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By Bruce Watson
Once derided as a hopeless cynic, American writer Ambrose Bierce now enjoys an outstanding literary recognition. Witty and sardonic, Bierce speaks to our personal scandal-ridden occasions. His savage Civil warfare tales became classics and his Devil's Dictionary is usually quoted. during this short biography, Bruce Watson explores the sorrow in the back of the wit, and probes Bierce's mysterious disappearance a century in the past.
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Extra info for Ambrose Bierce. The Devil’s Cynic
Silenced, Huntington backed off. After a long, hot summer Bierce returned to California, his job done. Two hundred thousand signatures on a petition against the funding bill helped to defeat it. A few years later, when the Southern Pacific was given 10 years to pay its debts, Bierce’s victory was cited as the first salvo fired by the Muckrakers. He had cut the railroad down to size and made his name as well known in the East as it had been in the West. A few years later Teddy Roosevelt would personally praise Bierce, citing his story “A Son of the Gods” as inspiration for the charge up San Juan Hill.
To call him a misogynist is telling only half the story. He liked men no more than women, and his tall tales “Oil of Dog” and “A Cargo of Cat” make recent cat-joke books seem truly domestic. Any offense given by Bierce is purely intentional. What, then, did Ambrose Bierce like? Throughout his life he liked long bicycle rides and walks beneath the redwoods, where he gathered pine cones and arrowheads. He enjoyed fine wine and brandy in astonishing amounts. He liked to hold forth on literature and poetry while young writers listened.
His horror stories, owing something to Edgar Allan Poe but still radically different from those of their time, are infested with apparitions, invisible monsters, predestination and an endless array of gruesome demises. Having narrowly escaped death, Bierce saw the Grim Reaper was a prankster, and mortality, the final joke. “Having murdered my mother under circumstances of singular atrocity . ” begins one story. Another opens: “Early one June morning in 1872 I murdered my father - an act which made a deep impression on me at the time .
Ambrose Bierce. The Devil’s Cynic by Bruce Watson