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Can Such Things Be? (1893)

af Ambrose Bierce

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Serier: Alle verhalen van Ambrose Bierce (Boek 2)

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2586104,665 (3.88)16
Fiction. Horror. Mystery. Short Stories. HTML:

Ambrose Bierce gained literary acclaim as a skilled satirist and chronicler of battlefield bravery. In the thrilling collection Can Such Things Be?, the Devil's Dictionary scribe turns his attention to all things spooky and fantastical. It's the perfect collection to read in front of the fire on a dark and stormy night.

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Ambrose Bierce was a journalist and a professional wit so it's sometimes difficult to reconcile his quips and his muckraking with the irrational and spiritual nature of horror, and especially his particular style of country horror. But he was a soldier in the civil war so he had seen his share of the American wilderness and of death and destruction. His dry personality is most evident when he describes ignorant yokel characters using highfalutin language.
But there is still something inexplicably natural and essential in his prose that I love. He created scenes and atmospheres that were both natural and unnatural, or perhaps in a way proto-natural, evoking ancient places and forces that even Manifest Destiny shouldn't disturb. Bierce had the ability to channel the superstitious cowboy that must exist in all of us, expressing frontier wisdom through ghost stories. "Don't go near that gulch! Lemme tell you about some buckaroos who went near that gulch, they were eaten by a ghost." ( )
  ethorwitz | Jan 3, 2024 |
Ambrose Bierce was an American civil war veteran, journalist and short story writer. This selection of 24 of his stories was first published in 1909. I read it because of its inclusion on some proto science fiction lists, but really the stories would fit more easily into the genres of horror or supernatural stories. As I started reading through the collection I was impressed with Bierce's ability to set the scene; here is an example:

"The day, I thought, must be far advanced, though the sun was invisible; and although sensible that the air was raw and chill my consciousness of that fact was rather mental than physical—I had no feeling of discomfort. Over all the dismal landscape a canopy of low, lead-colored clouds hung like a visible curse. In all this there were a menace and a portent—a hint of evil, an intimation of doom. Bird, beast, or insect there was none. The wind sighed in the bare branches of the dead trees and the gray grass bent to whisper its dread secret to the earth; but no other sound nor motion broke the awful repose of that dismal place."

I was disappointed that some of the stories did not progress much further than a description of events, there seemed to be no resolution. Many of them read like ghost stories, almost all of them feature a death of some kind, but the quality of the writing and my realisation that Bierce was intent on providing a disturbing story for the reader to consider and wonder if "[Can such things be?]" was enough to keep me reading. A typical example is the final story in the collection; a group of would be settlers are pushing through some hostile Indian country and have camped for the night. A man appears out of the darkness and tells the group a story of four men who were run to ground by a band of apaches nearby. There were no survivors and the storyteller quietly slips away, leaving the group of settlers wondering if they had just seen a ghost.

I enjoyed the stories the more I read through them, not expecting resolutions, but content to enjoy the feeling of strange things afoot. Of course some of the stories work better than others, but most manage to create an eerie atmosphere even if a suspension of belief is required. When these stories were written in the late nineteenth century, spiritualism was still considered by many to be part of everyday life; scientific investigations and debunkers of fraud had not yet convinced the general public that ghosts and the supernatural were not prevalent. Bierce honed in on this wave of uncertainty and belief in the supernatural; to create his disturbing stories, which can still be enjoyed today 3.5 stars. ( )
1 stem baswood | Dec 17, 2023 |
A pretty good and varied group of preternatural tales. They vary in length, tone and content, the stories are rarely funny but many of the characters have a good sense of humour.
From your average ghost story to psychic connections, the macabre and the mundane. I listened to most of them on a decent Librivox version. ( )
  wreade1872 | Nov 28, 2021 |
If it was not for "An Inhabitant of Carcosa", I would not care much about Ambrose Bierce. This may be to his credit, but his style of storytelling has been done to death (keep in mind these stories were written in the late 1800's), leaving me feeling almost jaded. ( )
  thePatWalker | Feb 10, 2020 |
This was an interesting introduction to the works of Ambrose Bierce. ( )
  CarmaSpence | Jul 26, 2018 |
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Fiction. Horror. Mystery. Short Stories. HTML:

Ambrose Bierce gained literary acclaim as a skilled satirist and chronicler of battlefield bravery. In the thrilling collection Can Such Things Be?, the Devil's Dictionary scribe turns his attention to all things spooky and fantastical. It's the perfect collection to read in front of the fire on a dark and stormy night.

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