AMERICAN GOTHIC TALES
Joyce Carol Oates
A generous anthology of 46 stories, written between the late-18th century and the present, representing the genre characterized by editor Oates (in her Introduction) as "the surreal, raised to the level of poetry." Inevitably, perhaps, the contents include several warhorses (such as Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and William Faulkner's "A Rose for Emily"), thoroughly dispensable excerpts from novels by Charles Brockden Brown and Anne Rice, and a few clunkers (Gertrude Atherton's pretentious "The Striding Place," John L'Heureux's nauseating "The Anatomy of Desire"). But elsewhere Oates has chosen wisely and well: Several genuinely interesting and relatively unfamiliar modern stories (by John Crowley, Paul Bowles, Melissa Pritchard, and Steven Millhauser, among others); one of Shirley Jackson's finest ("The Lovely House"); and a nasty little shocker by Raymond Carver ("Little Things"). On balance, an entertaining and welcome collection, one of the more pleasing products of Oates's ceaseless energies.