The New York Times

Haunted

RECENT AMERICAN FICTION IS CROWDED WITH GHOSTS THAT ECHO OUR COLLECTIVE TERRORS.

In 1960, the literary critic Leslie Fiedler delivered a eulogy for the ghost story in his classic study “Love and Death in the American Novel.” “An obsolescent subgenre,” he declared, with conspicuous relish; a “naïve” little form, as outmoded as its cheap effects, the table-tapping and flickering candlelight. Ghost stories belong to — brace yourself for maximum Fiedlerian venom — “middlebrow craftsmen,” who will peddle them to a rapidly dwindling audience and into an extinction that can’t come soon enough.

Not since Herman Melville’s publishers argued for less whale and more maidens in “Moby-Dick” (“young, perhaps voluptuous,” they dared to dream) has a literary judgment been so impressively off the mark.

Literature — the top-shelf, award-winning stuff — is positively ectoplasmic these days, crawling with hauntings, haints and wraiths of every stripe) and complicate what might have been straightforward portraits of relationships (Ben Dolnick’s “The Ghost Notebooks,” Laura van den Berg’s “The Third Hotel,” Lauren Groff’s “Florida,” Helen Sedgwick’s “The Comet Seekers”). They terrify, instruct and enchant — sometimes all in the same book (Carmen Maria Machado’s short story collection, features a veritable taxonomy of the type).

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