Ambrose Bierce: An Influential And Underappreciated Writer


Before Stephen King, H.L. Mencken, and H.P. Lovecraft, there was Ambrose Bierce.  He was without doubt one of the strangest figures in American literary history.  His work straddled several genres, including supernatural fiction, journalism, and literary criticism; and much of his output foreshadowed the trends in fiction and journalism of our own time.

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4 thoughts on “Ambrose Bierce: An Influential And Underappreciated Writer

  1. The Robber Barrons are a myth, as detailed in The Myth of the Robber Barrons by Burton Folsom. It is true that there were and are some who corrupt the political process to engorge themselves on the public trough, but the overwhelming majority of the very wealthy got that way the only way you can get that wealthy in a free market: by making millions of other people’s lives better.

    Also, I’m not so sure that it isn’t immoral to be so bitter and cynical that you lose touch with humanity, leaving yourself with no one to care about or care about you in the end. War is often a rebirth, but for others, like Bierce, it is a spiritual death. Taking you at your word as the kind of man Bierce was, he was a man to be pitied for his bitterness and wrath, not admired for the way he wasted his talents giving expression largely on these sentiments. Great art springs from conflict and strife by finding wisdom, beauty, and resolution, not wallowing in the conflict and strife.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think there’s room for a “dualist” interpretation of Bierce, Ken. That is: he was both to be pitied and to be admired. His caustic personality drove people away and eventually alienated everyone. And at the same time, he was a writer of considerable vision and power. So I see him as a flawed and tragic figure. You might say that the Civil War was for him a “spiritual death” but it can be argued that his difficult childhood and early years had already warped his outlook on life. He was a great combat soldier. But he was also tormented by the horrifying visions he saw at Shiloh, of packs of feral pigs feasting on the corpses of the fallen, and by similar such things I won’t bother to repeat.
      These experiences both harmed and helped him. Such is the duality of Fate.


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