At the Foot of the Story Tree
At the Foot of the Story Tree (a title which should be familiar to readers of Shadowland) is an old-fashioned work of criticism that takes a hard—and hopefully thorough—look at the entire body of Peter Straub’s fiction, from his relatively obscure mainstream novel, Marriages, through his ambitious new supernatural thriller, Mr. X, and from the shorter fiction collected in Houses Without Doors through such recent, still uncollected stories as the Stoker Award-winning “Mr. Clubb and Mr. Cuff.” Book by book, story by story, I have done my best to untangle the complexities of Straub’s fiction, to isolate and illuminate its central concerns, and to articulate my highly personal sense of its unique—and, I believe enduring—value.
Whether or not I’ve achieved any of these objectives is not for me to say. Anyone who takes the time to read my book can make that judgment for him or herself. I only hope that At the Foot of the Story Tree encourages readers to take a second—perhaps, in some cases, a first—look at the novels and stories of Peter Straub. In the end, real criticism exists to serve its subject, and this particular subject has, over a period of more than twenty years, provided me—and many others—with a large number of complex pleasures. This long overdue critical study is my personal response to those many pleasures. Writing it has been, in the truest sense of that overused expression, a labor of love.
— Bill Sheehan