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Unutterable Horror: A History of Supernatural Fiction [Volume II]

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A strictly personal no holds barred overview of the horror field by one of its most respected--and fiercest--critics. This book was many years in the making. I ve been reading horror fiction pretty constantly since I was at least 10 years old, and have been a scholar in the field since I was about 17 (focusing initially on H. P. Lovecraft). UNUTTERABLE HORROR was the produ A strictly personal no holds barred overview of the horror field by one of its most respected--and fiercest--critics. This book was many years in the making. I ve been reading horror fiction pretty constantly since I was at least 10 years old, and have been a scholar in the field since I was about 17 (focusing initially on H. P. Lovecraft). UNUTTERABLE HORROR was the product of five years of solid work, and the book comes to a total of 312,000 words. It covers the entire range of supernatural and non-supernatural horror fiction from the Gilgamesh (1700 B.C.) to such contemporary writers as Caitlín R. Kiernan and Laird Barron. Along the way I discuss the Gothic novel, Edgar Allan Poe, the Victorian ghost story, Ambrose Bierce, the five titans of the early 20th century (Arthur Machen, Lord Dunsany, Algernon Blackwood, M. R. James, H. P. Lovecraft), Walter de la Mare, American pulp writers from Robert Bloch to Ray Bradbury, the horror boom of the 1970s and 1980s (William Peter Blatty, Stephen King, Peter Straub, Clive Barker, Anne Rice), and many others. This book is intended not only as a history of the field but a guide to the best writing in the field over the past two or three centuries.


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A strictly personal no holds barred overview of the horror field by one of its most respected--and fiercest--critics. This book was many years in the making. I ve been reading horror fiction pretty constantly since I was at least 10 years old, and have been a scholar in the field since I was about 17 (focusing initially on H. P. Lovecraft). UNUTTERABLE HORROR was the produ A strictly personal no holds barred overview of the horror field by one of its most respected--and fiercest--critics. This book was many years in the making. I ve been reading horror fiction pretty constantly since I was at least 10 years old, and have been a scholar in the field since I was about 17 (focusing initially on H. P. Lovecraft). UNUTTERABLE HORROR was the product of five years of solid work, and the book comes to a total of 312,000 words. It covers the entire range of supernatural and non-supernatural horror fiction from the Gilgamesh (1700 B.C.) to such contemporary writers as Caitlín R. Kiernan and Laird Barron. Along the way I discuss the Gothic novel, Edgar Allan Poe, the Victorian ghost story, Ambrose Bierce, the five titans of the early 20th century (Arthur Machen, Lord Dunsany, Algernon Blackwood, M. R. James, H. P. Lovecraft), Walter de la Mare, American pulp writers from Robert Bloch to Ray Bradbury, the horror boom of the 1970s and 1980s (William Peter Blatty, Stephen King, Peter Straub, Clive Barker, Anne Rice), and many others. This book is intended not only as a history of the field but a guide to the best writing in the field over the past two or three centuries.

30 review for Unutterable Horror: A History of Supernatural Fiction [Volume II]

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jordan West

    Recommended, with reservations: this would be far more aptly described as a 'literary survey' of 20th century horror fiction as opposed to a history, as Joshi is far from an impartial chronicler, making continual critical evaluations of the writers in question, some of which seem unduly harsh or more than a little misguided (and some that are flat-out incorrect, IMO); serious admirers of supernatural fiction will find much to irk as well as engage them, and if one doesn't mind vehemently disagre Recommended, with reservations: this would be far more aptly described as a 'literary survey' of 20th century horror fiction as opposed to a history, as Joshi is far from an impartial chronicler, making continual critical evaluations of the writers in question, some of which seem unduly harsh or more than a little misguided (and some that are flat-out incorrect, IMO); serious admirers of supernatural fiction will find much to irk as well as engage them, and if one doesn't mind vehemently disagreeing with every other of Joshi's pronunciations, there is a great deal to appreciate here. About 3.75 stars.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Michael Samerdyke

    Well, I've read both volumes of "Unutterable Horror," and I'm of mixed emotions. On the one hand, Joshi is a lively writer, and I enjoyed reading the books. He has given me some recommendations and his enthusiasm (when he is enthusiastic) is infectious. On the other hand, I am puzzled. It seemed as if apart from World War I, there were no events in the 20th Century that could have shaped the development of supernatural fiction or the public's appetite for it. And the book doesn't really come to a Well, I've read both volumes of "Unutterable Horror," and I'm of mixed emotions. On the one hand, Joshi is a lively writer, and I enjoyed reading the books. He has given me some recommendations and his enthusiasm (when he is enthusiastic) is infectious. On the other hand, I am puzzled. It seemed as if apart from World War I, there were no events in the 20th Century that could have shaped the development of supernatural fiction or the public's appetite for it. And the book doesn't really come to a conclusion or even a summing up. It just stops. And there are the inconsistencies. Some works are blasted for being too psychological instead of supernatural, but then a lot of works are praised for being psychological horror. Lovecraft is praised for his indifference to humanity in his fiction, and in the next chapter, Bradbury is praised for using horror stories as metaphors for human relationships. "The Dunwich Horror" is described as a deeply flawed work while "Twilight" (yes, the book about sparkly vampires) is described as decently written and not that bad. Still, if you want an overview of the development of supernatural fiction that comes up to the present decade, this is a fairly enjoyable read.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Abbie

    As with the first volume, impressive research and textual knowledge are mixed with woeful snobbery and slavish Lovecraft worship. I'd be inclined to give this volume two stars due to the largely obnoxious nature of Joshi's criticism, but its exhaustive research can't merit anything less than three. As with the first volume, impressive research and textual knowledge are mixed with woeful snobbery and slavish Lovecraft worship. I'd be inclined to give this volume two stars due to the largely obnoxious nature of Joshi's criticism, but its exhaustive research can't merit anything less than three.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Félix

    Lo primero que hay que saber es que Joshi es un elitista cultural con tanta o más preocupación por el tema del canon y la posteridad que el propio Harold Bloom. Este tipo de enfoque tiene sus limitaciones (falta de empatía con su objeto de estudio en muchos casos), pero a mi entender hace mucha falta en nuestro campo ya que la mayoría de las historias de la ficción sobrenatural, el weird o la literatura fantástica en general que andan por ahí están escritas por fans que apenas parecen capaces de Lo primero que hay que saber es que Joshi es un elitista cultural con tanta o más preocupación por el tema del canon y la posteridad que el propio Harold Bloom. Este tipo de enfoque tiene sus limitaciones (falta de empatía con su objeto de estudio en muchos casos), pero a mi entender hace mucha falta en nuestro campo ya que la mayoría de las historias de la ficción sobrenatural, el weird o la literatura fantástica en general que andan por ahí están escritas por fans que apenas parecen capaces de contener su entusiasmo. VAIS A LLORAR, eso sí: Joshi DESTROZA la obra de algunos autores muy queridos por todos vosotros, y lo peor es que las más de las veces tiene razón. Lo segundo: su método consiste en analizar el argumento de las obras comentadas (lo que vosotros llamaríais spoilers, en lugar de, no sé, formular conceptos críticos que permitan unificar obras, autores y movimientos en algún tipo de estructura inteligible (más allá de la simple oposición entre lo popular y lo literario); muchas veces lo hace con excesiva prolijidad y, lo que es peor, parece que con el único objeto de ridiculizar tal o cual aspecto de la obra de autores que no le gustan. Esto último lo hace muy bien, por cierto, (yo me he reído a carcajadas), pero como sé que algunos sois susceptibles a estas cosas os aviso. Por último, su enfoque tiende a priorizar los factores estrictamente literarios frente a otros sociales o económicos que a mí personalmente me parecen bastante más pertinentes de lo que se muestra aquí. Se llega al extremo, por ejemplo, de minimizar la importancia de la aparición de un nuevo mercado como el de las revistas populares a la hora de explicar el florecimiento weird que conocemos como círculo de Lovecraft, dándole más importancia a lo que él considera la formación de una masa crítica de aproximaciones a esa estética durante las décadas anteriores (Blackwood, Machen y todo eso). Pese a todo esto, o gracias a todo esto, es un volumen de lectura obligada para todo aquel que pretenda ponerse a pontificar sobre estas cosas con algún conocimiento de causa y, lo que es más importante, Joshi es un maestro de la ironía lo que hace que la lectura sea mucho más satisfactoria de lo que cabría esperar en un volumen de estas características. YO ME LO HE PASADO COMO UN ENANO. P.S. Tal vez después de leer el destrozo que hace con las obras de King y de Barker (por ejemplo), os acerquéis con una sonrisa en los labios al fina del volumen esperando a ver la carnicería que monta con la pobre Stephanie Meyer... ya os digo ahora que eso no ocurre: la trata con mucha mayor consideración de lo que podríais pensar.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Ron

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lawrence Stadulis

  7. 5 out of 5

    Craig Thomson

  8. 5 out of 5

    Chet Williamson

  9. 4 out of 5

    Dameon Hansen

  10. 4 out of 5

    Scott Dwyer

  11. 4 out of 5

    L J Field

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jack Tripper

  13. 4 out of 5

    James

  14. 5 out of 5

    Anthony

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ian Spencer

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nick Zinn

  17. 5 out of 5

    Chad Brock

  18. 4 out of 5

    Shadesohd

  19. 4 out of 5

    Leftjab

  20. 4 out of 5

    John Held

  21. 4 out of 5

    GleeShee

  22. 4 out of 5

    W. P.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Garrison McCammon

  24. 5 out of 5

    Robert Holm

  25. 5 out of 5

    Ardis Redford

  26. 5 out of 5

    Paul Saarma

  27. 5 out of 5

    Michele Davis

  28. 4 out of 5

    Scott Dwyer

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sebastian Metheny

  30. 5 out of 5

    Justin Steele

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