Category: Reviews
A Place of Darkness
A Place of DarknessThe camera is an instrument of suspense. Given a movie frame, you want to understand what’s happening in it — and what will happen next. That balance of wonder and dread is a fundamental draw of film, and a touchstone of the horror genre. The questions Kendall R. Phillips asks in A Place of Darkness: The Rhetoric of Horror in Early American Cinema are: How did we get from the nickelodeon special-effects “cinema of attractions” to understanding horror narratives as their own genre?…
Monster Portraits
Monster PortraitsThe fantastic bestiary is a time-honored speculative tradition. But some of the earliest ones didn’t even know they were speculative; early bestiaries routinely included dragons and unicorns alongside panthers and hyenas, creating pockets of the uncanny amid history. For those who have never seen the beasts they draw, it’s only possible to guess, and there’s always some element of dread in the unknown.…
Travel as a Political Act
Travel as a Political ActIn any given episode of Rick Steves’ Europe, the world’s most unassuming man smiles his way through stunning cities. It’s a deeply comforting formula. We admire skylines and busy streets; Steves putters around historical monuments; he nods along as locals explain sausage or glassblowing; he signs off with a folksy “Keep on travelin’!” …[This book is] still the Rick Steves style — optimistic, peppered with slightly cheesy personal anecdotes and easing you into the fact that traveling makes you an outsider without making it scary.…
The Line Becomes a River
The Line Becomes a RiverThe Line Becomes a River is caught halfway between memoir and tone poem, as Cantú offers snapshots of his life in and around the Border Patrol. The landscape of the Southwest that was originally his family geography becomes a source of dread, as he tries to make sense of working in an organization that seems to either harden or sink those within it.…
Frankenstein: The 1818 Text
Frankenstein: The 1818 TextFrankenstein is embedded in the public imagination. It carries challenging and often uncomfortable motifs — doubling, parenthood, feminism, loneliness, the righteous anger of the outcast, the equally transformative powers of love and hate, the natural world, the limitations of revenge, and the horror of science without conscience. And though the novel was written at the cusp of the Victorian age, it’s rarely spoken of as a literary artifact from 200 years ago; “Frankenstein” is as efficient and resonant a reference today as it was in 1818.…
The Apparitionists
The ApparitionistsOf course, like any good history, The Apparitionists also has a distinct air of the present. We’re reading about a religion so new that many Americans worried it was necromancy, but we’re also reading about a time in which new technologies suddenly upended the way people thought about communication, war upended the way people thought about life and death, and unprecedented access to things — newspapers, tourism, “objective” photograph portraits — upended the way people thought about what was true.…