November 18, 2011 10:05 pm

The Weird

 

 The Weird, edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, Corvus, RRP£25, 1,152 pages

What is a “weird” tale? The American husband-and-wife editors of this superlative anthology take great care to define it in their foreword, but the British author China Miéville puts it the most succinctly in his “Afterweird” to the book. “Weird is an affect,” he says. “We know it when we feel it.”

Weird fiction is outsider fiction, it hints at supernatural unrealities and warped internal realities. It’s a phenomenon peculiar to the 20th and 21st centuries, arising perhaps from the modern era’s lack of religious certainty. And it’s represented authoritatively in this volume, with stories from more than 100 authors including Mervyn Peake, Jorge Luis Borges, HP Lovecraft, Daphne du Maurier, Stephen King, Angela Carter, Michael Chabon, Ben Okri and Haruki Murakami.

The book runs to 750,000 words and weighs nearly 4lbs. Studded with literary gems, it’s a hefty, diligently assembled survey of a genre that manages to be at once unsettling, disorientating and bracing in its variety.

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