cover image The Secret History of Fantasy

The Secret History of Fantasy

Edited by Peter S. Breagle, Tachyon (IPG, dist.), $15.95 paper (432p) ISBN 978-1-892391-99-5

Disparaging the commodification of fantasy, Beagle (The Last Unicorn) uses 19 stories and two essays to demonstrate that unique works of imagination are still appearing on both sides of the ostensible "separation of fantasy from actual literature." The all-star cast includes genre powerhouses (Maureen F. McHugh, Terry Bisson), mainstream favorites (Yann Martel, T.C. Boyle), and incorrigible line-straddlers (Jonathan Lethem, Stephen Millhauser). Concluding essays by Ursula Le Guin and David Hartwell can seem strident in their condemnation of "nostalgic, conservative, pastoral, and optimistic" epic fantasy. But in tales like Millhauser's "The Barnum Museum," which itself encapsulates the entire discussion of how to view the literature of the fantastic, there is a sense of frivolity and freedom that permits this anthology to "elude the mundane, and to achieve... beauty and exaltation." (Sept.)