|Ambrose Bierce by J.H.E. Partington|
I first encountered Bierce as an illustrator. I thought his King Arthur illustrations were fantastic. (To see a portfolio of his illustrations for Oscar Wilde's Salome. go here.)
Beardsley's illustrations were lush and detailed and for me, as much as Alphonse Mucha, defined Art Nouveau.
I then stumbled across The Devil's Dictionary (formerly known as The Cynic's Word Book), a dark satire that was snarky and satisfying. For example:
- (n.) One skilled in circumvention of the law.
I then read a number of his short story collections, which tended toward the fantastical and speculative. I liked his short fiction a lot--especially his writing on war--and wondered why he was so often eclipsed by Mark Twain in English classes.
- Here's an interesting article on whether Ambrose Bierce was a better writer than Mark Twain. I don't think he was--I took a whole semester of Twain when I was in college and read pretty much everything he wrote, including "War Prayer" and Gilded Age. I think Twain had more range. But if you're stacking up short stories, I'll take Ambrose Pierce's "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge" over "The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County." Kurt Vonnegut considered the Bierce story to be the greatest short story ever written.
And consider this quote the next time you're tempted to throw in some contemporary slang in a book: