By Scott Eyman
The Library of America has hit a rich vein lately with anthologies that verge on the definitive, and American Fantastic Tales, a two-volume work edited by Peter Straub, looks like a classic. The volumes begin with Poe, extend through the pulps of the ’20s and ’30s, and go right up to the present day.
Among the stories and authors represented are the expected (Shirley Jackson, Friz Leiber, John Collier, Ray Bradbury, Harlan Ellison, Stephen King) but there are also stories by Tennessee Williams, Davis Grubb — both had a strong sideline in American Gothic, which edges over into the fantastic — and Paul Bowles.
At first, I thought Straub had blundered by leaving out Robert Bloch, but he shows up in the earlier volume, albeit not with the story I would have chosen: Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper. Instead, Straub goes with The Cloak, a good vampire story, but not the equal of the Ripper tale.
Quibbles aside, a superb collection.
Also new, but pleasingly familiar, is the 2010 edition of Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide, the most comprehensive, as well as the most critically reliable volume that should be on the coffee-table right in front of the TV screen. The new edition has 300 new entries. The book has grown from nearly 600 pages 30 years ago to more than 1,600 pages now, and Maltin keeps it that short only by maintaining a separate volume for pre-1965 films.
This is the book you need by your side if you watch a lot of movies on TV.
Mike Browning’s Word of the Week…
nigon: a stingy, cheap person.