Monday, September 8, 2008

Present at a Hanging

Ghost stories are my (not so guilty) pleasure, as you know, and I'm still sifting through the Librivox catalog looking for old goodies. Right now I'm listening to Present at a Hanging (Gutenberg text here), stories by the American journalist/satirist Ambrose Bierce. So far my favorite is "A Man With Two Lives." These stories are much shorter and sharper than the gothic tales I usually read, and I like that—sometimes a story goes on for thirty or forty pages, and the dénouement isn't as dramatic as all that narrative build-up would suggest. Make sure you read "A Man With Two Lives"—it'll only take you a few minutes.

And speaking of Ambrose Bierce: I've been thinking a lot about epigraphs lately, how they flavor and (hopefully) enhance the reader's experience of the story they're about to read, and I thought I would show you the epigraph that opens Petty Magic:
WITCH, n. 1, Any ugly and repulsive old woman, in a wicked league with the devil.
2, A beautiful and attractive young woman, in wickedness a league beyond the devil.
—Ambrose Bierce, The Devil’s Dictionary
More thoughts on epigraphs in a future entry.

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