Thrilling Tales

"He went out and became a circus clown, the way some of the really bitter ones do."
-- Glen David Gold, "The Tears of Squonk, and What Happened Thereafter"

The highlight of McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales, apart from a steampunk story by Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon, apart from the fact that it contains stories by Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Elmore Leonard, Michael Crichton, Michael Moorcock, Nick Hornby and Sherman Alexie, is one awesome story by Rick Moody: "The Albertine Notes." It's reality-warping like The Matrix, but twisted and self-destructive, like what Videodrome should have been.

The collection is meant as an antidote to the "contemporary, quotidian, plotless, moment-of-truth revelatory story," which editor Chabon admits his own short story collection is full of. Most of the stories in this treasury live up to the standard set by Chabon in his introduction, but there are still a few that seem to yearn for some epiphany at their climax.

Stephen King's "The Tale of Gray Dick" has plot, but he seems to be phoning it in with a story that might have been a chapter he cut from the Dark Tower/Gunslinger series. Some of the better ones are Kelly Link's "Catskin", a nasty fairy tale that puts me in mind of Angela Carter's The Bloody Chamber and Margaret Atwood's Bluebeard's Egg; and Glen David Gold's "The Tears of Squonk, and What Happened Thereafter," based on the real story about a circus elephant that was hung for murder in Tennessee.


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