'American literature and the short story might be said to have come of age at about the same time, and this, along with something in the bustling and energetic American temperament, might go some way towards explaining why the two go together as well as they do.' Twenty-one short stories from some of the best American writers over the last two hundred years provide a mesmerizing, multi-faceted portrait of a country, a people and the unique literature produced by this most exuberant of nations.
The quintessential American writer, Washington Irving emerged as the country's first popular author with such beloved nineteenth-century short stories as "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" and "Rip Van Winkle." These highly entertaining fiction masterpieces reveal Irving's unique mastery at portraying the landscapes and culture of early America.
One of the greatest of all horror writers, Edgar Allan Poe (1809-49) also composed pioneering tales that seized upon the scientific developments of an era marked by staggering change. In this collection of sixteen stories, he explores such wide-ranging contemporary themes as galvanism, time travel and resurrection of the dead. 'The Unparalleled Adventure of One Hans Pfall' relates a man's balloon journey to the moon with a combination of scientific precision and astonishing fantasy. Elsewhere, the boundaries between horror and science are elegantly blurred in stories such as 'The Facts in the Case of M. Valdemar', while the great essay 'Eureka' outlines Poe's own interpretation of the universe. Powerfully influential on later authors including Jules Verne, these works are essential reading for anyone wishing to trace the genealogy of science fiction, or to understand the complexity of Poe's own creative vision.