Harvest Tales & Midnight Revels is both a guide to giving storytelling parties at Halloween, and an anthology of original tales. Editor Michael Mayhew begins by describing how much he used to enjoy Halloween as a kid, especially for its affirmation in the face of death: "You may get me someday, but tonight I am alive!" As an adult, he missed the "magical shivers" of those eerie nights. So he started an annual gathering in which people would feast and tell stories.
The large middle part of the book is an anthology of the best read-aloud pieces that were shared with others at those parties: 16 stories and 3 poems. The only rule they had was that the story had to relate to Halloween in some way. So it's a mixed bag of creepy, quiet, corny, tacky, gory, and just plain silly tales--with such topics as late-night meetings with strangers, adventures in an urban underground, a pagan woman (i.e., witch) of the old times, and even "the gunk in the bottom of the refrigerator." None is longer than 2,500 words--a length that when read aloud comes to about 15 minutes.
The final section is a primer on how to give your own storytelling party, with suggestions for the number of guests, how to solicit stories, and how to plan the evening. Some of the ideas are awkwardly overstated for an adult book--surely everyone knows how to throw a potluck--but most of them, including suggested decor and music, seem well-founded.
"If I could share only one thing about what we did and learned over ten years of story parties," writes Mayhew, "it would be this: the Halloween that shrieked with glee when you were eight is still out there, only now it murmurs to itself in the dead of night