The Devil’s Dictionary, Tales, & Memoirs
In the Midst of Life (Tales of Soldiers and Civilians) • Can Such Things Be? • The Devil’s Dictionary • Bits of Autobiography • Selected Stories
“Carey McWilliams, that muckraking California journalist whose 1929 biography of Bierce remains the most astute assessment of the man and the writer, wrote hopefully, ‘Only one thing . . . is needed to insure Bierce’s place in American and world literature: a one- or two-volume edition of the best of his writing.’ We now have that volume.”—Benjamin Schwarz, The Atlantic
Read an exclusive interview with volume editor S. T. Joshi (PDF, 76K)
See sample pages from The Devil's Dictionary (PDF, 46K)
E-book edition: Ambrose Bierce: The Devil's Dictionary, Tales, & Memoirs is available for the Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Kobo, and Google Books.
A veteran of some of the bloodiest battles of the civil War—among them Shiloh, Chickamauga, Missionary Ridge, and Kennesaw Mountain—Ambrose Bierce went on to become one of the darkest and most death-haunted of American writers, the blackest of black humorists. A prolific journalist who made himself a dominant figure in the emerging literary culture of postwar san Francisco, Bierce developed a style of slashing sarcasm that made him a feared antagonist. As a short story writer—whether drawing on wartime experiences or exploring realms of supernatural and psychological horror—he used extreme situations to give voice to his uniquely engrossing brand of pessimism.
This volume gathers the most celebrated and significant of Bierce’s writings. In the Midst of Life (Tales of Soldiers and Civilians), his collection of short fiction about the civil War, which includes the masterpieces “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” and “Chickamauga,” is suffused with a fiercely ironic sense of the horror and randomness of war. Close-up portraits of life in camp and on the battlefield offer unique, often startling, perspectives on the war whose after-echoes pervade Bierce’s writing. Can Such Things Be? brings together “The Death of Halpin Frayser,” “The Damned Thing,” “The Moonlit Road,” and other tales of terror that make Bierce the genre’s most significant American practitioner between Poe and Lovecraft. These tales are notable, in editor S. T. Joshi’s words, for “the meticulous etching of the precise effects of the supernatural upon the sensitive consciousness of his fear-raddled protagonists.”
The Devil’s Dictionary, the brilliant lexicon of subversively cynical definitions on which Bierce worked for decades, displays to the full his corrosive wit. In Bits of Autobiography, the series of memoirs that includes the memorable “What I Saw of Shiloh,” he recreates his experiences in the war and its aftermath. The volume is rounded out with a selection of the best stories not gathered in the two major collections. Acclaimed Bierce scholar Joshi provides detailed notes and a newly researched chronology of Bierce’s life and mysterious disappearance.
S. T. Joshi, editor, is the author of H. P. Lovecraft: A Life (1997) and many other books. He is also the editor of The Collected Fables of Ambrose Bierce (2000) and co-editor with David E. Schultz of Ambrose Bierce: A Sole Survivor—Bits of Autobiography (1998), Ambrose Bierce: An Annotated Bibliography of Primary Sources (1999), and The Unabridged Devil’s Dictionary (2002).
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