Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Horror: A Literary History Hardcover – October 15, 2016 by Xavier Aldana Reyes (Editor) (British Library Publishing)

Something that appeals greatly about this book is the British lens on a genre that has been dominated by America for the last century. This also covers in depth the early phases of the genre. When we arrive in the modern era, it gives equal time to the films that have transformed the genre without overshadowing the literature. I found the earlier sections educational, but less gripping as I wandered through the winding halls of Castle Orantro. Once we moved into the most recent 100 years, I really started ripping through this book.

I was underwhelmed by the post-millenial section, as I thought there was way too much real estate dedicated to Stephen King, Ramsey Campbell, Clive Barker, and H.P. Lovecraft (!) who may be seeing new or remastered works since the turn of the millennium, their transformation of the horror genre has largely already occurred. Those pages could have highlighted a few more luminaries and rising stars. Sadly, there was also only a passing mention of eBooks, and barely a glance at the internet.

Horror is unlike any other literary genre. It seeks to provoke uniquely strong reactions, such as fear, shock, dread or disgust, and yet remains very popular. Horror is most readily associated with the film industry, but horrific short stories and novels have been wildly loved by readers for well over two centuries. Despite its persistent popularity, until now there has been no up-to-date history of horror fiction for the general reader. This book offers a chronological overview of the genre in fiction and explores its development and mutations over the past 250 years. It also challenges the common misjudgement that horror fiction is necessarily frivolous or dispensable. Leading experts on Gothic and horror literature introduce readers to classics of the genre as well as exciting texts they may not have encountered before. The topics examined include: horror’s roots in the Gothic romance and antebellum American fiction; the penny dreadful and sensation novels of Victorian England; fin-de-siècle ghost stories; decadent fiction and the weird; the familial horrors of the Cold War era; the publishing boom of the 1980s; the establishment of contemporary horror auteurs; and the post-millennial zombie trend.

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