Magic Terror: Seven Tales
|Publisher:||Random House Trade|
No one tells a story like Peter Straub. He dazzles with the complexity of his plots. He delights with the sophistication and eloquence of his prose. He startles you into laughter in the face of events so dark you begin to question your own moral compass. Then he reduces you to jelly by spinning a tale so terrifying-and surprising-you wind up sleeping with the lights on.
With Magic Terror, the bestselling author of Ghost Story and The Talisman (with Stephen King) has given us one of the most imaginatively unsettling collections in years. The terrain of these extraordinary stories is marked by brutality, heart-break, despair, wonder, and an unexpected humor that allows empathy to blossom within the most unlikely contexts.
“Bunny Is Good Bread” takes us into the mind of a small boy trapped in grotesque circumstances to portray the creation of a serial killer in a manner that compels pity, sorrow, comprehension, and grief-as well as judgment. “Hunger, an Introduction,” narrated by the ghost of a pompous, self-pitying murderer, evokes a profoundly beautiful vision of earthly life, one appreciated far more by the dead than the living. The award-winning novella “Mr. Clubb and Mr. Cuff,” a masterpiece of black comedy, draws upon Melville’s “Bartleby the Scrivener” to create a revenge tale in which torture is a moral art and the revenger undergoes a transforming, albeit painful, education.
In the words of Mrs. Asch, the visionary narrator of “Ashputtle,” “The main feature of adventure is that it goes forward into unknown country.” Straub’s devotees will be entranced by what their fearless guide has in store for them. Those as yet uninitiated are in for a harrowing literary journey. Enjoy the ride.
Peter Straub is a fine sorcerer of horror whose bag of tricks includes stories of pure, unadulterated horror (Julia and Koko), as well as more subtle tales of psychological suspense (Mr. X and Shadowland). Now Straub conjures up Magic Terror, a collection of seven deeply disturbing tales that display his entire range.
“Bunny Is Good Bread” is without a doubt the most haunted tale of all, a harrowing account of a childhood from hell. The scary hero Fee was so traumatized as a 5-year-old by abuse from his father that he disconnects himself from the real world and lives as if in a film. Why? “If you forgot you were in a movie, your own feelings would tear you into bloody rags.” Ever since the day Fee watches his mother die a horrible death, he’s been tormented: “He was one-half dead himself; half of him belonged to his dead mother.”
Fee is not the only character to be struck by a dark epiphany, a life-changing moment. In the lyrical “Porkpie Hat,” a famous jazz musician recounts the ghoulish Halloween encounter that charted the course of his destiny, and in the twisted fairy tale “Ashputtle,” a fantasy-inclined “princess” seeks retribution for a traumatic incident many years before.
In Straub’s world, horror appears in different disguises—the dark mask of child abuse and the bloodied cloak of war (“The Ghost Village”). Regardless of how it shows itself, the effects will haunt long after lights out. —Naomi Gesinger