cover image Ghostly: A Collection of Ghost Stories

Ghostly: A Collection of Ghost Stories

Audrey Niffenegger. Scribner, $28 (464p) ISBN 978-1-5011-1119-8

Niffenegger (The Time Traveler’s Wife) assembles ghostly fictions by writers both classic (Edgar Allan Poe, Saki, M.R. James) and recent (Neil Gaiman, Kelly Link, A.S. Byatt) in this strong but sometimes uneven anthology. Felines feature prominently in Poe’s “The Black Cat” as well as in Niffenegger’s own contribution, “Secret Life, with Cats.” Humor is provided by P.G. Wodehouse’s hilarious “Honeysuckle Cottage” and Amy Giacalone’s “Tiny Ghosts,” which introduces an irrepressible new voice. Writers who experience ghostly encounters are examined in the longest story, Oliver Onions’s “The Beckoning Fair One,” and Rebecca Curtis’s self-consciously postmodern “The Pink House.” The final story, Ray Bradbury’s postapocalyptic classic “There Will Come Soft Rains,” astonishingly anticipates today’s smart-house technology and tells the haunting story of a house that is itself a ghost. Niffenegger includes crisp introductions that provide context, such as that both Rudyard Kipling’s “They” and Byatt’s “The July Ghost” were written in response to experiencing the death of a child. Some of the older stories are more musty than scary, but the best, such as Gaiman’s very short “Click-Clack the Rattlebag,” do an excellent job of evoking that crucial frisson of dread. (Oct.)