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Sunday, September 13, 2009

American Fantastic Tales: Terror and the Uncanny from Poe to Now

Design by Chip Kidd
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Refreshingly different design by Chip Kidd for this Library of America collection; he did the slipcover as well, which you can see here and for which I'll try to get a better image.

I don't read horror and fantasy fiction, but these I like, if only because it makes me think there's been a been a shift in how such fiction is written. The image on the first volume suggests something that's objectively scary: ghosts with clanging chains and all that. The image on the second strikes me as more anticipatory and psychological, perhaps suggesting that horror doesn't find you, but that you find it. Probably a false bifurcation, but maybe someone who reads about things that go bump in the night can shed some light on these.


Ian Koviak said...

almost reminds me of these:

orlando said...

wow Mr. kidd usually gets more of a response from within me :( hope he's not losing the touch. not that i consider myself the absolute litmus test

sirvan said...

Nice one.. Interesting story.

Toon said...

I suppose the images relate to the time period covered by the different books.
In 'Poe to the Pulps' classic gothic horror is probably the most important genre covered, whereas in 'the 1940s to now' the SF genre probably features heavily, with stories about flying saucers and Venus men.
It's refreshing to see these kinds of covers without a direct reference to either 19th century etchings (for the first volume) or 1950s B-movie posters (for the second volume). And I love how the similar use of lighting ties them both together while still conveying the distinct atmosphere and thematic world of each era.
I do like the second one better, though. I love the light playing on the glass, and the ominous image of that small boy in the middle of the night, looking down a perfectly round hole in the lawn. The 'ghost with the lantern' image is a bit too clicheed in comparison.

Joseph said...

Toon: Nice comment. Thanks.

Chris said...

I didn't get "ghost" from the first cover at all. I see someone in a cloak heading out into the dark, which contrasts nicely with the boy in his pajamas on the lawn. I'm no horror expert either, but for me these covers illustrate the difference between the terror to be found in the wilderness and the dark -- places beyond the (physical) boundaries of normal life -- and the kind we can find in our own backyard.