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Ambrose Bierce is as famous for the circumstances surrounding the end of his life as for his bitter fatalistic prose.  Bierce was a journalist/author and a Civil War veteran.  In 1913, after the breakup of his marriage and the death of his sons, he set out for Mexico to meet Pancho Villa and observe the Mexican Revolution at first hand.  He wrote to a friend:

    Goodbye, if you hear of my being stood up against a Mexican stone wall and shot to rags, please
    know that I think it a pretty good way to depart this life.  It beats old age, disease, or falling down
    the cellar stairs.  To be a Gringo in Mexico--ah, that is euthanasia!

With that, he disappeared into Mexico and was never heard from again, fueling wild speculation about his fate (i.e., Carols Fuentes' novel The Old Gringo).  A fitting end for an author whose works combined a bleak view of life with elements of mystery.

Bierce's Civil War stories are bleak little tales of death and destruction.  There's one here that nicely captures his cynical world view--most of us saw a film version of it in grade school--An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.  Peyton Farquhar is a Southern planter captured behind Union lines on a spy mission.  As the story opens, he stands upon Owl Creek Bridge with a noose around his neck thinking of the wife and children he will never see again.  But when the Union soldiers try to hang him, the noose slips and he swims off downstream.  He flees across country until he finally reaches home and as he approaches his open armed wife...the rope snaps tight and we realize that he had imagined the whole episode on his way down.  Here in one tidy package is the brutality of war, the futility of life and the bitter wit that characterizes his work.

He's not for all tastes, and I'm not generally big on short stories, but I like him.

(Reviewed:)

Grade: (B)

  

Websites:

See also:

Ambrose Bierce (2 books reviewed)
Short Stories
War
Book-related and General Links:
    -Ambrose Gwinett Bierce (1842-1914) (kirjasto)
    -ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA : "ambrose bierce"
    -ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA : bierce, ambrose
    -ETEXT : The Devil's Dictionary : Searchable Version (malacandra)
    -ETEXT : The Devil's Dictionary (Literature@SunSite)
    -ETEXT : The Devil's Dictionary (Erik Max Francis)
    -ETEXT : An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge  by  Ambrose Bierce
    -ETEXT : Killed At Resaca by  Ambrose Bierce
    -ETEXT : A Horseman in the Sky by Ambrose Bierce
    -ETEXT : Fantastic Fables by Ambrose Bierce Online Collection
    -ETEXTS : SELECTED POETRY OF AMBROSE BIERCE (1842-1914?) (Representative Poetry On-line, Department of English at the University of Toronto)
    -ETEXTS : Poems
    -ETEXT : Ambrose Bierce's stinging denunciation of Oscar Wilde (appeared in the March 31, 1882, edition of "The Wasp.")
    -ANNOTATED ETEXTS : Ambrose Bierce Books Central (Encyclopaedia of the Self)
    -The Ambrose Bierce Appreciation Society
    -Don Swaim's Ambrose Bierce Site
    -Ambrose Bierce Patron Saint of Satire
    -Ambrose Bierce  (1842-1914?) Alan Gullette
    -The San Antonio College LitWeb Ambrose Bierce Page
    -Literary Research Guide: Ambrose Bierce (1842 - 1914)
    -PAL: Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?)
    -Bierce, Ambrose (The Literary Gothic)
    -Ambrose Bierce (Spartacus)
    -Ambrose Bierce (1842-1914?) (Blue Pete Biographies)
    -Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce (Masonic Biographies)
    -ESSAY : Forked Tongue : The Language of Serpent in the Enlarged Devil's Dictionary of Ambrose Bierce (Andrew Graham)
    -ESSAY : Murphy's Law : Ambrose Bierce (1999) (John Patrick Michael Murphy)
    -ESSAY : Ambrose Bierce, 1842-1914? (Stacey Ann Singletary,  Student, University of North Carolina at Pembroke)
    -ARCHIVES :  "ambrose bierce" (Find Articles)
    -REVIEW: of AMBROSE BIERCE Alone in Bad Company by Roy Morris Jr. (David S. Reynolds, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Ambrose Bierce: Alone in Bad Company by Roy Morris Jr. (Richard von Busack, MetroActive)
    -REVIEW : of Ambrose Bierce: Alone in Bad Company by Roy Morris Jr.  (Andrew Sargent, Book Wire)
    -REVIEW: of The Unwritten War: American Writers and the Civil War by Daniel Aaron Gone With the Wind (C. VANN WOODWARD, NY Review of Books)

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