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McSweeney's Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories

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Michael Chabon is back with a brand-new collection that reinvigorates the stay-up-all-night, edge-of-the seat, fingernail-biting, page-turning tradition of literary short stories, featuring Margaret Atwood, Stephen King, Peter Straub, ...
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McSweeney's Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories

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Michael Chabon is back with a brand-new collection that reinvigorates the stay-up-all-night, edge-of-the seat, fingernail-biting, page-turning tradition of literary short stories, featuring Margaret Atwood, Stephen King, Peter Straub, David Mitchell, Jonathan Lethem, Heidi Julavits, Roddy Doyle, and more!

Margaret Atwood- Lusus Naturae

David Mitchell- What You Do Not Know You Want

Jonathan Lethem- Vivian Relf

Ayelet Waldman - Minnow

Steve Erickson- Zeroville

Stephen King- Lisey and the Madman

Jason Roberts - 7C

Heidi Julavits- The Miniaturist

Roddy Doyle - The Child

Daniel Handler - Delmonico

Charles D’Ambrosio - The Scheme of Things

Poppy Z. Brite - The Devil of Delery Street

China Mieville- Reports of Certain Events in London

Joyce Carol Oates - The Fabled Light-house at Vi–a del Mar

Peter Straub - Mr. Aickman’s Air Rifle

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
From Michael Chabon, Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist and guest editor of McSweeney's, comes a collection of fantastical stories that takes place in the borderlands -- the space between genres -- that includes original tales from Stephen King, Peter Straub, Margaret Atwood, China Miéville, and Poppy Z. Brite.

Noteworthy entries include "Minnow" by Ayelet Waldman, Daniel Handler's "Delmonico," and "7C" by Jason Roberts. "Minnow" is a dark and sorrowful tale about a young couple, Matt and Edie, who have just lost an unborn child to medical complications. Consumed with grief, Edie spends an increasing amount of time in the newly decorated baby's room listening to a phantom infant cry on the baby monitor. Her bereavement finally takes its toll in a most unexpected manner…

"Delmonico" is a hard-boiled mystery, set in a seedy bar, that features a gorgeous bartender named Davis who has a knack for solving patrons' problems. When a powerful man, as rich as he is arrogant and falsely accused of killing his wife, asks how his wife disappeared into thin air from inside a locked room, Davis serves him up exactly what he needs. The main character in the just-plain-creepy "7C" is an accident-prone astronomer studying quasars -- particles born backward. When he starts noticing childhood scars getting inflamed -- not only on himself but others around him -- his obsessive-compulsive tendencies lead him to an epiphany of sorts…

Featuring numerous illustrations by Mike Mignola (creator of Hellboy), this collection -- a diverse blend of horror, dark fantasy, and mystery -- is, simply stated, superb. Readers who enjoy "stay-up-all-night, edge-of-the-seat, fingernail-biting, page-turning" short stories should look no further than this exceptional collection. Paul Goat Allen

Publishers Weekly
With this varied collection of enchanting though not always astonishing tales, Chabon (who also edited McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales) aims for an anthology full of "genre bending and stylistic play." There's quite a lineup of writers taking a stab at "genre" fiction here: many expected (Margaret Atwood, Stephen King), but a few surprises as well, and a newcomer or two. Atwood offers a fantastical tale of a human "lusus naturae" (freak of nature) who suffers from a nameless disease that results in yellow eyes, red fingernails and fangs-how does such a creature fit into a family? Jonathan Lethem's charming "Vivian Relf," which concerns two strangers who seem familiar to each other and who continue to cross each others' paths, is a kind of love story, but there are also tales creepy (Jason Roberts's "7C") and strange (China Mi ville's "Reports of Certain Events in London"). Stephen King's "Lisey and the Madman" is full of engaging detail and feeling. While a couple of stories fail to reach the high-water mark, this collection will offer readers plenty of pleasure and perhaps even a sense of doing good (an endnote says that "this book benefits 826 Valencia," the San Francisco writing lab founded by Dave Eggers and Co.). Agent, Mary Evans. (Nov. 9) Forecast: McSweeney's is making a name for itself as a sponsor of quirky anthologies, which should help sales of all its series. Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Fifteen stories-more from the A-list, several from the B-get down and dirty with the new McSweeney's genre compilation. Last year's McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales proved that you can actually gather a group of fine writers (or Michael Chabon and the cool folks at McSweeney's can) and get them to turn in a collection of ghost stories, mysteries, and thrillers without the least dash of condescension. This second volume proves no different, with a superb roster of talent and some creepy, inky illustrations from "Hellboy" creator Mike Mignola, to boot. The fun begins with a solid entry from Margaret Atwood, "Lusus Naturae," about a young girl, shockingly transformed into a literal freak of nature, who hides in the woods and frightens the local children before the inevitable approach of villagers with torches. Roddy Doyle proves adept in the genre with "The Child," about a man haunted by a spectral young boy. Quickly deciding that this must be an unknown offspring of his, he cycles through his memory of lovers, but the boy's preternatural pull can't be denied, a well of dark retribution soon to be unleashed. Stephen King's "Lisey and the Madman," about the assassination of a famous author, is entertaining if occasionally too familiar, featuring many of King's usual tropes (though its air of autobiographical verisimilitude gives an unusual chill to some of the lines). One of the more impressive entries is from pulper Poppy Z. Brite, whose "The Devil of Delray Street" is a well-nuanced and unsentimental piece about a young New Orleans dweller's haunting by a ghost or devil. Brite's matter-of-fact approach to some honestly terrifying scenes makes them all the more powerful.Strong entries from China Mieville, David Mitchell, and Charles D'Ambrosio (plus a good but less impressive one from Joyce Carol Oates) round out a first-rate collection. Thrills, chills, and otherworldly spectacles: a rare anthology that delivers on its superlatives-and then some.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781400078745
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 11/16/2004
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 586,812
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.74 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Chabon
Although his novels and short stories have varied in setting -- from the 1940s New York of the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay to the contemporary Pittsburgh of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh -- all of Michael Chabon’s witty and understated books feature memorable, deftly-drawn characters trying to find their place in the world.


In 1987, at 24, Michael Chabon was living a graduate student's dream. His masters thesis for the writing program at UC Irvine, a novel called The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, was not only published -- it was published to the tune of a $155,000 advance, a six-figure first printing, a movie deal, and a place on the bestseller lists. Mysteries, a coming-of-age story about a man caught between romances with a man on one side, a woman on the other, and the shadow of his gangster father over it all, drew readers with its elegant prose and an irresistibly cool character, Art Bechstein, racing through a long, hot summer.

Following this auspicious debut, Chabon penned a follow-up short story collection, then hit a serious snag. After five years of fits and starts, he abandoned a troublesome work in progress and began work on another novel, a wry, smart book about, natch, an author hoplessly stuck writing his endless, shapeless novel! With 1995's Wonder Boys and its successful film adaptation by Curtis Hanson, Chabon found both critical praise and a wider audience.

In the year 2000, Chabon rose to the challenge of attempting something on a more epic scale. That something was The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay, the story of two young, Jewish comic book artists in the 1940s. Like Chabon's other books, it explored a relationship between two men and dealt with their maturation. But unlike his other books, the novel was grander in scope and theme, blending the world of comic books, the impact of World War II, and the lives of his characters. It won a Pulitzer, and secured Chabon's place as an American talent unafraid to paint broad landscapes with minute detail and aching emotion.

Chabon's ability to capture modern angst in funny, intelligently plotted stories has earned him comparisons to everyone from Fitzgerald to DeLillo, but he has fearlessly wandered outside the conventions of the novel to write screenplays, children's books, comics, and pulp adventures. Clearly, Michael Chabon views his highly praised talent as a story that hasn't yet reached its climax.

Good To Know

Chabon usually writes from 10 p.m. to 3 a.m.

He has a side interest in television writing, having written a pilot for CBS (House of Gold) that did not get picked up, and a second one for TNT.

Chabon also has an interest in screenwriting; he was attached to X-Men but dropped from the project when director Bryan Singer signed on. Now he is adapting The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay for the big screen.

After slaving for five years on a book called Fountain City (parts of which can be read on his web site), Chabon finally decided it was not going to jell and abandoned it. At a low point, he switched gears and began Wonder Boys, the story (of course) of an author hopelessly stuck writing his endless, shapeless novel.

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    1. Hometown:
      Berkeley, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      May 24, 1963
    2. Place of Birth:
      Washington, D.C.
    1. Education:
      B.A., University of Pittsburgh; M.F.A., University of California at Irvine
    2. Website:

Table of Contents

"Lusus Naturae" by Margaret Atwood
"What You Do Not Know You Want" by David Mitchell
"Vivian Relf" by Jonathan Lethem
"Minnow" by Ayelet Waldman
"Zeroville" by Steve Erickson
"Lisey and the Madman" by Stephen King
"7C" by Jason Roberts
"The Miniaturist" by Heidi Julavits
"The Child" by Roddy Doyle
"Delmonico" by Daniel Handler
"The Scheme of Things" by Charles D'Ambrosio
"The Devil of Delery Street" by Poppy Z. Brite
"Reports of Certain Events in London" by China Miéville
"The Fabled Light-House at Viña Del Mar" by Joyce Carol Oates
"Mr. Aickman's Air Rifle" by Peter Straub

About the Contributors

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