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"Charmingly eccentric and utterly unforgettable...with hand on heart I can truly say that I also loved every word of it.”—Simon Winchester, author of The Professor and the Madman and Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded Moses Harvey was the eccentric Newfoundland reverend and amateur naturalist who first photographed the near-mythic giant squid in 1874, draping it over a s "Charmingly eccentric and utterly unforgettable...with hand on heart I can truly say that I also loved every word of it.”—Simon Winchester, author of The Professor and the Madman and Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded Moses Harvey was the eccentric Newfoundland reverend and amateur naturalist who first photographed the near-mythic giant squid in 1874, draping it over a shower curtain rod to display its magnitude. In Preparing the Ghost, what begins as Moses's story becomes much more, as fellow squid-enthusiast Matthew Gavin Frank boldly winds his narrative tentacles around history, creative nonfiction, science, memoir, and meditations about the interrelated nature of them all. In a full-hearted, lyrical style reminiscent of Geoff Dyer, Frank weaves in playful forays about his research trip to Moses's Newfoundland home, Frank's own childhood and family history, and a catalog of bizarre facts and lists that recall Melville's story of obsession with another deep-sea dwelling leviathan. Though Frank is armed with impressive research, what he can't know about Harvey he fictionalizes, quite explicitly, as a way of both illuminating the scene and exploring his central theme: the big, beautiful human impulse to obsess. "Matthew Gavin Frank has made a book into a curiosity cabinet, one dedicated to the storied giant squid. A mysterious but seductive mix of history, creative non-fiction, memoir, and poetry, Preparing the Ghost is written with contagious passion. In this original book, Frank weaves his imagination through history’s gaps, and keeps the reader riveted with the lure of the unknown and dark, sultry prose." - Megan Mayhew Bergman, author of Birds of a Lesser Paradise “Preparing the Ghost is the most original book I have read in years. Opening with an arresting image that literally haunts him, Matthew Gavin Frank unstrings history and reweaves a narrative from its threads, from fiction and news reporting and his own life, to remind us that every experience is a story braid. To remind us that life and love and death--all are beauty.” –Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Chronology of Water and Dora: A Headcase “Preparing the Ghost is a triumph of obsession, a masterful weaving of myth and science, of exploration and mystery, of love and nature. Here Matthew Gavin Frank delivers my favorite book-length essay since John D'Agata's About a Mountain, and with it he stakes a claim to his own share of the new territory being forged by such innovators of the lyric essay as Eula Biss and Ander Monson.” —Matt Bell, author of In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods “Inventive, original, and endlessly interesting, Preparing the Ghost is a gorgeous exploration of myth, history, language, and imagination, all swirling around the mysterious and evocative figure of the giant squid. This book is a journey through passion, obsession, fear, and adventure, and the hunger to behold what lurks within the depths of the sea. "To look into a squid's eyes is like looking into infinity," one squid-obsessed character declares, as Matthew Gavin Frank leads us deeper and deeper into this dazzling account of strangeness, and danger, and the longing to see.”—Catherine Chung, author of Forgotten Country “Preparing the Ghost reads like a cross between Walt Whitman and a fever dream. Who would think squid and ice cream go together? I remained riveted to the very last word.” —Sy Montgomery, author of The Good Good Pig “The shortest distance between two people is a great story. This one is incredible. You will embrace Preparing the Ghost like a friend you won't want to leave.”—Bob Dotson, New York Times bestselling author of American Story: A Lifetime Search for Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things. “Matthew Gavin Frank reinvents the art of research in extraordinarily imaginative ways. His meditation on the briefly known and the forever unknowable courts lore (both family and creaturely), invites the fantastical, heeds fact, and turns the human drive to notate and list into a gesture of lyrical beauty.”—Lia Purpura, author of On Looking and Rough Likeness


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"Charmingly eccentric and utterly unforgettable...with hand on heart I can truly say that I also loved every word of it.”—Simon Winchester, author of The Professor and the Madman and Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded Moses Harvey was the eccentric Newfoundland reverend and amateur naturalist who first photographed the near-mythic giant squid in 1874, draping it over a s "Charmingly eccentric and utterly unforgettable...with hand on heart I can truly say that I also loved every word of it.”—Simon Winchester, author of The Professor and the Madman and Krakatoa: The Day the World Exploded Moses Harvey was the eccentric Newfoundland reverend and amateur naturalist who first photographed the near-mythic giant squid in 1874, draping it over a shower curtain rod to display its magnitude. In Preparing the Ghost, what begins as Moses's story becomes much more, as fellow squid-enthusiast Matthew Gavin Frank boldly winds his narrative tentacles around history, creative nonfiction, science, memoir, and meditations about the interrelated nature of them all. In a full-hearted, lyrical style reminiscent of Geoff Dyer, Frank weaves in playful forays about his research trip to Moses's Newfoundland home, Frank's own childhood and family history, and a catalog of bizarre facts and lists that recall Melville's story of obsession with another deep-sea dwelling leviathan. Though Frank is armed with impressive research, what he can't know about Harvey he fictionalizes, quite explicitly, as a way of both illuminating the scene and exploring his central theme: the big, beautiful human impulse to obsess. "Matthew Gavin Frank has made a book into a curiosity cabinet, one dedicated to the storied giant squid. A mysterious but seductive mix of history, creative non-fiction, memoir, and poetry, Preparing the Ghost is written with contagious passion. In this original book, Frank weaves his imagination through history’s gaps, and keeps the reader riveted with the lure of the unknown and dark, sultry prose." - Megan Mayhew Bergman, author of Birds of a Lesser Paradise “Preparing the Ghost is the most original book I have read in years. Opening with an arresting image that literally haunts him, Matthew Gavin Frank unstrings history and reweaves a narrative from its threads, from fiction and news reporting and his own life, to remind us that every experience is a story braid. To remind us that life and love and death--all are beauty.” –Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Chronology of Water and Dora: A Headcase “Preparing the Ghost is a triumph of obsession, a masterful weaving of myth and science, of exploration and mystery, of love and nature. Here Matthew Gavin Frank delivers my favorite book-length essay since John D'Agata's About a Mountain, and with it he stakes a claim to his own share of the new territory being forged by such innovators of the lyric essay as Eula Biss and Ander Monson.” —Matt Bell, author of In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods “Inventive, original, and endlessly interesting, Preparing the Ghost is a gorgeous exploration of myth, history, language, and imagination, all swirling around the mysterious and evocative figure of the giant squid. This book is a journey through passion, obsession, fear, and adventure, and the hunger to behold what lurks within the depths of the sea. "To look into a squid's eyes is like looking into infinity," one squid-obsessed character declares, as Matthew Gavin Frank leads us deeper and deeper into this dazzling account of strangeness, and danger, and the longing to see.”—Catherine Chung, author of Forgotten Country “Preparing the Ghost reads like a cross between Walt Whitman and a fever dream. Who would think squid and ice cream go together? I remained riveted to the very last word.” —Sy Montgomery, author of The Good Good Pig “The shortest distance between two people is a great story. This one is incredible. You will embrace Preparing the Ghost like a friend you won't want to leave.”—Bob Dotson, New York Times bestselling author of American Story: A Lifetime Search for Ordinary People Doing Extraordinary Things. “Matthew Gavin Frank reinvents the art of research in extraordinarily imaginative ways. His meditation on the briefly known and the forever unknowable courts lore (both family and creaturely), invites the fantastical, heeds fact, and turns the human drive to notate and list into a gesture of lyrical beauty.”—Lia Purpura, author of On Looking and Rough Likeness

30 review for Preparing the Ghost: An Essay Concerning the Giant Squid and Its First Photographer

  1. 5 out of 5

    Katherine

    Unusual and entertaining, Preparing the Ghost is an original essay of creative nonfiction. An investigation, memoir, science, myth, history, and ice cream come to play in this wonderfully strange account of "the giant squid and it's first photographer." I went in to it expecting one thing, and left completely surprised. I would highly recommend this book-length essay to fans of Consider the Lobster (specifically that essay) but that's all I can really compare it to. Even though I'm a lifelong g Unusual and entertaining, Preparing the Ghost is an original essay of creative nonfiction. An investigation, memoir, science, myth, history, and ice cream come to play in this wonderfully strange account of "the giant squid and it's first photographer." I went in to it expecting one thing, and left completely surprised. I would highly recommend this book-length essay to fans of Consider the Lobster (specifically that essay) but that's all I can really compare it to. Even though I'm a lifelong giant squid enthusiast (which began with a visit to the National Museum of Natural History, and a subsequent purchase of a squid stuffed animal* that Frank actually mentions in the book) you don't have to be to enjoy this book. Though nonfiction, the storytelling and prose are bright, page-turning, and read much like a work of fiction due to the creative nature of the connecting narratives. Frank is erudite and at times hilarious while still respectful of his subjects. I most enjoyed his skill of weaving his family's own history into the story, in fact I almost wish there had been more of this it was so well done and interesting. Hard to categorize and completely fresh, Matthew Gavin Frank is certainly on to something, and one to watch. Recommended to those who like their nonfiction lyrical and creative. *In my young excitement I instantly named it "Squidy"

  2. 5 out of 5

    TK421

    This is a great example of how creative non-fiction can be engaging and witty and artistic. That being said, this book would have been so much better if it had cut 100 pages from its mass.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Fishface

    Reading this was like listening to a schizophrenic tell you about the dream he had last night. The only real storyline is the author's trip to Newfoundland to find out what he could about the first man to photograph a Giant Squid washed up on one of the beaches there, but he wanders far afield, to say the least. Some of the sentences are so long, with so many dependent clauses that have nothing whatsofrikkinever to do with what I thought he was talking about, that I was forced to go back & re-re Reading this was like listening to a schizophrenic tell you about the dream he had last night. The only real storyline is the author's trip to Newfoundland to find out what he could about the first man to photograph a Giant Squid washed up on one of the beaches there, but he wanders far afield, to say the least. Some of the sentences are so long, with so many dependent clauses that have nothing whatsofrikkinever to do with what I thought he was talking about, that I was forced to go back & re-read fairly often, just to keep my bearings. This little book -- which the author calls an "essay" -- has far less to do with the Giant Squid than with the effect that mysterious specie has on her biographers. It's the perfect Squidmas read, and indeed I got this for Squidmas a couple of years ago, but it's not nearly as good for reading while you soak in the tub as Ellis's The Search for the Giant Squid: The Biology and Mythology of the World's Most Elusive Sea Creature. It's just too incoherent.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Steph Post

    Delightfully unexpected! Yes, it contains the biography of Moses Harvey, the first man to obtain a photograph of a giant squid, but from that jumping off point the discussion alights on topics ranging from family, death, insects, ice cream, pain, guilt, commerce, obsession, otherness, and mythology. Miraculously, no matter how bizarre the subject matter, Frank connects each element so organically that it seems perfectly natural that the giant squid, butterflies, and death by chocolate ice cream Delightfully unexpected! Yes, it contains the biography of Moses Harvey, the first man to obtain a photograph of a giant squid, but from that jumping off point the discussion alights on topics ranging from family, death, insects, ice cream, pain, guilt, commerce, obsession, otherness, and mythology. Miraculously, no matter how bizarre the subject matter, Frank connects each element so organically that it seems perfectly natural that the giant squid, butterflies, and death by chocolate ice cream occupy the same space in thought. Preparing the Ghost is an eye-opening, mind-bending whirlwind that you don't want to miss.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Brandon Jennings

    The first disclaimer here is that I've also read Pot Farm by MGF, and I loved it. So that says something about my taste and expectations. The second disclaimer is that I have had food and drink with the author and I enjoyed myself while doing so. The third disclaimer is that I've read things by authors I adore that I would never in a million years recommend to anyone else (True at First Light by Hem-dog), and I've eaten food and pounded beers and had a downright debauching good time with writers The first disclaimer here is that I've also read Pot Farm by MGF, and I loved it. So that says something about my taste and expectations. The second disclaimer is that I have had food and drink with the author and I enjoyed myself while doing so. The third disclaimer is that I've read things by authors I adore that I would never in a million years recommend to anyone else (True at First Light by Hem-dog), and I've eaten food and pounded beers and had a downright debauching good time with writers whose work I wouldn't recommend either. This book is fantastic. If you are at all interested in the giant squid and the kind of obsession it can create for those who hunted it, and for those who now hunt the hunters' stories, you must read this. MGF gives us an opportunity to live the myth of the people who tried their damndest to concretize the spectre of the squid back in a time without digital cameras spilling out of every pocket. This is not a book that focuses on the facts or science as much as it focuses on the truth of how the lack of facts and science can impact a person's obsession. It's likely that once you finish reading this you will want to know more about the giant squid. That is not an accident. This book tempts you to obsess, and it's up to you to decide whether you are capable of dealing with the repercussions of the obsession, should you choose to accept it.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Stasia

    Man, this had potential!! The title, the bait on the jacket...and it turned out to not completely be about the first photographing of a squid. Though the parts that DID actually focus on the squid, facts, Moses Harvey, etc., were very interesting. The author should have just stuck with the squid history.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Harold Walters

    A gem-dandy book. See more in my Book ReMarks column. Follow the link below. http://www.thepacket.ca/living/None/b... A gem-dandy book. See more in my Book ReMarks column. Follow the link below. http://www.thepacket.ca/living/None/b...

  8. 5 out of 5

    Emma

    what a strange way to tell this story! equally baffling and enriching, though I did find myself wishing it was more about the squid and less about the author

  9. 4 out of 5

    Hayley

    Moby Dick for the giant squid.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Damona

    This book sounded fascinating. Normally, I love one-topic non-fiction, and I don't know much about giant squid, so I thought I'd give it a go. Especially since Simon Winchester, whose writing I love, gave it such glowing reviews! Unfortunately, once I started reading it, it was just... blah. It left me completely cold. I got about 35 pages in and realized that I just did not care.This is going on my "just can't finish it" shelf. This book sounded fascinating. Normally, I love one-topic non-fiction, and I don't know much about giant squid, so I thought I'd give it a go. Especially since Simon Winchester, whose writing I love, gave it such glowing reviews! Unfortunately, once I started reading it, it was just... blah. It left me completely cold. I got about 35 pages in and realized that I just did not care.This is going on my "just can't finish it" shelf.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Shan

    This was very close to being a two-star rating, but Frank finally hooked me (so to speak) in the final 50 pages. Up to that point, it's just a bit too rambly and freewheeling for my taste. It's unquestionably well-written and -crafted, but it definitely tried my patience for a couple of hundred pages. Definitely goes on the "it's not you, it's me" shelf. And now I really want to read a book that's properly about the giant squid. This was very close to being a two-star rating, but Frank finally hooked me (so to speak) in the final 50 pages. Up to that point, it's just a bit too rambly and freewheeling for my taste. It's unquestionably well-written and -crafted, but it definitely tried my patience for a couple of hundred pages. Definitely goes on the "it's not you, it's me" shelf. And now I really want to read a book that's properly about the giant squid.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Colleen

    Needs more squid.. More mythology too. It was enjoyable but too often I felt like I was at a concert where the musician was only playing difficult pieces to impress with his virtuosity rather than to entertain. " the half moon frowned,voltaic, longing for it's other half ," is a little too consciously poetic for me. Needs more squid.. More mythology too. It was enjoyable but too often I felt like I was at a concert where the musician was only playing difficult pieces to impress with his virtuosity rather than to entertain. " the half moon frowned,voltaic, longing for it's other half ," is a little too consciously poetic for me.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Agatha

    While the idea of the book is intriguing, I struggled to finish this book. The essay is about the giant squid and its first photographer, Moses Harvey. Parts of the book were informative. However, in my opinion the author got distracted and digressed in topics that were a far stretch from the purpose of the essay, which is the squid and its photographer.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Laurel

    I love the concept and I love, in theory, the approach -- and I thought I was going to love this because I'm a big fan of creative nonfiction in this vein. But the execution made for a sloppy and distracted reading experience for me, unfortunately. I love the concept and I love, in theory, the approach -- and I thought I was going to love this because I'm a big fan of creative nonfiction in this vein. But the execution made for a sloppy and distracted reading experience for me, unfortunately.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Logan Plonski

    Historical nonfiction, scientific exploration, and stream-of-consciousness musings on the nature of love, obsession, life, and death. This book may be a bit weird/admittedly kinda pretentious for some, but I think it's perfect. Historical nonfiction, scientific exploration, and stream-of-consciousness musings on the nature of love, obsession, life, and death. This book may be a bit weird/admittedly kinda pretentious for some, but I think it's perfect.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Katie

    Too much creative writing, not enough giant squid. A never-ending post on the Awl.

  17. 4 out of 5

    robyn

    This is a pretty little book, with a touch of foil on the cover, and a lovingly chosen font, nice wide spaced pages - and you can see where the germ came from, when you look at the picture of the giant squid hung carefully over what turns out to be an old fashioned shower ring, like a bizarre beaded curtain. The story itself though is extremely brief, a small kernel in an embroidered bed of creative writing. It's very creative. It's wandering, inventive and sometimes downright beautiful, and eit This is a pretty little book, with a touch of foil on the cover, and a lovingly chosen font, nice wide spaced pages - and you can see where the germ came from, when you look at the picture of the giant squid hung carefully over what turns out to be an old fashioned shower ring, like a bizarre beaded curtain. The story itself though is extremely brief, a small kernel in an embroidered bed of creative writing. It's very creative. It's wandering, inventive and sometimes downright beautiful, and either quite a lot of research was done or Frank made up a LOT of small details about the town where the squid was brought to land. I wish there had been less of fancy and more of fact, but then it would be a completely different book. SO. Two stars because this is not a book for me.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Marissa

    It reads like a Rebecca Solnit style book about the search for the first photographer of the giant squid (and other things, always other things). I liked it but I agree that it could have been more robust if a bit shorter. I need to read more fiction.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Key

    I have been wanting to read this book for years and finally made it a point to order it earlier this month. To say the least, I wasn't disappointed. I loved the style of this book, its laughter, and its honest obsessions. Highly recommended. I have been wanting to read this book for years and finally made it a point to order it earlier this month. To say the least, I wasn't disappointed. I loved the style of this book, its laughter, and its honest obsessions. Highly recommended.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Patricia Hernandez

    Great book about obsession, and how the giant squid may very well be the only mythological creature that is both real and know, yet still largely a mystery to us. At its best when describing concrete things, at its worst when author indulgently speculates what might have happened.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jason Gemmill

    Not a book for learning anything about giant squid. The author has written a book that meshes beat poetry, fiction and biography. Not for everyone as it feels like more of an exercise in writing than meant for reading. Still though I found it interesting.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Lena Riemersma

    A giant essay about the giant squid that mixes science, poetry, history and personal memoir with its ink.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Sprague

    I wanted to love this. The person who recommended it to me has introduced me to many of my now favorites, but I think I prefer my nature books with more science.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Gail Kennon

    enjoyable though sometimes i got lost following the labyrinth tangle of his thoughts.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Brendan

    Good! Weird too!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Tk

    a deliciously briny romp in myth making, giant squid, and guys being waaaay too horny

  27. 5 out of 5

    Marty Achatz

    "Now for the R! Up we go! Attach! Descend! Pay out the line! Whoa! Attach! Good! Up you go! Repeat! Attach! Descend! Pay out line. Whoa, girl! Steady now! Attach! Climb! Attach! Over to the right! Pay out line! Attach! Now right and down and swing that loop and around and around! Now in to the left! Attach! Climb! Repeat! O.K.! Easy, keep those lines together! Now, then, out and down for the leg of the R! Pay out line! Whoa! Attach! Ascend! Repeat! Good girl!" That's Charlotte in E. B. White's Ch "Now for the R! Up we go! Attach! Descend! Pay out the line! Whoa! Attach! Good! Up you go! Repeat! Attach! Descend! Pay out line. Whoa, girl! Steady now! Attach! Climb! Attach! Over to the right! Pay out line! Attach! Now right and down and swing that loop and around and around! Now in to the left! Attach! Climb! Repeat! O.K.! Easy, keep those lines together! Now, then, out and down for the leg of the R! Pay out line! Whoa! Attach! Ascend! Repeat! Good girl!" That's Charlotte in E. B. White's Charlotte's Web narrating her acrobatic writing process. You can almost see the little gray spider leaping, twirling, jumping. Creating a miracle of language. Something that's intricate and fragile at once. A thing puzzling and wondrous. I've been carrying a book around in my book bag that is just as strange and beautiful as a dewy spiderweb. Matthew Gavin Frank's Preparing the Ghost, a 282-page meditation on the giant squid, Moses Harvey (the first man to photograph it), monomaniacal obsession (think Captain Ahab chasing a Moby-Dick with tentacles), death by chocolate ice cream, a fatal Chicago heat wave, a grandfather's saxophone legacy, and an Insectarium. Listed like this, these topics seem like dots of paint on a pointilist canvas. But, stepping back, and back, and back, the book becomes an impressionist landscape of our deepest passions. Frank does not lay out his story easily. Like Charlotte the spider, he plays out his lines slowly, weaving his threads together. The reader gets passages of prose poetry mixed with lists of arcane fact. The result is a blend of reality and myth that questions the very fabric of narrative: Myth as quite possible. Myth as commodity, as bought and sold, as served with a side of potato salad. Myth, in Portugal, encourages the mosquito to eat leather and turn into a flesh-eating cow. Myth, in India, inspires the tribe to receive all nec- essary sustenance, from the smells of food, partic- ularly the apple, and, when traveling, to carry the apple with them, as they will perish in the absence of its smell. Myth as On Special!, as Ladies Night Discount! Myth as embedded in our mouths. Frank's Ahab quest in the book seems simple: to find out the details of Moses Harvey's discovery and photographing of a specimen of the giant squid in Newfoundland in 1874. His prize, however, remains elusive. Hiding behind locked doors. Trapped in essays written by Moses Harvey himself, where Harvey fashions his own myths of discovery. Ultimately, Frank's subject is even more difficult to capture than the giant squid itself: And we're always preparing the next ghost, still in its larval state. This time, let's give it a tailored sheet, a wedding dress, a bow tie, a nice clean shave . . . We're preparing the next ghost, as we do with any myth, to best scare us, and define our fear. So far, BOO! is the best we've come up with. Frank's book is larva and moth, myth and fact. In his explorations, he discovers truths about himself and his family. Poppa Dave, a whale of a man who, eventually, succumbs to his own tentacular mantra: "There's always room for ice cream." The compulsion to eat, even when sated. The need to pursue impossible pursuits that slip away like the giant squid in an ocean of black ink. Take some time in these last dog days of summer. Pick up Preparing the Ghost, and get trapped in Matthew Gavin Frank's narrative web. It's obsessively fragile and miraculously intricate. I give it four out of four tentacles.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Beastnessa

    This book. I'm going to try to explain why I loved it instead of making a cryptic comment about ice cream. Rather than a book about giant squid, or a biography of someone who orchestrated the first photo of the giant squid, or an essay about both of those things, this is a book about obsession. The writer's obsession with an animal (and a man) bleeding into ordinary life, his ordinary life bleeding into a larger story about why we feel compelled to dramatize our ordinary lives so grandly into un This book. I'm going to try to explain why I loved it instead of making a cryptic comment about ice cream. Rather than a book about giant squid, or a biography of someone who orchestrated the first photo of the giant squid, or an essay about both of those things, this is a book about obsession. The writer's obsession with an animal (and a man) bleeding into ordinary life, his ordinary life bleeding into a larger story about why we feel compelled to dramatize our ordinary lives so grandly into unforgettable myths. The subject shouldn't matter, honestly. If you are hungry for good writing, interesting writing that blazes all over the place, making weird connections, magnetizing strange facts and speculations and pulling them into a flood of information charged with resonance you never thought to look for, then this is for you.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    "Can we ever really kill a myth?" author Matthew Gavin Frank asks in Preparing the Ghost. "Even though the giant squid has long been proved actual, the beast retains the mythological narrative, can't shake its sea-monster designation. The legend lives on." It's the idea of myths and legends that is explored in Frank's newest book. Yes, the cover sports a subtitle, "An Essay Concerning the Giant Squid and Its First Photographer." And yes, the book starts out in a typical linear narrative with an i "Can we ever really kill a myth?" author Matthew Gavin Frank asks in Preparing the Ghost. "Even though the giant squid has long been proved actual, the beast retains the mythological narrative, can't shake its sea-monster designation. The legend lives on." It's the idea of myths and legends that is explored in Frank's newest book. Yes, the cover sports a subtitle, "An Essay Concerning the Giant Squid and Its First Photographer." And yes, the book starts out in a typical linear narrative with an introduction of Reverend Moses Harvey, an amateur naturalist in the 1870s who is obsessed with the Giant Squid. Indeed, as readers, we even get to see his captured squid in a black-and-white photograph that is found at the very start of the book. (The picture, somehow, reminds me of the monsters in the old monster movies of the 50s and 60s -- even though the picture was taken decades before). Still readers venturing into Preparing the Ghost should be prepared. This is not a linear narrative or a typical biography. Instead, Frank weaves myth, science, history, and even personal memoir throughout Harvey's story. Indeed, there are even glimpses of Frank's own research process, including his efforts to find out more information about Harvey and his family and the very landscape that helped to capture the myth of the giant squid. Yet, even though the author wanders, he always returns to Harvey's story and the mysterious squid. Any reader who sticks with the author's meanderings will be treated to intriguing history, interesting mythology and strong lyrical writing -- and most of all stories that will grab a hold of you and not let go. Sorta, I guess, like the suckers of a Giant Squid.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Linnie Greene

    From Shelf Awareness (7/15/14): Preparing the Ghost takes its name from an infantile stage of a squid's growth cycle, a tiny iteration of a potential behemoth. In Latin, this stage is called paralarva (para, "to make ready," and larva, "a ghost"). How fitting that such a small creature is already primed for its destiny as something larger than life, more specter than species. Matthew Gavin Frank's exploration of the giant squid's shadow on the human psyche takes on equal grandeur, veering from fa From Shelf Awareness (7/15/14): Preparing the Ghost takes its name from an infantile stage of a squid's growth cycle, a tiny iteration of a potential behemoth. In Latin, this stage is called paralarva (para, "to make ready," and larva, "a ghost"). How fitting that such a small creature is already primed for its destiny as something larger than life, more specter than species. Matthew Gavin Frank's exploration of the giant squid's shadow on the human psyche takes on equal grandeur, veering from fact to lore with both verve and authority. Frank's blustery confidence and unabashed enthusiasm is infectious; he's as intrepid and exploratory as the people who first draped a squid over a shower rod in 1874, rendering it immortal with the click of the camera. Initially, the book's structure might dismay certain readers. In sections that often span only a paragraph, Frank jumps from topic to topic, lingering briefly on one idea then lighting off to pursue another. The central figure in the story is Reverend Moses Harvey, squid enthusiast and owner of the shower in which the animal was photographed, but Frank embarks on tangents about contemporary scientists, memories of his dead grandfather, and the oddities and eccentrics in the Newfoundland area where Harvey and a crew of sailors dragged the beast ashore. The effect is akin to collage; we're fed clues until we can coalesce these bits and pieces into something fathomable. It's dizzying, occasionally frustrating, but mostly fascinating, like talking to a charming man at a party full of drunk academics.

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