Review of ‘American Midnight: Tales of the Dark’

By Ryan C. Bradley

American Midnight: Tales of the Dark by Laird Hunt
Pushkin Press
Image Credit: Edelweiss

A masquerade ball cut short by a mysterious plague; a strange nocturnal ritual in the woods; a black bobcat howling in the night: these ten tales are some of the most strange and unsettling in all of American literature, filled with unforgettable imagery and simmering with tension. From Edgar Allan Poe to Shirley Jackson, Nathaniel Hawthorne to Zora Neale Hurston, the authors of these classics of supernatural suspense have inspired generations of writers to explore the dark heart of the land of the free.

Published by Pushkin Press, American Midnight: Tales of the Dark by Laird Hunt is a compilation of tales by Edgar Allan PoeNathaniel HawthorneEdith WhartonRobert ChambersShirley JacksonMark TwainZora Neale HurstonCharlotte Perkins GilmanEmma Frances Dawson.

People often ask me why I write and read horror in the same tone that they would ask, “Why would you drop that cinderblock full of bees on your toes?” In situations when people tell me they hate what I love, I have never been sure how to react. American Midnight has given me an inkling of how to answer.

This collection of classic American horror stories captures the way the genre stays relevant for centuries. It would be difficult to read the first story in the collection, Edgar Allen Poe’s “The Masque of Red Death,” and not see the parallels to the way people are hoarding toilet paper in response to the COVID 19 pandemic. In the penultimate story, Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the author addresses the way medical professionals ignore women’s complaints, something that The Atlantic is still writing about more than 100 years later in the article, “How Doctors Take Women’s Pain Less Seriously.” (Though Gilman does not address the way this problem disproportionately impacts women of color.)

Horror stories like the two already mentioned and the other seven in American Midnight give readers a framework to think and talk about these and other pressing issues.

This anthology is well-suited to welcoming new horror readers. It includes classics by Poe, Perkins Gilman, Robert Chambers, Shirley Jackson, and Nathaniel Hawthorne. Editor Laird Hunt also goes out of his way to include writers one may not expect: Mark Twain, Zora Neale Hurston, Edith Wharton, and Emma Frances Dawson also have entries. These new inclusions are fun, with Twain’s and Hurston’s contributions both adding much-needed humor.

The most remarkable thing about American Midnight—which, honestly, is in a sea of similar collections and only includes two short stories that are not part of the public domain—is that Hunt manages to print more women than men and include an author of color. Most similar collections focus on white men. It is refreshing to have one honoring the women that have been contributing to the genre for as long, if not longer, than men. (★★★★☆)

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Product Details:

Pub Date: Aug. 25, 2020

Page count: 192pp

Age Range: 16 & Over

ISBN: 978-1-7822-7595-4

Publisher: Pushkin Press

List Price: $18.00

     
 

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