December 13, 2004
McSweeney's Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories edited by Michael Chabon

McSweeney’s Enchanted Chamber of Astonishing Stories edited by Michael Chabon: a collection of literary short stories that is touted as “stay-up-all-night, edge-of-the-seat, fingernail-biting, (and) page-turning” that I ultimately found to be uneven at best.

These stories are supposed to blur the line between genres, but with a few exceptions (most notably “7C” by Jason Roberts), I didn’t find that too many of them fit that bill. While several of the stories were very good, others were not of the caliber that I would have suspected given the talent that wrote them.

"7C" by Jason Roberts is a blend of horror and science fiction that I needed to reread again to truly appreciate. Jonathan Lethem’s “Vivian Relf” was also interesting and I particularly enjoyed it since I have one of those faces that is always causing people to ask, “Don’t I know you?” Other stellar stories were China Mieville’s “Reports of Certain Events in London,” "Minnow" by Ayelet Waldman, Poppy Z. Brite’s “The Devil of Delery Street,” and “Delmonico” by Daniel Handler. I think I would have liked “The Fabled Light-House of Vina Del Mar” by Joyce Carol Oates more if it would have been tighter.

My favorite in the collection was “Lisey in the Madman” by Stephen King. I am a huge Stephen King fan and despite my disappointment in the last Dark Tower book, I felt that this story was a return to the King that I know and love. I would be delighted if the rumor that this is actually a snippet from a yet unpublished book turns out to be true. I would love to know more about Lisey and Scott Landen’s lifes.

An uneven collection in all since I didn’t like some of the stories at all (Peter Straub’s “Mr. Aickman’s Air Rifle” being my least favorite), but still with enough good ones to make picking this book up worthwhile.