Tuesday, October 04, 2011

31 Days of Halloween - Day 4

I'm not a big fan of themed anthologies. I'm okay with author specific anthologies and  genre specific anthologies such as Year's Best Horror because the stories, while being all horror stories,  are varied enough in content, voice, and even tone. But give me an anthology that's all stories about vampire's, werewolves, zombies, or what have you and my eyes begin to glaze over after about three of them, and no matter how well written, or how different the approach is in each, the common denominator in each of the stories gives them all a sameness that makes it difficult to appreciate each story on its own merits. I'm a little more tolerant with ghost/haunted house stories, because they are almost like comfort food, especially read late at night in the middle of winter or during inclement weather. 

This is why I can recommend Marvin Kaye's Ghosts, but not so much his anthology Devils & Demons. While the book does contain some gems, particularly a couple of humorous stories, this anthology really suffers from the problem of sameness. The majority of the stories here are of the deal with the devil type, which go out of their way to differentiate themselves from the Faust model by being self consciously aware of teh Faust model and then playing with that, often in the same manner of having the protagonist outsmart the demon with whom they made their deal and thus cheating them out of the collection of what is due. 

This may have been a more successful book had I merely dipped into it from time to time to read one story every now and again, but that's not how I read books. The similarities of the stories did lead me to reading it in chunks over time while reading other books in between, but also made me wonder if this wasn't a sub-genre in need of a serious retooling. Marvin Kaye knows the horror genre well and is a deservedly well-respected editor and anthologizer (as well as author himself). I can only imagine that he felt some frustration at finding a very narrow window of story-types when making his selections for this particular anthology. 

While the contents weren't varied enough, the cover by Edward Gorey makes this a worthy purchase on its own. 


No comments: