Varieties of the Weird Tale

S.T. Joshi. Hippocampus, $20 trade paper (352p) ISBN 978-1-61498-188-6
Joshi (Unutterable Horror: A History of Supernatural Fiction) burnishes his reputation as a leading scholar of the weird tale with this collection of 19 essays, three of which are previously unpublished. Displaying a wide knowledge of the genre, he brings gifted authors such as Edna W. Underwood and Mary E. Wilkins Freeman out of undeserved obscurity and cogently analyzes the historical antecedents of Robert E. Howard’s Bran Mak Morn books. He’s not afraid to skewer sacred cows and leavens his analyses with wit. For example, he dismisses the argument that Stephen King’s work should be valued because it offers trenchant insights with the biting comment, “I have never found any remark of King on American society or culture that could not have been made by a reasonably intelligent ten-year-old.” Not every entry is of high caliber; the essay on Thomas Ligotti is too brief and equivocal to support his contention that Ligotti’s story collection The Nightmare Factory “must take its place among the cornerstone volumes of any library of contemporary weird fiction.” Overall, however, this is a useful volume for the genre student and the casual reader alike. (May)
Reviewed on: 01/15/2018
Release date: 05/01/2017
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