Introduction: The Diary of a Rapist by Evn S. Conell

Two confessions: 1. A handsome first edition of this book sat on my bookshelf for years before I could bring myself to read it—the book arrived and I put it away, unopened, peculiarly disconcerted by what I feared I might find inside. 2. The current copy that I carry with me as I write this is a used paperback reissue from several years ago. It arrived with a paper EX LIBRIS bookplate decorated with three butterflies la little too Nabokovian) and the mark of its previous owner, Courtney Biggs, in green ink. There is no sign of Courtney ever having cracked the spine.

Introduction: Falconer by John Cheever

Falconer, may, in fact, be The Great American Novel—or at least the greatest American novel of the last 30 years. And while, at first glance, it may seem unlikely that a novel about a drug-addicted man who murders his brother would offer the clearest window into the American man, the family and marriage—the novel effortlessly accomplishes that and captures, in great glory, the pathos, the moral fiber, the twisted sister that America has become to our own history, servant to our most primal and prurient impulses.

Introduction: The Lottery by Shirley Jackson

The world of Shirley Jackson is eerie and unforgettable. It is a place where things are not what they seem; even on a day that is sunny and clear, "with the fresh warmth of a full summer day," there is the threat of darkness looming, of things taking a turn for the worse. Hers is the ever-observant eye, the mind's eye, bearing witness. Out of the stories rises a magical somnambulist's ether—the reader is left forever changed, the mark of the stories indelible upon the imagination, the soul.

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