Cover image for The modern weird tale
The modern weird tale
Joshi, S. T., 1958-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland, [2001]

Physical Description:
x, 278 pages ; 23 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PS374.H67 J67 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
PS374.H67 J67 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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This is a critical study of many of the leading writers of horror and supernatural fiction since World War II. The primary purpose is to establish a canon of weird literature, and to distinguish the genuinely meritorious writers of the past fifty years from those who have obtained merely transient popular renown. Accordingly, the author regards the complex, subtle work of Shirley Jackson, Ramsey Campbell, Robert Aickman, T.E.D. Klein, and Thomas Ligotti as considerably superior to the best-sellers of Stephen King, Clive Barker, Peter Straub, and Anne Rice. Other writers such as William Peter Blatty, Thomas Tryon, Robert Bloch, and Thomas Harris are also discussed. Taken as a whole, the volume represents a pioneering attempt to chart the development of weird fiction over the past half-century.

Author Notes

Researcher, writer and editor S.T. Joshi lives in Seattle, Washington.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

Joshi (Lovecraft: A Life), an accomplished critic and independent scholar, follows up his earlier The Weird Tale (1990) with this provocative examination of more recent exemplars of the genre. Again he adopts the concept of "weird fiction" as championed by H.P. Lovecraft in the latter's capacity as a critic, namely horror that upsets the reader's assumptions about the nature of reality itself. This usually involves the supernatural, though some psychotic killer fiction (Thomas Harris, Bret Easton Ellis) can also fit the bill. Here Joshi conducts a sort of comparative study of those late 20th-century authors he deems best (Shirley Jackson, Robert Aickman, Ramsey Campbell, T.E.D. Klein, Thomas Ligotti) with those whose books sell best (William Peter Blatty, Stephen King, Peter Straub, Anne Rice, Clive Barker). Though he never suffers gladly the pandering that can prevail among the big commercial names, he leaps to give credit where due, even declaring that "no praise can be too high" for King's Richard Bachman novel, The Running Man. As always, Joshi eschews pretentious academic jargon and fatuous theoretical constructions. The lack of an index or coverage of fiction published after 1993, however, is regrettable. In addition, Joshi delights in saying that certain authors aren't as good as they think they are, to scant evidence or relevance, while occasional political asides only remind us that he's a literary commentator and not a political one for good reason. But throughout, this volume shouts brilliance and diligence and belongs on the bookshelf of every thinking horror reader. (Dec.) Forecast: Despite the high price, the lack of publicity and promotion, the datedness (it evidently took Joshi years to find a legitimate press willing to accept such an iconoclastic work), the somewhat arbitrary selection of authors for inclusion (for treatments of Dennis Etchison, Les Daniels and David J. Schow one must turn to the two-volume, unabridged German edition), and the absence of a firm editorial hand, this study rivals in importance Lovecraft's classic survey of the genre, Supernatural Horror in Literature. It will be read long after many of the authors Joshi discusses have been forgotten. For now expect paltry sales. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Choice Review

Joshi's excellent The Weird Tale (CH, Nov'90) looked at the aesthetics and the philosophy, or worldview, revealed in the fantasy of Arthur Machen, Lord Dunsany, Algernon Blackwood, M.R. James, Ambrose Bierce, and H.P. Lovecraft. This more diverse sequel deals with 14 writers of the late 20th century. Joshi finds fewer writers with philosophies and so bases more of his praise on aesthetics; he also finds more writers moving across the borderline of the gothic fantasy into psychological studies of madness (e.g., Robert Bloch's Psycho, 1959), all as part of "horror fiction." His canon of modern writers in this genre includes Shirley Jackson, Ramsey Campbell, T.E.D. Klein, and Thomas Ligotti, with a number of others receiving mixed notices (e.g., Anne Rice); Stephen King and Peter Straub receive largely negative appraisal. The discussions and the primary and highly selective secondary bibliographies seem to cut off about 1994. Though this book is not as successful as its predecessor--partly because Joshi's philosophical approach works less well and partly because he is out of sympathy with the middle-class family used as a moral norm--it is a lively, opinionated study. Recommended for libraries supporting popular culture studies at the upper-division undergraduate level and above. J. R. Christopher Tarleton State University

Table of Contents

Shirley JacksonWilliam Peter BlattyStephen KingT. E. D. KleinClive BarkerRamsey CampbellThomas TryonPeter StraubRobert AickmanAnne RiceThomas Ligotti
Prefacep. vii
Introductionp. 1
I. Domestic Horrorp. 13
II. The Persistence of Supernaturalismp. 50
The Catholic Weird Talep. 50
The King's New Clothesp. 62
Urban Horrorp. 95
Sex, Death, and Fantasyp. 115
III. The Fiction of Paranoiap. 133
IV. The Alternatives to Supernaturalismp. 175
Killing Women with Robert Bloch, Thomas Harris, and Bret Easton Ellisp. 175
Rural Horrorp. 189
From Ghost Story to Thrillerp. 202
V. Pseudo-, Quasi-, and Anti-Weird Fictionp. 217
"So Little Is Definite"p. 217
The Philosophy of Vampirismp. 234
The Escape from Lifep. 243
Epiloguep. 258
Notesp. 261
Bibliographyp. 267