Stacey Abbott discusses the role that vampires and zombies play in 21st century culture
stacey-abbott-undead-apocalypse-vampires-zombies-21st-century
Stacey Abbott, Undead Apocalypse: Vampires and Zombies in the 21st century (EUP, 2016)

Recent decades have brought an increasing preoccupation with the gothic figure of the vampire and the apocalyptic zombie. Rather than reading them in opposition to each other, Stacey Abbott traces the similar places they hold our collective imagination. Through a series of engaging and incisive readings encompassing film, television, literature, and pop culture of the 20th and early 21st century, Abbott examines our fascination with these monstrous creatures and the cultural anxieties that they reveal. Undead Apocalypse delineates a contemporary canon of vampire and zombie texts to shed new light on our present historical moment, and the ‘culture of apocalypse’ that surrounds us.

I caught up with Stacey Abbott to discuss her book, published by Edinburgh University Press in September 2016. She shares her personal interest in vampire and zombie texts; what she considers the classics of the genre; and her thoughts on the proliferation of apocalyptic narratives across graphic novels, video games, and cosplay. With critical precision and a fan’s enthusiasm for the subject, Abbott offers a guide to navigating the impending undead apocalypse. (more…)

Dwight Garner (The New York Times) on the cultural legacy of Bret Easton Ellis’ most controversial novel

american-psycho-movie-musical-news-culture.jpgWhen Bret Easton Ellis’s “American Psycho” was about to be published in 1991, word of its portrait of a monster — an amoral young Wall Street serial killer named Patrick Bateman, who nail-gunned women to the floor before doing vastly worse to them — was met with outrage.

There were death threats. A book tour was scuttled. The Los Angeles chapter of the National Organization for Women proposed a boycott of the novel’s publisher. An advance review of “American Psycho” in The New York Times Book Review was titled “Snuff This Book!” Some stores refused to stock the novel.

I didn’t read “American Psycho” at the time. I was two years out of college in 1991, and while I’d eagerly ingested the stylish mid-80s debuts of the so-called “brat pack” writers, of which Mr. Ellis’s novel “Less Than Zero” (1985) is a crucial artifact, I’d moved on.

Yet it disturbed me that, in the moral panic over “American Psycho,” so many smart people made a rookie mistake: They’d confused author with character. Bret Easton Ellis and Patrick Bateman were pariahs. (more…)

Sarah Marshall explores our continued fascination with one of the strongest female protagonists in the popular imagination
jodie-foster-clarice-starling-silence-of-the-lambs-elevator.jpg
Jodie Foster as FBI trainee Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs (dir. Jonathan Demme, 1991)
“People will say we’re in love,” Hannibal Lecter tells Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs. The movie that made these characters into American icons turned 25 years old this February. More specifically, it celebrated its birthday on Valentine’s Day, the almost unbelievably ballsy release date director Jonathan Demme chose for his adaptation of Thomas Harris’ 1988 novel. Maybe it’s because of this particularly suggestive anniversary date that people really have spent the last 25 years saying exactly what Hannibal Lecter once predicted. In any case, it’s a shame that Hannibal and Clarice’s story has become—with Thomas Harris’ 1999 novel Hannibal and Ridley Scott’s 2001 film adaptation—something of a Byronic romance. In Demme’s The Silence of the Lambs, we find two characters searching for something far more elusive than limerence and luxury: mutual respect.

(more…)

David Sexton explores the lineage of one of modern literature and film’s most chilling villains in his critical study, The Strange World Of Thomas Harris
Thomas Harris, The Silence of the Lambs
Thomas Harris, The Silence of the Lambs
One of Lecter’s most obvious fictional precursors is Sherlock Holmes and before him, therefore, Poe’s Dupin. Many of Lecter’s observations are pure Holmes in style, if not content. As he tells Clarice: “‘You use Evyan skin cream, and sometimes you wear L’Air du Temps, but not today.'” On their next meeting, he detects a Band-Aid under her clothes.

Compare Holmes on his first meeting with Watson in A Study In Scarlet: “‘You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive.’ ‘How on earth did you know that?’ I asked in astonishment.’ ” When, at their next meeting, Holmes explains his deductions, the amazed Watson says, rightly enough, “You remind me of Edgar Allan Poe’s Dupin. I had no idea that such individuals did exist outside of stories.”
(more…)