The Ambrose Bierce Site

“...I consider anybody a twerp who hasn’t read the greatest American short story, which is ‘Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,’ by Ambrose Bierce. It isn’t remotely political. It is a flawless example of American genius, like ‘Sophisticated Lady’ by Duke Ellington or the Franklin stove.” (Kurt Vonnegut — 2005)

DEFINITIVE AMBROSE BIERCE SITE — ORIGINAL ART, FICTION, DRAMA, ESSAYS — SINCE 1996

The field was too small for his genius. —Gertrude Atherton

Cogito ergo cogito sum
I think; therefore, I think I am.

—Ambrose Bierce

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CONTRIBUTE STUFF?

The Ambrose Bierce Site invites original articles, fiction, poetry, art
related to the mind and myth of Ambrose Bierce.
Email editor Don Swaim:

Ambrose Bierce
Chronology
here

Bierce Questions, Comments?
Message Board

Alas and alack. Social media has prevailed. Our years-old Bravenet message board, with its annoying ads, has essentially been replaced by Facebook. If you have questions or comments about Bierce, simply join our new Bierce Facebook page. It's an open group. Just click to join. Our old message board will soon vanish -- although not as mysteriously as Bierce. It'll remain up for a while if you want to read old postings -- or even post.

Old Message Board Archive
dates to 2001

portrait by Tom Redman


BIERCE
Resources
Scholarship
Works On Line


BIERCE
Biography


BIERCE
Disappearance


BIERCE
Civil War


BIERCE
Literary


BIERCE
In the Arts


BIERCE
Film



Kathryn Landis watercolor

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ORIGINAL BIERCE ART
by
Kathryn Landis
Tom Redman

  • Jack Matthews &
    Don Swaim Debate Bierce

    Listen HERE


    FOUR BIERCE OPERAS
  • St. Ambrose
  • Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge
  • Mocking Bird
  • Difficulty of Crossing a Field

  • PROJECT GUTENBERG
    Includes first book,
    A Fiend's Delight (1872)


    Gregory Peck as Bierce

    EXCLUSIVES
    by Bierce Site contributors

    Occurrence at Ojinaga
    Fiction by Ron Hefner

    And As to Drink
    Fiction by K. A. di'Gaetano

    My Hunt for Ambrose Bierce
    Article by Leon Day

    Bierce is Buried Here
    Account by James Leinert

    Ohio Honors Native Son
    Report by Don Swaim

    Rob Holmes as Bierce

    Finding Bierce's Birthplace
    Article by Margaret Parker

    Bullet,Grave, Memory
    Bierce meets Billy the Kid
    Fiction by Wayne MacDonald

    Ambrose Bierce and the Joy of Outrage
    Essay by Jack Matthews

    The Poetry of Ambrose Bierce
    Essay by Jack Matthews

    Almighty God Bierce
    Two-act play by Ed Scutt

    The Last Stand
    of Ambrose Bierce

    Two-act play by Rob Foster

    Ambrose & Gertrude
    Bierce vs. Gertrude Atherton;
    One-act play by Don Swaim

    ORIGINAL STUFF
    by Don Swaim

    The Joshi Q&A
    Exclusive interview with S.T. Joshi, world's leading authority on Bierce & the weird tale

    Stephen Vincent Benét, Ambrose Bierce, and Me
    Two Fabulists
    article

    The Blasphemer Robert G. Ingersoll
    Why He Mattered to Bierce
    article

    Ambrose & Henry
    H.L Mencken's debt to Bierce
    article

    Edwin Markham: The Man Who Irked Bierce
    (and wrote about zombies)
    article

    Bierce's Typewriter
    article

    Ambrose Bierce Alley
    Photo-essay

    Bierce Assails Politicos
    Speculation

    Bierce on Terrorism
    Speculation

    Bierce on the Notion of God
    Speculation

    Bierce vs Jack London
    Reconstruction

    Bierce & Pancho Villa
    Fiction

    The Wickedest Man in
    San Francisco

    Fiction

    Love and Kisses:
    Bierce & Oscar Wilde

    Fiction

    Bierce Duels with
    H.L. Mencken

    Fiction

    CONTRIBUTE?

    The Ambrose Bierce Site invites original articles, fiction, poetry, art
    related to the mind and myth of Ambrose Bierce.
    Email editor Don Swaim:



    PC Magazine's BEST OF THE INTERNET cites Don Swaim's Wired for Books. Nov. 20, 2007 issue


    WCBS Newsradio 88
    Appreciation Site


  • BOOK BEAT: The Podcast


  • Bucks County Writers Workshop


  • The Online Literary Magazine


  • Radio Days: A Broadcaster's Memoir


  • Steinbeck & Kaufman at Cherchez La Farm


  • Don Swaim's Interviews the World's Best Writers


  • Bucks County Sunsets
    A personal page about, yes, sunsets over Pennsylvania.


  • Fighting the Hun in W.W. I
    Pictorial Essay

  • DON'S HOUSES: Where I've Lived: click


  • Growing Up in WW2



  • High School Days


  • The Swaim in History


  • The Swaim in America


  • The Swimsuit Issue


  • BIERCE SITE FOUNDER WINS 2011 PEARL S. BUCK FICTION AWARD
    Don Swaim, founder of the Ambrose Bierce Site, won first prize for his short story, "Dearest Friend, Annie," which focuses on the relationship between Walt Whitman and Anne Gilchrist.

    Three others placed in the youth division. Swaim [above] is shown accepting the award under a portrait of Pearl S. Buck at the historic Buck house on April 10, 2011.

    Buck, author of The Good Earth, won the Nobel Prize for literature, and her Pennsylvania, home is a National Historic Landmark.
    Pearl S. Buck International



    “Camels and Christians accept their burdens kneeling.” —Ambrose Bierce


    Bierce as adapted from the artist Sanjin Masic of Sarajevo and used with his permission.
    More of Sanjin's art
    HERE


    In 1880, an Alabama farmer mysteriously disappears -- allegedly in full view of his family and neighbors. Was it a hoax? Did Ambrose Bierce base his famous story "The Difficulty of Crossing a Field" on the tale of the vanishing farmer? Read:
    Ambrose Bierce and the David Lang Hoax HERE


    This new site created the University of Cincinnati's Archives and Rare Books Library, directed by Kevin Grace, focuses on fifty-nine letters sent by Bierce between 1895 and 1911 to Myles Walsh, whose sister was a protégé of Bierce. The letters have been transcribed for all to read. The site also offers a short biography, bibliography, photos, and links. Connect HERE


    "Collecting Ambroses" — unintended whimsy by
    CHARLES FORT: here

    __________________
    Bierce once defined a "fiddle" as: "An instrument to tickle human ears by friction of a horse's tail on the entrails of a cat." The following violin piece was said to be Bierce's favorite song. Do you know what it is?



    Superstitious ignorance and mysticism? Bierce nails it.

    ABOUT AMBROSE BIERCE, June 24, 1842 to – ?
    by Leon Day

    Once upon a time, there was a brave soldier. His specialty was going in front of the Union armies with small units and making maps and sketches of the tricky spots on the proposed route, under fire. But he is not famous for this.

    Then he went West, exploring, and made the first maps of the Black Hills that were useful. He taught himself to write by reading the classics at a boring job at the San Francisco Mint, and broke into newspaper work. He became the top columnist in San Francisco in a time when the writer stood behind his work with a gun, not a lawyer. He married rich, went to England, learned a lot from the writers there, and taught some tricks himself. But this is just a footnote.

    He wrote the first Civil War fiction that included the terror and put the glory in its place. It was so good that a whole generation of professional officers became abject fans. And every time the press fomented a war fever, he wrote on military subjects with a stark clarity that never forgot that the final result would be flowing blood and shattered bone. But this is poorly remembered.

    He wrote fine poetry, often to a deadline, and trained a generation of poets -- became a sort of literary cult leader. But this is a matter for English professors.



    And he was funny politically, too, always opposed to demagogy and privilege alike, showing no faith that the common man could command politics, or the rich man transcend his greed. Split the difference between George Orwell and Herbert Spencer and you might approach the ideas of this writer who reached millions through the Hearst press. But this interests very few.

    Thus, Ambrose Bierce is best remembered today because nobody knows what happened to him. He went into the whirlpool of the Mexican Revolution in December 1913, and never popped up. He was good at writing spooky stories, and four or five have been hitched to his star.


    San Francisco Bulletin, March 24, 1920


    Leon Day
    About Leon Day

    This amateur historian sought to locate Bierce's remains in the Mexican desert -- and published his findings on The Ambrose Bierce Site. Unfortunately, he came up short. The colorful, eccentric Day -- whose coffee cup was often filled with more than coffee -- died in 2011 without proving his theory.

    His obituary in the Austin, Texas, Statesman HERE

    Read Day's well thought-out, six-part exposition on Bierce's disappearance HERE


    FOLLOW THE CHECKLIST FOR WHAT YOU
    NEED TO KNOW ABOUT AMBROSE BIERCE

    Latest Bierce NEWS: here

    Bierce Resources, Scholarship,
         Works Online: here

    Bierce Biography: here

    Bierce Disappearance: here

    Civil War Bierce: here

    Literary Bierce: here

    Bierce in the Arts: here

    Bierce in Film: here


    HOW BIERCE'S 'AN INHABITANT OF CARCOSA'...
    __________________

    NOT FAMOUS?

    Some recent Bierce magazine covers. Click HERE

    HE NEVER SAID IT!
    “War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography.”
    &
    “The covers of this book are too far apart.”

    The geography quote attributed to Ambrose Bierce has been knocking around the Internet for years. [Google shows 860,000 entries for it.] I’ve never found the origin for “War is God’s way of teaching Americans geography,” nor has David E. Schultz, who along with S.T. Joshi, has created a voluminous database of Bierce’s works. Schultz told The Ambrose Bierce Site: “I’ve looked high and low through my electronic archive of Bierce’s writings (c. 4.5 million words) and have never come across this. I’ve found numerous attributions to Bierce on the Web, but believe that Paul Rodriguez [Mexican-born stand-up comedian] is probably the originator.” It’s one of those quotes that sounds like Bierce but isn’t.

    Nor do I believe Bierce ever said, "The covers of this book are too far apart." If he did, I've never found the source, nor the name of the book to which he allegedly referred. The line is often repeated as though it's a given that Bierce authored that devastating put-down, but even if he didn't it's almost too good a line not to award it to him.

    That said, I found an excellent site called QUOTE INVESTIGATOR that goes into super detail about Bierce's alleged book covers quote. Essentially, it says, the quote is second-hand by the humorist Irvin S. Cobb in 1923 — long after Bierce's death. Many others picked it up. This is the best debunking I've seen of the Bierce quote, which has also been attributed to Mark Twain and, yes, even to Jack Benny. —DS



    Don Swaim interviews S. T. Joshi, the world's leading authority
    on Ambrose Bierce -- and the weird tale.


    Stephen Vincent Benét, Ambrose Bierce, and Me

    __________________

    AMBROSE BIERCE IN THE 21st CENTURY
    Yes, he'd be a REPUBLICAN!


    The following Bierce doggerel may not be what it seems:

    Here lies the body of the Republican Party;
    Corrupt, and generally speaking, hearty.

    —Ambrose Bierce

    In Bierce's day, the Republican Party was the "good" party. It ended slavery, preserved the union, created national parks, and manifested reforms against vested interests that favored the rich over the poor. To his credit, Bierce fought in the Civil War on the winning side, that of the Republicans. Indeed, it was the "good" party, the party of Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, after all. By the late twentieth century, Republicans and Democrats reversed their values by 180 degrees, and the concept of today's Republicans as being the "good" party is remote.

    In current parlance, Bierce might be considered a libertarian, although if his cynicism is taken seriously, he was skeptical of newness and change, including the telephone, the camera, the phonograph, modern novels, and most music — although he embraced the typewriter. He was convinced man would never fly (and might have even swallowed the tenuous notion that climate change is a hoax). He opposed Prohibition and women's suffrage. However, unlike most of today's Republicans (and a smaller majority of Democrats), he would never accept the dubious notion of an Almighty.

    Would he have supported George W. Bush's ruinous invasion of Iraq, as many otherwise intelligent people did? Hard to say, but Bierce would have loved the damned fight. Unlike his jingoistic employer, William Randolph Hearst, Bierce's support of the Spanish-American War was muted, and he did not help to light, as he put it, "patriotism's altar fires." And, a century later, would he have embraced a disastrous presidency like George W. Bush's that would wreck the U.S. economy for generations?

    Bierce was facile and superficial regarding politics. He preferred to outrage rather than inform. He reported on enough corruption by the early railroad interests — "the railrogues" — that he actually suggested nationalizing the rails. No one will ever know what he truly believed. Perhaps he never knew himself.

    Unfortunately, his libertarian instincts would make Bierce more likely to be a Republican than a Democrat today, even though the current Republican Party is not one sympathetic to intellectuals, academics, or the artistic and literary community. Still, despite his pig-headed notions, Bierce was an equal-opportunity cynic and his moral compass was usually in the right direction — even if his politics were anomalous. —DS


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    EDITOR MEETS "THE MASTER"
    Composite illustration by K.A. Silva pictures Don Swaim, who edits The Ambrose Bierce Site, and Ambrose Bierce in the library of William Randolph Hearst's Castle, San Simeon, California. Note the incongruity of the ornate cross behind Bierce. click to enlarge


    Drawing of Ambrose Bierce © Matthew & Eve Levine 2012.
    Limited edition prints and licensing opportunities available through D. Levine Ink
    .

    __________________

    Don Swaim's definitive article, "Ambrose & Henry," is in the spring 2011 edition of the online scholarly publication Menckeniana, all about H.L. Mencken, published by the Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore. To read the actual issue go to: Menckeniana. Courtesy Enoch Pratt Free Library, Baltimore.


    AVOID ANSWERS.COM AS AN ACCURATE SOURCE FOR BIERCE

    STUDENTS BEWARE

    1. Bierce is NOT best known as the author of A Fiend's Delight.

    2. Bierce did NOT "establish his reputation" with A Fiend's Delight and Cobwebs from an Empty Skull.

    3. A Fiend's Delight and Cobwebs from an Empty Skull are NOT novels.

    4. Bierce did NOT work "off and on" for newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst. He was employed steadily by Hearst from 1887 through 1908.

    5. Bierce was NOT known for his "legendary carousing" with Mark Twain and H.L. Mencken. He is thought to have had, at the most, two personal meetings with Twain, one known (perhaps a few others) with Mencken.

    Who supplies the wrong answers at Answers.com? —DS



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    __________________________

    The Ambrose Bierce Site invites original articles, fiction, poetry, art
    related to the mind and myth of Ambrose Bierce.





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