Thursday, January 9, 2014

Ambrose Bierce

He's a cynic. He's a critic. He's insane. He's amazing. He's completely dreadful. He's a genius.

While all this applies to Edgar Allan Poe, this is a description of the author Ambrose Bierce - otherwise known as Bitter Bierce or the Devil's Lexicographer.

Sorry about the crummy picture quality! Those pixels are at their highest!

I read the Graphic Classics version of his stories, and thought I might read the originals as well.

The Complete Short Stories of Ambrose Bierce is not complete, per say. It does not include five of his war yarns, but it does have a wealth of his cynical tall tales and his chilling horror stories. It is the latter that I grabbed at first, though I do love the former (An Imperfect Conflagration is wonderfully whimsical!).

He truly does have a skill at writing horror. Usually; the chills happen at the very last line while suspense is built throughout. The best example I have come across of this yet is The Thing at Nolan. The tale isn't very scary - dark, violent, yes, but not scary. And yet the last line will give you shivers even on the brightest, happiest day. Yes. It's that freakin' scary.

Of course, a nice bit of satire will brighten any day. The Bierce's Fables section in the Graphic Classics collection is the best of the lot. I get a lot of enjoyment out of these humorously grim tales - a grotesque parody of the world we know.

And then there's The Devil's Dictionary - the best dictionary ever written. Originally published as The Cynic's Word-Book, this tome has definitions such as:

Admiration: Our polite recognition of one's resemblance to ourselves.


Bride: A woman with a great deal of happiness behind her.

Ho ho!

Year: A period of three hundred sixty one disappointments.

Hee hee!

That book is a must have for any humorist or comedian. Indeed; Bierce is an author for every history buff/horror connoisseur/cynic/comedian.

A particularly chilling tale was Oil of Dog, which I first encountered in Graphic Classics. Very creepy. That grey, dull, dreary town and what happens within it is a horror director's dream - with the Bierce pedigree. I wish Oil of Dog was made into a short film. It might be very successful.

I love you, Ambrose Bierce!

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