American Fantasy Tradition

American Fantasy Tradition

by Brian M. Thomsen

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The ancient tales of long-dead civilizations to the wild success of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, fantasy has fired our imaginations for as long as there has been story. Whether sweeping sagas of fantastic adventures or cautionary tales told around the campfire, fantasy is deeply woven into the very fabric of humanity, wearing many faces and

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The ancient tales of long-dead civilizations to the wild success of J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, fantasy has fired our imaginations for as long as there has been story. Whether sweeping sagas of fantastic adventures or cautionary tales told around the campfire, fantasy is deeply woven into the very fabric of humanity, wearing many faces and coming in many flavors.

But what fantasy is distinctly American?

The American Fantasy Tradition sets out to answer this very question. This comprehensive critical anthology of American fantasy literature applies the groundbreaking theorems of such esteemed American literary critics as Leslie Fiedler, Richard Chase, and Irving Howe to the genre of fantasy in an effort to delineate the true American tradition of fantasy from the more prominent Anglo-European canon, breaking it down into three distinctive strains:

The American Tale: Folk, Tall, and Weird

Stories that might be considered fables or legends, much like the epics of the Age of Heroes from the classical eras of Rome and Greece, or the tales of the fairy folk from the European tradition, or the fables of Aesop.

Fantastic Americana

Stories set directly within the American historic landscape, much as the Arthurian tradition is set within the confines of British history.

Lands of Enchantment in Everyday Life

Stories that involve what might be called the American spirit, focusing on worlds that exist in the shadows of our own, just beyond Rod Serling’s famous signpost for The Twilight Zone.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The largest, most comprehensive, and best anthology of American fantasy literature I have ever seen."—Terence Malley, editor of the Writers for the Seventies series

"A fine overview of some of the most important American fantasy written since Washington Irving right on up to our day. I highly recommend this fine collection."—Ray Bradbury

Publishers Weekly
An expanded 10th anniversary edition of Poppy Z. Brite's modern horror classic, Lost Souls, which includes a "lost chapter" from the first draft, letters from Douglas E. Winter and correspondence with the original book's editor, Jeanne Cavalos, will please this author's cult audience. Brite is coming out this fall with a non-horror novel, The Value of X (Fiction Forecasts, Sept. 16). Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
What do Washington Irving's Rip Van Winkle and Stephen King's Children of the Corn have in common? Besides being wonderful tales, each exemplifies one category of short stories in this fascinating collection. In defining what is uniquely American fantasy, Thomsen divides his selections into three "concurrent (and occasionally overlapping) strains" or categories. The first is Folk, Tall, and Weird Tales, with Irving's familiar tale and the atmospheric H. P. Lovecraft story Shadow over Innsmonth. The second is Fantastic Americana, with stories set directly within historical America. Examples include The Devil and Daniel Webster and Orson Scott Card's initial Alvin Maker story, Hatrack River. Finally, Lands of Enchantment and Everyday Life reflects the American spirit in stories such as The Griffin and the Minor Canon by Frank Stockton and the more modern Dead Run by Greg Bear about the ultimate road to Hell. The intriguing question of what defines American fantasy and how the selections reflect it will fascinate more mature teens, but the pure quality of the stories themselves will propel even the most casual fantasy reader through this collection. Such a hefty book might seem daunting at first glance, but readers who sample the first pages will be compelled by the fascinating variety of outstanding tales to keep on to the last page. This anthology is a must-purchase for public libraries and secondary schools with strong fantasy collections. VOYA Codes: 5Q 4P J S (Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12). 2002, Tor, 544p,
— Lynn Rutan
This interesting anthology of tales has stories by many well-known American authors (including Irving, Hawthorne, Alcott, Lovecraft, Jackson, King, Le Guin, Henry James, Mark Twain, Stockton, and L. Frank Baum) as well as by some little-known writers. The writers are all Americans, but not all fantastic literature written by Americans is represented. The editor employs a fairly restrictive description of American Fantasy Tradition as incorporating "the frontier legacies of the pioneers complete with their heroism and adventure as well as with its sense of danger and primitive savagery" and "the egalitarian vision of democracy, the self-made man, and the American dream with the harsh realities of both the rural and urban wildernesses." Under the parameters of this description, "for the most part, the American fantasy hero is an everyday person with everyday concerns." Some of the tales in this fine collection are familiar and some are obscure, but all of them are enjoyable reading. KLIATT Codes: SA-Recommended for senior high school students, advanced students, and adults. 2002, Tor, 604p. bibliog., Ages 15 to adult.
— Hugh Flick, Jr.
Kirkus Reviews
Fantasy and Civil War anthologist Thomsen (the pared-down The Civil War Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, 2002) turns from that bad idea to perform creditably in amassing this whale-sized anthology that helps distinguish American from European fantasy traditions.In his introduction, Thomsen does his best to define American fantasy and the way Americans adapt and respond to the world, fantastic or otherwise. With an academic�s eye, he sets forth three general but overlapping categories for the 40-some stories here: "The American Tale�Folk, Tall, and Weird," "Fantastic Americana," and "Lands of Enchantment in Everyday Life." Many, of course, stem from wrestling with Original Sin (e.g., Stephen Vincent Benet�s "The Devil and Daniel Webster"). But perhaps the purest pool of American fantasy arises from H.P. Lovecraft�s Cthulhu mythos, seen here in the dread, fear, and loathing of "The Shadow Over Innsmouth." The folk and weird tales include Washington Irving�s "Rip Van Winkle," Hawthorne�s "Feathertop: A Mortalized Legend," Joel Chandler Harris�s "Uncle Remus," Louisa May Alcott�s "Rosy�s Journal," and then moves forward to include Stephen King�s "Children of the Corn," Ursula K. Le Guin�s "Buffalo Gals, Won�t You Come Out Tonight," and Shirley Jackson�s "The Lottery." The Fantastic Americana finds Henry James�s "The Jolly Corner," Twain, Bierce, Kate Chopin, and reaches forward to gather in modern examples such as W.P. Kinsella�s "Shoeless Joe Jackson Comes to Iowa." L. Frank Baum�s vision of the western prairies is featured in Lands of Enchantment, while Charlotte Perkins Gilman�s "The Yellow Wallpaper" spreads what some think is her postpartum depression into the world�s weirdest, foulest,smelliest yellow wallpaper.

Memorable�should last for a decade.

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Product Details

Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
6.08(w) x 9.22(h) x 1.52(d)

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