inspired by the religious fanaticism of the Puritan settlers of Massachusetts, found in the American seventeenth century—culminating in the real-life horror of the Salem witchcraft trials—a fitting analogue of the European Dark Ages, and his novels and tales, supernatural and otherwise, constantly draw upon the Puritan past as a source of evil that continues to cast its shadow over the present.
 
Poe, younger and more forward-looking, felt the need to found his horrors on the potentially hideous aberrations of the human mind, with the result that much of his best fiction falls into the category of psychological horror (“The Tell-Tale Heart,” “The Man of the Crowd”). As he noted somewhat aggressively in the preface to Tales of the Grotesque and Arabesque (1840), in defending himself from accusations that many of his horrors were borrowed from European examples, “I maintain that terror is not of Germany, but of the soul.” And yet, Poe rarely strayed from the supernatural; indeed, many of his most distinctive tales chart the progressive breakdown of the ratiocinative intellect when faced with the “suspension of natural laws.” Poe also recognized that compression was a key element in producing the frisson of supernatural terror: in accordance with his strictures on the “unity of effect,” he understood that an emotion so fleeting as that of fear could best be generated in short compass, and for a century or more his example compelled the great majority of literary supernaturalists to adhere to the short story as the preferred vehicle for the supernatural. Indeed, it could be said that “The Fall of the House of Usher” is a kind of rebuke to those countless British Gothicists who had dissipated the vital core of their supernatural conceptions by extending it over novel length: here, instead, was a “Gothic castle” every bit as terrifying as that of Otranto or Udolpho, but concentrated in a fraction of the space. Poe achieved this condensation by a particularly dense, frenetic prose style that could easily be mocked (and would in fact be mocked by such a fastidious writer as Henry James), but whose emotive power is difficult to gainsay.
 
Poe, then, is the central figure in the entire history of American—and, indeed, British and European—supernatural fiction; for his example, once established, raised the bar for all subsequent work. No longer could such entities as the vampire or the ghost—already becoming stale through overuse and, more signifiantly, through the advance of a science that was rendering them so implausible as to become aesthetically unusable—be manifested without proper emotional preparation or the provision of at least a quasilogical rationale; no longer could fear be displayed without an awareness of its psychological effect upon those who encounter it. And yet, over the next half-century or more after Poe’s death, we can find no writer who focused singlemindedly upon either supernatural or psychological horror as Poe had done; indeed, excursions into the supernatural emerged almost at random from writers recognized for their work in the literary mainstream. This may indeed suggest that the supernatural was not, properly speaking, a genre clearly dissociated from general literature, but a mode into which writers of all stripes could descend when the logic of their conceptions required it.
 
And so we have the examples of F. Marion Crawford, popular historical novelist, writing the occasional short story, and even one or two novels, of the supernatural; it may or may not be significant that these short stories were collected only posthumously in the volume Wandering Ghosts (1911). Another popular writer, Robert W. Chambers, began his career writing a scintillating collection of the supernatural, The King in Yellow (1895), but lamentably failed to follow up this promising start, instead descending to the writing of shopgirl romances that filled his coffers but spelled his aesthetic ruination. Edward Lucas White, also better known for his historical novels, persistently recurred to the supernatural in his short stories, notably in two substantial collections, The Song of the Sirens (1919) and Lukundoo (1927).
 
If any figure can be said to have followed in Poe’s footsteps, it is the sardonic journalist Ambrose Bierce. From the 1870s until his mysterious disappearance in 1914, his occasional “tales of soldiers and civilians” danced continually on either side of the borderline between supernatural and psychological horror. Bierce became the hub of a West Coast literary renaissance that featured other writers such as W. C. Morrow, Emma Frances Dawson, and even the young Jack London, all of whom dabbled in the supernatural. Short fiction comprised only a relatively minor proportion of Bierce’s total literary output—he was best known in his time as a fearless, and feared, columnist, chiefly for the Hearst papers—and, while he may have derived inspiration both from Poe’s example and from his theories on short fiction construction, the literary mode he evolved could not have been more different from Poe’s: a prose style of stark simplicity and spare elegance, a detached, cynical, occasionally misanthropic portrayal of hapless protagonists in the grip of irrational fear, and a probing utilization of the topography of the West in contrast to the never-never lands of Poe’s imagination. Indeed, Bierce successfully answered Hazlitt’s old query by showing that even a land as raw and new (again, in terms of Anglo-Saxon settlement) as the West could be the source of terror: the abandoned shacks and deserted mining towns of rural California become the mauvaises terres of the Biercian imagination, lending a grim distinctiveness to tales whose relatively conventional ghosts and revenants might otherwise relegate them to second-class status. And of course Bierce followed Poe in the meticulous etching of the precise effects of the supernatural upon the sensitive consciousness of his fear-raddled protagonists.
 
If Bierce was the head of the West Coast school of weird writing in his time, Henry James was, perhaps by default, the leader of the East Coast school. Like so many other mainstream writers, he found the supernatural—manifested almost exclusively in the form of ghosts—a perennially useful mode for the expression of conceptions that could not be encompassed within the bounds of mimetic realism. And yet, James rarely tipped his hand unequivocally in the direction of the supernatural, instead mastering the technique of the ambiguous weird tale, where doubt is maintained to the end whether the supernatural has actually come into play or whether the apparently ghostly phenomena are merely the products of psychological disturbance on the part of the characters. Preeminent among James’s contributions in this regard is The Turn of the Screw (1898), which has inspired an entire library of criticism debating whether the revenants at the focus of the tale are or are not genuinely manifested; clearly James did not wish the question to be answered definitively. In short stories written over an entire career he probed the same questions, and his final, fragmentary novel, The Sense of the Past, might have been his greatest contribution to weird literature had he lived to complete it. James’s compatriot Edith Wharton manifestly followed in his footsteps—perhaps, indeed, at times a bit too closely. Nevertheless, there is enough originality and artistry in her dozen or so ghost stories to earn her a place in the supernatural canon.
 
H. P. Lovecraft joins Poe and Bierce in the triumvirate of towering American supernaturalists. In a career that spanned little more than two decades, Lovecraft transformed the horror tale in such radical ways that its ramifications are still being felt. Although an early devotee of Poe, Lovecraft was also a diligent student of the sciences and came to the realization that the standard tropes of supernatural fiction—the ghost, the vampire, the witch, the haunted house—had become so played out and so clearly in defiance of what was then known about the universe that alternate means had to be employed to convey supernatural dread. Lovecraft found it in the boundless realms of space and time, where entities of the most bizarre sort could plausibly be hypothesized to exist, well beyond the reach of even the most advanced human knowledge. This fusion of the supernatural tale with the emerging genre of science fiction (canonically dated to the...

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Descripción Penguin Books Ltd, United Kingdom, 2013. Hardback. Estado de conservación: New. ed. Language: English . Brand New Book. Part of a new six-volume series of the best in classic horror, selected by award-winning director Guillermo del Toro.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.S. T. Joshi is a freelance writer, scholar, and editor whose previous books include Documents of American Prejudice; In Her Place: A Documentary History of Prejudice against Women; God s Defenders: What They Believe and Why They Are Wrong; Atheism: A Reader; H. L. Mencken on Religion; The Agnostic Reader; and What Is Man? And Other Irreverent Essays by Mark Twain. Nº de ref. de la librería APG9780143122371

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Descripción Hardcover. Estado de conservación: New. Part of a new six-volume series of the best in classic horror, selected by award-winning director Guillermo del ToroAmerican 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. This volumes also 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 seriesTrue Detective. By turns phantasmagoric, spectral, and demonic, this is a frighteningly good collection of stories.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’sFrankenstein 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’sThe 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. Nº de ref. de la librería 5338729

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