Tales about ghosts are as old as human culture itself but the ghost story as a distinguished literary form reached its apogee in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As traditional religions declined in the West during those years, people looked for new ways of describing the spiritual realities explained by religion. The ghost story is a literary expression of this need, its rise corresponding to the growing popularity of Spiritualism. Ghost stories balance the increasingly powerful scientific materialism of the age with intimations that there are other orders of experience which we cannot define and only glimpse. The Everyman selection of ghost stories includes examples from this period by major writers such as Robert Louis Stevenson, Guy de Maupassant, Henry James and Edith Wharton. M. R. James is featured as a specialist in the genre. Later writers include Elizabeth Bowen, Penelope Lively and Ray Bradbury. One feature of this collection is to show that there is more to the ghost story than the thrill of horror, important though that is. These stories include comedy and tragedy, pathos, drama and even poetry. Each is a masterpiece in its own right, irrespective of whether or not we believe in the realm of spectres.
The unforgettable canines gathered here include Kipling's heroically faithful 'Garm', Bret Harte's irrepressible scoundrel of a 'yaller dog' and the aggressively affectionate three-legged pit bull who lives in a block of flats for dogs in Jonathan Lethem's 'Ava's Apartment'. Here are stories which touchingly illuminate the dog's role in the emotional lives of humans, such as Tobias Wolff's 'Her Dog', where a widower shares his grief for his wife with her grieving pet. Here, too, are humorous glimpses of the canine point of view, from O. Henry's tale of a dissatisfied lapdog's escape to P. G. Wodehouse's cheerfully naïve watchdog who simply wants everybody to get along. These writers and others - Ray Bradbury, JamesThurber and Penelope Lively among them - offer imaginative, lyrical and empathetic portraits of man and woman's most devoted companion
In this lively collection, wine snobs receive their comeuppance at the hands of Roald Dahl and Edgar Allan Poe; innocents over-imbibe in tales by Jack London and Alice Munro; riotous partying exacts a comic price in stories by P. G. Wodehouse and Kingsley Amis; Charles Jackson and Jean Rhys chronicle liquor-soaked epiphanies; while John Cheever, Vladimir Nabokov and Robert Coover set their characters afloat on surreal, soul-revealing adventures. Here, too, are well-lubricated tales by Dickens, Twain, Beckett, Colette, Dorothy Parker, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Doris Lessing, Frank O'Connor, Penelope Lively, and many more.
The settings include hotels and restaurants, a wine cellar in Italy, a café in Paris, a bar in Dublin, a New York nightclub, Jazz Age speakeasies, suburban lawn parties and the occasional gaol cell, and are peopled by lovers and loners, barmen and chorus girls, youths taking their first sips and experienced tipplers nursing hangovers.
Whether living it up or drowning their sorrows, the vividly drawn characters in these sparkling pages will leave you shaken and stirred.