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.