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Historian and Bram Stoker Award nominee W. Scott Poole traces the confluence of history, technology, and art that gave us modern horror films and literature In the early twentieth century, World War I was the most devastating event humanity had yet experienced. New machines of war left tens of millions killed or wounded in the most grotesque of ways. The Great War remade th Historian and Bram Stoker Award nominee W. Scott Poole traces the confluence of history, technology, and art that gave us modern horror films and literature In the early twentieth century, World War I was the most devastating event humanity had yet experienced. New machines of war left tens of millions killed or wounded in the most grotesque of ways. The Great War remade the world’s map, created new global powers, and brought forth some of the biggest problems still facing us today. But it also birthed a new art form: the horror film, made from the fears of a generation ruined by war. From Nosferatu to Frankenstein’s monster and the Wolf Man, from Fritz Lang, F. W. Murnau, and Albin Grau to Tod Browning and James Whale, the touchstones of horror can all trace their roots to the bloodshed of the First World War. Historian W. Scott Poole chronicles these major figures and the many movements they influenced. Wasteland reveals how bloody battlefields, the fear of the corpse, and a growing darkness made their way into the deepest corners of our psyche. On the one-hundredth anniversary of the signing of the armistice that brought World War I to a close, W. Scott Poole takes us behind the front lines of battle to a no-man’s-land where the legacy of the War to End All Wars lives on.


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Historian and Bram Stoker Award nominee W. Scott Poole traces the confluence of history, technology, and art that gave us modern horror films and literature In the early twentieth century, World War I was the most devastating event humanity had yet experienced. New machines of war left tens of millions killed or wounded in the most grotesque of ways. The Great War remade th Historian and Bram Stoker Award nominee W. Scott Poole traces the confluence of history, technology, and art that gave us modern horror films and literature In the early twentieth century, World War I was the most devastating event humanity had yet experienced. New machines of war left tens of millions killed or wounded in the most grotesque of ways. The Great War remade the world’s map, created new global powers, and brought forth some of the biggest problems still facing us today. But it also birthed a new art form: the horror film, made from the fears of a generation ruined by war. From Nosferatu to Frankenstein’s monster and the Wolf Man, from Fritz Lang, F. W. Murnau, and Albin Grau to Tod Browning and James Whale, the touchstones of horror can all trace their roots to the bloodshed of the First World War. Historian W. Scott Poole chronicles these major figures and the many movements they influenced. Wasteland reveals how bloody battlefields, the fear of the corpse, and a growing darkness made their way into the deepest corners of our psyche. On the one-hundredth anniversary of the signing of the armistice that brought World War I to a close, W. Scott Poole takes us behind the front lines of battle to a no-man’s-land where the legacy of the War to End All Wars lives on.

30 review for Wasteland: The Great War and the Origins of Modern Horror

  1. 4 out of 5

    mark monday

    As a portrait of the many horrors of World Wars I & II, the book succeeds admirably. Poole is an exciting and excitable writer; his outrage at the bloodshed and senseless deaths of these wars is palpable. Many of the passages made me recall some of my favorite history teachers, and how their enthusiasm for their subjects made learning a treat. Subjects treated personally, and with emotion, are subjects that are often made all the more memorable. A dispassionate understanding of the reasons behin As a portrait of the many horrors of World Wars I & II, the book succeeds admirably. Poole is an exciting and excitable writer; his outrage at the bloodshed and senseless deaths of these wars is palpable. Many of the passages made me recall some of my favorite history teachers, and how their enthusiasm for their subjects made learning a treat. Subjects treated personally, and with emotion, are subjects that are often made all the more memorable. A dispassionate understanding of the reasons behind and outcomes from these wars is displayed, but delivered with a high emotional pitch and strong imagery; and so the book was a consistently powerful read. Interestingly, it is that same combination of dispassionate understanding and observation informing an emotional narrative which is told with strong imagery that often makes for a powerful horror novel or film. As a rough sketch of the lives and opinions of a handful of artists during this time period, the book is a treasure. Poole visits and revisits a number of well-known people of the era, in particular: Fritz Lang, H.P. Lovecraft, James Whale, Arthur Machen, F.W. Murnau, Franz Kafka, T.S. Eliot, and Walter Benjamin. These are fascinating individuals and the author makes certain I remained fascinated by creating a narrative around each of them, feeding the reader little bits of their lives throughout his chapters, snapshots that are often delivered in chronological order, carefully noting their perspectives and outputs and their growths or regressions, ending with, of course, the ending of each of their lives. As a thesis on the idea that "modern horror" truly began with The Great War... a bit of a wash, unfortunately. (More on this below.) I think I may have enjoyed this book more if I had just ignored its purported reason for being and instead focused on the narrative skills on display and the stories being told by the author. He is a compelling writer, but I think he became a bit lost in the recounting of various fascinating lives, and was perhaps so emotionally overcome at the idea of so much bloodshed during the two world wars that focus was diffused and the whole point of this effort was often submerged. Still, many good points not related to the central thesis were made. I certainly left this experience richer in knowledge. And I was often as angry as the author clearly is when contemplating the foolishness of mankind. This species seldom learns, and what it does learn is often horrific to consider. ☠ CHAPTER NOTES: (view spoiler)[ Foreword: Corpses in the Wasteland A surpassingly passionate introduction regarding the purpose of the book. Touches on some of the Great War's worst battles, various death statistics, PTSD, and elaborates particularly on the idea that the world had literally never experienced such a global catastrophe in all of its history, and how that new knowledge created new, terrible ways of thinking and feeling. An entirely compelling introduction. Chapter One: Symphony of Horror Poole starts his study with portraits of a defeated, death-obsessed Germany suffering a despairing post-war malaise and a hypocritical United States intent on hiding its greed behind a facade of idealism. Murnau and Grau's film Nosferatu is posited as an overt literalization of the heavy hand of mass death, as is Wegener's Der Golem (albeit less convincingly). Kafka's works and T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land are adroitly contextualized and argument in favor of their inclusion within horror are offered. Prague and Surrealism are quickly discussed. There are brief portraits of Fritz Lang and H.P. Lovecraft (I wanted much more on Lang). The chapter closes with excellent snapshots of Arthur Machen and the fabulous James Whale, director of Frankenstein. On a style note, the author's tendency towards stridency and repetition surfaces. That said, he certainly knows how to drive a point home (repeatedly). Chapter Two: Waxworks The author explores the connection between the Great War's dead and zombies: "empty vessels waiting to be filled with social commentary but also deeply nihilistic reminders of our mortality". Well said! There is lengthy discussion of Abel Gance's J'Accuse, in particular its eerie final sequences, and of course The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. Siegried Kracauer's excoriation of film From Caligari to Hitler is dissected and rejected; I quite enjoyed the author's takedown of that interesting but ultimately laughable film studies classic. Leni's Waxworks and one of my favorite films, Dreyer's Vampyr, are explored. Honestly I couldn't see much reason for Vampyr to be included in this chapter. The American take on horror is discussed via the work of Lon Chaney and Todd Browning, and their mutual ability to make the body a thing of horror - much like the war-torn bodies of veterans. Fritz Lang is reintroduced and Lovecraft the cloistered racist and Machen the critical trailblazer return; I imagine/hope that all three will continue to appear throughout the book. Chapter Three: Nightmare Bodies Poole casts his net wide and the results are unfortunately rather incoherent. The chapter starts with a clear goal in its evaluation of the connections between body horror and the disfigurements created by war, automata and the "uncanny valley". Intriguing subjects. However the author stumbles early in evincing too clearly his dislike of Freud's essay "The Uncanny", most jarringly with his patently incorrect comment Freud had the intellectual's tendency to fail at separating personal problems and the conundrum of ideas (obviously the reverse is true: it is the anti-intellectual who most often refuses to see the larger picture outside of their own personal issues and prejudices; I have to also point out that Poole's statement ignores how larger ideas are often most easily understood via personal context); there is additionally a bizarre take on the phrase "comfortable in our own skin". The "banality of evil" and the bureaucratic systemization of atrocity are briefly addressed and interesting overviews of Dada and Surrealism, Andre Breton, Max Ernst, and Leonora Carrington are provided (and, too briefly, Salvador Dali). The only film discussed in depth is Lang's Metropolis. Eliot and Lovecraft are revisited, again, and the chapter closes confusingly with another look at Kafka (and his nightmarish "The Castle"). Chapter Four: Fascism and Horror This chapter examines the rise of Fascism in Germany and Italy, as well as its pale shadow cast in Britain and the States. But first a quick portrait of Fritz Lang's M, before moving on to deconstruct the movement's appeal and its eroticisation of violent nationalism and its demonization of The Other, in this case Jews, of course. The remaining half of this section returns to Lang and his visit with Goebbels, continuing with a portrait of the quietly courageous artist Otto Dix, touches on our old friend Machen, and closes out with a good scouring of the imbecilic love of Fascism displayed by such lauded artists (and sometimes artist/businessmen) as Celine (ugh), Ezra Pound, Eliot (again), Salvador Dali (ugh), Walt Disney, and of course the author's favorite whipping boy (deservedly), Lovecraft. There is a brief and unconvincing attempt at tarnishing Robert E. Howard as well. This is a problematic chapter. I truly admired Poole's perspective on Fascism, its roots and tendencies and meaning, as well as its resurgence in today's modern world. He writes convincingly, with intelligence and verve. However, I failed to see a connection between what this chapter accomplished - Fascism's use of Horror - and what the book overall is striving to accomplish - centralizing The Great War as the origin of modern horror. There were only faint connections noted between the horrors of World War I and World War II. I was convinced by the chapter but less convinced that it fit within its surroundings. Chapter Five: Universal Horrors An accounting of the many horror films produced by Universal Studios in the 30s & 40s. James Whale is examined at length, in particular his Frankenstein, The Invisible Man, the brilliant The Old Dark House, and Bride of Frankenstein. Ernest Thesiger, a fabulous frequent supporting player in Whales's films, is given central stage in a way that is both gratifying and, at times, vaguely disrespectful to the man's wartime experiences; frequent Whale collaborator Colin Clive also takes the stage. Ingenious classics from Paul Leni - The Cat and the Canary and The Man Who Laughs - and Edgar G. Ulmer - The Black Cat - are explored in depth; these three sections are the highlight of the chapter. We return again to Lovecraft, Eliot, and Machen, with some not-inappropriate vilifying of problematic Ezra Pound thrown in. As with the prior chapter, the author fails to solidly connect the horrors of the Great War with the horrors coming in before and during World War II. However there is more of an attempt here in the noting of a "brutalization thesis" that goes some way in explaining how the brutalization of World War I helped to create the callous disregard for life of World War II. Strangely, Poole seems rather shy in specifically spelling this out, and so as with the prior chapter, this section is an absorbing dive into particular films, directors, and writers, but rather fails to link itself to the purpose of the book itself. Afterward: The Age of Horror The Cold War, the dissolution of the Soviet Union and the rise of Putin, the Cuban missile crisis, the Vietnam War, and the establishment of the "American empire" still ruling the world today are all briefly but cogently summarized. Stephen King and David Lynch are mentioned. Most of the major players discussed throughout this book are given a send-off, with the sad death of Walter Benjamin given particular attention. The language throughout is on the melodramatic side of things, which rather (counterintuitively?) reduces the impact of the commentary. The section - and so the book - closes somewhat distastefully with the suicide of James Whale; it opens with a tweet from Donald Trump (quoting Mussolini, and I'd like to LOL at that, but I can't) which was darkly amusing but also felt... rather forced? (hide spoiler)] 💀 October was my horror binge month, so in addition to reading this absorbing book, I tried to avoid and fib my way out of as many social obligations as possible in order to immerse myself in as many worlds of horror as possible. Part of my excitement in reading this book was in seeing how it correlated to my horror diet. And the reverse as well: seeing how those horror films and books perhaps supported Poole's thesis. Anyway, I will have to consider any connections a bit more, because at first thought, I did not see a whole lot of correlation and supporting going on. Alas, although October was a wonderful month in terms of my horror diet - it was delicious! (mainly) - it was not so wonderful when considering the various horror films, novels, and tv within the framework of Poole's ideas. There was not a good fit. I thought I would be able to write rather extensively on how his ideas connected with these examples of horror, but I really cannot. I can't compare apples and oranges and other clichés. Perhaps I should have focused on the horror films and literature of the period that Poole is discussing - namely the eras preceding and during World Wars I & II, rather than my focus on a diversity of eras (in particular, for films at least, the 60s & 70s). But the book is subtitled with the phrase "Modern Horror"! I expected to see an argument developed on how WW I so impacted horror film and literature that that impact could be seen throughout the subsequent decades. Even the most superficially relevant example - "The Revenant", a novel about ghosts of the Civil War coming to haunt a family - was more about exploring the challenges within the modern nuclear family unit than about the banality of atrocity, the horror of disfigurement, or the terrible facelessness of mass death - although all three of those were present as devices within the book. But they were devices, not the actual theme of the book. The story most connected to the ideas discussed in Wasteland was, ironically, Leonid Andreyez's "Lazarus" - written prior to World War I. There was one example of a film that can be contextualized within Poole's thesis: the delirious Japanese movie "Genocide", which displayed the many horrors that come from the human hunger for more power, more weapons, more revenge. Whether it was contagious excitement about death displayed in Sion Sono's "Suicide Circle", the zombies spawned by faulty, insect-controlling technology in Jorge Grau's "Let Sleeping Corpses Lie", the leftist nightmare of a reactionary world contained within the execrable tv show "The Purge", the potential horrors of spiritual transcendence and rebirth in Grant Morrison's "Nameless", the fear of sexuality displayed in "Incubus", or perhaps most relevantly, the toxic psychological backwash that can happen when guilty memories are repressed in Arthur Machen's "Children of the Pool"... I saw scarce evidence anywhere of a connection to the ideas discussed in this book. That lack of connection is interesting to contemplate. Poole does makes a convincing case for how the themes he's noted are present in those particular films and stories created during the era under his review. That lack of connection is interesting, and also a caution, because it is an illustration of how quickly humanity is able to forget lessons learned and how thoroughly the past can be buried and forgotten. 💀 HORROR LISTS: (view spoiler)[ Books > Deathchain by Ken Greenhall - turned out to be a mystery, not horror. excellent. > Supernoirtural by Ian Rogers - good. > The Witching Hour by James Gunn - eh. > "The Happy Children" & "Children of the Pool" by Arthur Machen - these were okay, but not as creepy as I'd have liked. > The Revenant by Hugh Zachary - excellent. what a find! a haunted house tale. > Powers of Darkness by Robert Aickman - excellent, per usual. not one of my top favorites of his collections though > The Shadow Out of Providence by Ezra Claverie - good. clever. a self-described "metatext" > Famous Modern Ghost Stories - a handful of excellent amidst a lot of not-so-excellent. strongest: "Lazarus" by Leonid Andreyev > The Haunted Planet by DJ Arneson - wow, this book for kids was surprisingly intense and grim > Nameless by Grant Morrison & Chris Burnham - incredible! > Cold Front by Barry Hammond - solid > Not Yet Dead by Joseph Citro - eh. his Dark Twilight was so much better Films > Encounter with the Unknown (US/1973) - terrible. omnibus. Rod Serling narrates. > A Whisper in the Dark (Italy/1976) - pretty good. imaginary friend or family caretaker? campy, stylish, weirdly fascinating. Pino Donaggio score. > Die Screaming, Marianne (Pete Walker/UK/1971) - excellent. groovy opening, dynamic direction. mystery not horror though. > Slaughter High (US/1986) - typically moronic/fun 80s slasher. April Fool's Day theme. > Drauga Saga (Iceland/1985) - eh. odd little no-budgeter about a haunted tv studio and reincarnation/possession. > Incubus (US/1982) - terrible. bizarrely, ineptly directed and acted. inexplicable incestuous underpinnings. > The Thing (John Carpenter remake/US/1982) - umpteenth time I've watched this semi-modern classic. one of my favorites. > The Killer Reserved Nine Seats (Italy/1974) - bottom of the barrel giallo. ugly and boring. > The Fox with a Velvet Tail (Italy/1971) - above average giallo. beautifully shot and zero gore (kudos). glossy lifestyle porn with moments of startling cruelty > Laurin (Germany/1989) - excellent. eerie and atmospheric tale of murders in a 19th century village. beautifully directed. > Let Sleeping Corpses Lie (Jorge Grau/Spain/1974) - really good. Spanish director, English cast and setting. dynamic direction, lovely setting, insane gore near the end. > Genocide (Kazui Nihonmatsu/Japan/1968) - pretty good. insects sick of humans, a sexy but deranged concentration camp survivor's deadly toxin, and American lust for an H-bomb all come together on a Japanese island. kaboom. > Suicide Club (Sion Sono/Japan/2001) - impressive. easily the most disturbing, intelligent, and repulsively graphic of all the films watched. rooftop scene was incredible. > Blacker Than Night (Mexico/1975) - very enjoyable. four stylish young women move into a mansion that includes an overly friendly cat. an old-fashioned haunted house tale. TV & Anime > Outcast (season 1) - excellent. the grim, depressing atmosphere is remarkably well-sustained. contained many surprises. acting is great, particularly Grace Zabriskie. fellow who plays the priest bugged though. > The Purge - in which I learn that leftist paranoid agitprop in horror is just as eye-rolling as right-wing paranoid agitprop. anyway, I gave up. > Junji Ito Collection - this was ok - not as bad as its reputation. certainly the brightly colored and straightforward visuals do a disservice to the detailed and atmospheric nightmares that JI put on the page. but there's something about the lighthearted presentation that makes the horrors all the more horrible. only one was unwatchable for me (the incredibly gross Grease/Glyceride). the last couple featuring Tomie were suitably disturbing. I loved the ones featuring the supernatural misadventures of resourceful student Tooru Oshikiri from Hallucinations > Ayakashi: Japanese Classic Horror - portmanteau of variable quality. (1) grim and boring, (2) colorful romantic fantasy, (3) gorgeous prelude to the series Mononoke. > The Haunting of Hill House - excellent, at least up until its laughable final episode > Real Housewives of Orange County - as horrifying as ever Horrific Excuses > Oakland Museum & Food Trucks w/Temple - "Hard day, need to burrow at home" > Drinking w/Steve - "I feel like I'm hungover, I think" > Training w/Walter - "I'll definitely come to the next one, sorry to keep missing this!! > Volunteer Social - (French exit) > Happy Hour w/Jill - "Sorry, gotta get ready for my trip" > Volunteer Group Interview - "Chellee, can you take this one? I have an early flight the next morning" [excuse did not work] > Night 4 of Drinking in New Orleans - "If I'm going to go out tomorrow, I definitely can't go out tonight. I'm old! My liver hurts." > Wine Kitchen w/the neighbors - I'm still recovering from New Orleans > Kids' Halloween Party - I have a birthday party I have to go to > Birthday Party - I think I feel a migraine coming on but I'd love to take you out to dinner soon > Halloween Party - I have enough tech people in my work life, I don't need to be surrounded by them during my free time! I'll be staying home to watch a carefully curated selection of horror films, thank you very much! [Excuse said silently to self while smiling & nodding & making noncommittal noises] (hide spoiler)] ☠

  2. 4 out of 5

    Bill Kerwin

    Veterans Day 2018. As always, I emailed my friend the Colonel to tell him “thanks for your service” and to let him know I was thinking of him. But this time I added something else: “And I’m also thinking of Ypres, the Marne, the Somme, Belleau Wood . . .” What I didn’t tell him was that those memorable battles were on my mind not only because Sunday was the 100th anniversary of the Armistice, but because I had recently finished reading W. Scott Poole’s Wasteland: the Great War and the Origins of Veterans Day 2018. As always, I emailed my friend the Colonel to tell him “thanks for your service” and to let him know I was thinking of him. But this time I added something else: “And I’m also thinking of Ypres, the Marne, the Somme, Belleau Wood . . .” What I didn’t tell him was that those memorable battles were on my mind not only because Sunday was the 100th anniversary of the Armistice, but because I had recently finished reading W. Scott Poole’s Wasteland: the Great War and the Origins of Modern Horror, and my imagination still seethed with the images Poole uses to supports his simple, compelling thesis: In every horror movie we see, every horror fiction we read, every monster we fight in PC and console games, the phantoms of the Great War skittle and scratch just beyond the door of our consciousness. Numberless dead and wounded bodies appear on our screens, documents of barbarism co-authored by the Great War generations and all the forces that have fed off them in the decades since. W. Scott Poole, a professor of history at the College of Charleston and author of Monsters in America, Vampira: Dark Goddess of Horror, and In the Mountains of Madness (a critical biography of H.P. Lovecraft) is a man who certainly knows his horror. But Poole, also knowledgeable about literature and the visual arts, is adept at using his erudition to illuminate—or perhaps I should say “darken”— the consciousness of his reader with the penetrating images of carnage and death that infect the 20th century imagination. Poole is at his best when he is summarizing narratives—like Murnau’s film Nosferatu or Kafka’s story “In The Penal Colony”— for he has an extraordinary talent for choosing the proper details and arranging them in the best order. Because of this, he does not have to develop his thesis in laborious paragraphs. Instead, he shows you what he means to tell you, and that showing, in itself, is often enough. He is also very good at choosing works of visual art, both essential and obscure, to illustrate his ideas. His treatment of Picasso’s “Guernica,” with which I am very familiar, was instructive, but I was also pleased to be reminded of the work of the surrealist painter Leonora Carrington, and to be introduced to a powerful painter of the trenches, the Weimar Republic's Otto Dix. I was also pleased by Poole’s mordant point of view, which often guides his choice of biographical and historical details, some of which are only tangentially relevant: the fact that Metropolis director Fritz Lang like to wave his pistol around; that Franz Kafa’s sisters died in the Holocaust; that Dali got Bunuel fired from MOMA for being a commie; that there is strong evidence Walt Disney attended meetings of the German American Bund; that the American soldiers at My Lai found the massacre such exhausting work that they decided to break for lunch. This is a rich book. It can be dipped into at a whim, or read right through, depending on your preference. If you have an interest in the Great War or the art of horror, you will find much to delight you here, but I would particularly recommend it to anyone who admires the silent films of the Weimar Republic or the classic Hollywood horror movies of the '30's, particularly the two Frankenstein films directed by WW I veteran James Whale. But be warned . . . its the kind of a book that can haunt you, that may make a small but indelible mark in the manner in which you view things, particular those movies you watch late at night. The vampire, the zombie, the blank-eyed automaton, the reanimated creature assembled from the remnants of cadavers: they may appear to be something new to you now, uneasy spectres spawned in the trenches that bordered the reality called No Man’s Land. Like me, you too may find yourself thinking of Ypres, the Marne, the Somme, Belleau Wood.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Richard Derus

    11/11/19 UPDATE There was a Reddit AMA with the author today. It's a long thread but worthwhile reading. I made 65 notes on this book and never wrote the review! That's terrible. A waste of note-taking not to use them for their intended purpose. I enjoyed this fluid, fluent recounting of the modern horror genre's explosion after the nightmarish experience of WWI. The rise of the film industry, its ability to offer a new take on the Gothic tale and meld it to the lived reality of millions...well, t 11/11/19 UPDATE There was a Reddit AMA with the author today. It's a long thread but worthwhile reading. I made 65 notes on this book and never wrote the review! That's terrible. A waste of note-taking not to use them for their intended purpose. I enjoyed this fluid, fluent recounting of the modern horror genre's explosion after the nightmarish experience of WWI. The rise of the film industry, its ability to offer a new take on the Gothic tale and meld it to the lived reality of millions...well, that's a tale worth telling. Poole told it well, but used a choppy technique that might be off-putting to some readers; it does feel a bit like reading someone's index cards for a high-school research paper. To me, it reinforced the currents in culture that Poole was highlighting, and allowed him to be pithy but thorough in making his points about the whys and wherefores of the evolution of Gothic stories into horror stories. At all events, it bums me out that I didn't write a real review months ago while this book's pleasures and strengths were fresh in my mind. Now I can't recapture that impetus. But I can and do say that anyone with more than a passing interest in horror storytelling would do well to read the text closely.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Sadie Hartmann

    Review Originally in SCREAM Magazine 2018 “Horror as an art form, as escape, as a rendition of what had just happened, became the only possible response for a world that could not stop screaming.” W. Scott Poole I don’t read a lot of non fiction. I find that in order to get the most out of my recreational reading time, I like to spend hours immersed in the fictional horrors of our talented pool of horror authors authors available to us today. However, when I saw that this book, Wasteland-- a book a Review Originally in SCREAM Magazine 2018 “Horror as an art form, as escape, as a rendition of what had just happened, became the only possible response for a world that could not stop screaming.” W. Scott Poole I don’t read a lot of non fiction. I find that in order to get the most out of my recreational reading time, I like to spend hours immersed in the fictional horrors of our talented pool of horror authors authors available to us today. However, when I saw that this book, Wasteland-- a book about the origins of modern horror--written by a historian and a history teacher of horror and pop culture...I couldn’t resist. Especially since I review books for Scream Magazine and I know that the Scream fanbase has mad love for monsters present and monsters past. The perfect non fiction book for me to sink my teeth into. Poole does an excellent job of setting the stage by bringing readers back in time to the early 1900s and the beginning of World War I. But he doesn’t tell the story in the same way I remember being told about it in my high school US history class. These aren’t boring, dry facts you can’t relate to and there’s not a pop quiz at the end of the chapter. There are threads of the early stages of horror woven throughout the World War I history lesson and for me, it made the whole topic insurmountably more engaging. It’s unreal to imagine a time in history where the war machine was churning out corpses by the hundred thousands a year. In total, it claimed the lives of 40 million people over its 4 year duration. Poole then begins to build his case: A post war culture, shaken by what they have seen and what they have lost, find solace in the darkness of horror movies and literature. I found it incredibly interesting to see how the macabre poetry and stories told in the 1920s still resonate in today’s culture as we find ourselves entertained by and almost obsessed with stories of apocalypse and mayhem brought on by some global disease outbreak or zombie takeover. You see this in our movies, books, video games and comics of today but I never really knew why people seem fixated on these self destructive stories. Poole makes the argument that those stories of global catastrophe are an outpouring of emotions that we carry around with us in response to our fears and frustrations about war. I mean, the author doesn’t claim to be a psychologist but his theory makes a lot of sense to me. This book makes well supported claims that fictional horror was born as an affective, creative outlet for a war-torn generation. I thoroughly enjoyed the countless references to all our favorite horror movies and literature spanning over the years between 1920 and and present day. From Nosferatu to Freddy Krueger. I highly recommend this book for any history buff or horror hound.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Dominique Lamssies

    I've been waiting for someone to write this book for a long time and I'm glad this is what we got. In Wasteland, W. Scott Poole takes us through the highlights of art forms and movements in the interwar years. The book is divided into chapters that deal roughly with topics, such as fear of the corpse and what he calls "death dolls." That tends to fall away after awhile but the chapters do move chronologically. They're not entirely self contained. Most chapters have sections that focus on particul I've been waiting for someone to write this book for a long time and I'm glad this is what we got. In Wasteland, W. Scott Poole takes us through the highlights of art forms and movements in the interwar years. The book is divided into chapters that deal roughly with topics, such as fear of the corpse and what he calls "death dolls." That tends to fall away after awhile but the chapters do move chronologically. They're not entirely self contained. Most chapters have sections that focus on particular artists, mostly writers, such as Arthur Machen, H.P. Lovecraft and Franz Kafka. The book doesn't explore exclusively horror, but rather horrific imagery, discussing such films as J'Accuse, writers such as Kafka, and movements such as Surrealism. If you are looking for a book that discusses the war or life in the trenches, this is not the one for you. There's a small discussion of some facts and figures of the war, but just enough to give a basic understanding so the reader can fully ruminate about the presented conclusions. That does not mean the book is an easy read. By necessity Poole discusses the major trauma that soldiers witnessed, so there's corpses and violence abound. Poole does a good job of showing the main fears the Great War created and how they manifested in many media in both Europe and America and why they manifested differently or more slowly in each area. There is quite a bit of discussion of film and film buffs will find the extensive coverage of Murnau's Nosferatu (which is a special focus for Poole, who brings this film up in more places than any other single piece he discusses) and the films of James Whale. I can't say I'm entirely convinced in some of his conclusions about Whale's films, but the section is still solid. Poole writes the book from the perspective that the Great War never ended and makes a compelling argument for that. However, that also opens the gate for him to go off about World War II a little more than I would like. Facism is, of course, a horror of its own, was a result of WWI and had it's own effects on horror, but the book is about WWI, so we don't need to assert that WW2 was worse (which is a statement I would argue with) or about Hitler. It's unnecessary and smacks a little as hero worship of WW2 veterans. That aside, I got what I wanted from this book. It may not be the most in-depth thing, but it's a great starting place for readers to go out and discover these artists and their works for yourself.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Pickle.

    4.75* Like a fascinating undergraduate course, wide reaching from James Whale, Lugosi, Kafka to David Lynch, I learned a lot about each. My list of ‘to watch’ now rivals my bloated and ultimately unlikely ‘to read’. There were also a few surprises; of Dali and his fascist leanings, truly one of history’s dodgy but successful self promoters. The first third was undeniably hard to traverse though....to fathom the sheer scale of heartbreak, stories of ‘unknown’ young soldiers of the Great War, devas 4.75* Like a fascinating undergraduate course, wide reaching from James Whale, Lugosi, Kafka to David Lynch, I learned a lot about each. My list of ‘to watch’ now rivals my bloated and ultimately unlikely ‘to read’. There were also a few surprises; of Dali and his fascist leanings, truly one of history’s dodgy but successful self promoters. The first third was undeniably hard to traverse though....to fathom the sheer scale of heartbreak, stories of ‘unknown’ young soldiers of the Great War, devastating, incomprehensible, enraging. The only fault I can think of is I wish it was longer, (particularly for example on the influences on John Carpenter, whose films were particularly important to me growing up). I got the feeling the author could have waxed on each director, actor, author in much greater depth, and i would have gladly listened.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sarah

    comprehensive and really great. it was so interesting to read this & think at length about horror acted as catharsis or morbid curiosity for a generation of people grappling with death and mental trauma and think how... you know... we're going to cope with the current situation. really relevant observations on how history like this doesn't end or stop. it becomes folded into storytelling and how we process and understand those things. comprehensive and really great. it was so interesting to read this & think at length about horror acted as catharsis or morbid curiosity for a generation of people grappling with death and mental trauma and think how... you know... we're going to cope with the current situation. really relevant observations on how history like this doesn't end or stop. it becomes folded into storytelling and how we process and understand those things.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Joe

    Traversing Surrealism; German Expressionism; the writings of people such as T. S. Eliot & H. P. Lovecraft, and finally culminating in the Universal Horror films of the 1930s; W. Scott Poole's book THE WASTELAND is fantastic study of how "The War To End All Wars" became the foundational event in creation of modern Horror. More than just a book for fans of Stephen King, this is a must read for everyone who wonders how and why a generation's fear created the 21st century. Traversing Surrealism; German Expressionism; the writings of people such as T. S. Eliot & H. P. Lovecraft, and finally culminating in the Universal Horror films of the 1930s; W. Scott Poole's book THE WASTELAND is fantastic study of how "The War To End All Wars" became the foundational event in creation of modern Horror. More than just a book for fans of Stephen King, this is a must read for everyone who wonders how and why a generation's fear created the 21st century.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Robert

    The next time you hear that "horror isn't political", refer that person to this book... The next time you hear that "horror isn't political", refer that person to this book...

  10. 4 out of 5

    Bill Wallace

    I would have enjoyed this book much more if the author had not repeated his thesis -- that mass death and its iconography in the first world war led to the birth of horror as a modern genre -- on almost every page. Affirming an idea, of course, is not the same thing as demonstrating it. While the war certainly influenced Germany's outlook on pretty much everything and a few of Germany's postwar films contain most of the eggs that hatched into Universal's game-changing work in the 30s, I think ca I would have enjoyed this book much more if the author had not repeated his thesis -- that mass death and its iconography in the first world war led to the birth of horror as a modern genre -- on almost every page. Affirming an idea, of course, is not the same thing as demonstrating it. While the war certainly influenced Germany's outlook on pretty much everything and a few of Germany's postwar films contain most of the eggs that hatched into Universal's game-changing work in the 30s, I think cause and effect are pretty well hashed in Poole's argument. As much as the war shaped a generation, culture and literature were also overwhelmingly affected by modernism generally, and the reaction to it; the loss of traditional faith in god and governments; and the rise of mass media and the increased compartmentalization of content into genres. All a good deal more complicated than "all that slaughter." That criticism aside, I liked the book's excursions into realms unvisited by most books on the subject -- art, serious lit, and politics. There wasn't much here that I haven't read other places but it was nice to see it all put together as a coherent, if not convincing, narrative.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    4.8 Would have been five, but the structure and organization of chapters/topics was all over the place. Still, a fascinating work making solid connections between horror movies, art, and literature and the devastation of WWI. I was glad that the author covered how the creation of horror films in the era between the world wars was a mixture of warnings of the rise of Fascism and the resignation of human nature’s compulsion for self-destruction. Really excellent work, even pointing out the danger 4.8 Would have been five, but the structure and organization of chapters/topics was all over the place. Still, a fascinating work making solid connections between horror movies, art, and literature and the devastation of WWI. I was glad that the author covered how the creation of horror films in the era between the world wars was a mixture of warnings of the rise of Fascism and the resignation of human nature’s compulsion for self-destruction. Really excellent work, even pointing out the danger of trump and the nihilism of his embracing of white supremacy.

  12. 4 out of 5

    SpookyBird

    There’s a lot of good information here, and I’d certainly recommend it to any horror fan. I did find the overall book to be a little disjointed. Some things felt like they were covered a couple of times over, and parts felt more like a collection of essays than a comprehensive whole. If you’re into horror in pop culture, and even if your into the military history of the two world wars, this book is worth your time.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin

    I'm putting this on the read shelf, though I only got half way. Planning on getting back to it, just stalled out. I was intrigued by the premise but the writing just didn't grab me. Too disjointed, as if during the rough draft phase all those 3x5 cards got a bit mixed up. If you think of it as a collection of Wikipedia stubs you won't be disappointed. I'm putting this on the read shelf, though I only got half way. Planning on getting back to it, just stalled out. I was intrigued by the premise but the writing just didn't grab me. Too disjointed, as if during the rough draft phase all those 3x5 cards got a bit mixed up. If you think of it as a collection of Wikipedia stubs you won't be disappointed.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    This was a surprisingly engrossing review of the western horror cinema, literature and art inspired by the European experience of WWI, with cinema, still in its infancy, receiving the most attention. Beginning with a quotation from Walter Benjamin, Poole's approach is academic without being dry, fact- and anecdote-filled without being shallow. Indeed, Poole has a point beyond his investigation of the origins of the horror genre, that being the contrast between the appropriation of the experience This was a surprisingly engrossing review of the western horror cinema, literature and art inspired by the European experience of WWI, with cinema, still in its infancy, receiving the most attention. Beginning with a quotation from Walter Benjamin, Poole's approach is academic without being dry, fact- and anecdote-filled without being shallow. Indeed, Poole has a point beyond his investigation of the origins of the horror genre, that being the contrast between the appropriation of the experience of the First World War and that of the Second. Further, and with some relation to this point, he considers the political manipulation of emotion, most pointedly by the fascists of the 30s and 40s, most recently by the alt-right and the Trump administration. As is often the case with good books, I wish there had been more such as, for instance, a discussion of David Lindsay's literary work. What Poole does focus on are primarily well known films, writers and artists--enough points of contact to afford access to most readers.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Gabe Steller

    Subject matter was already up my alley but must cop to buying for the kickass cover. Ultimately the argument of the book is sorta too general to be really successful, but fun as a cultural review of Horror and surrealism in all sorts of art! Chapter on the horror underpinnings of fascism with its grounding in fear and paranoia, and obsessions with monstrosities, conspiracies and unseen enemies generally was a standout Also Turns out Dali…Not a cool guy!!! Very friendly with Franco and even Hitler! Subject matter was already up my alley but must cop to buying for the kickass cover. Ultimately the argument of the book is sorta too general to be really successful, but fun as a cultural review of Horror and surrealism in all sorts of art! Chapter on the horror underpinnings of fascism with its grounding in fear and paranoia, and obsessions with monstrosities, conspiracies and unseen enemies generally was a standout Also Turns out Dali…Not a cool guy!!! Very friendly with Franco and even Hitler! No bueno man. Writing can be overdramatic, oftentimes a sorta zinger last line will be added to a paragraph, which was just annoying and distracting like 80% of the time. no bueno to that too. 3.5 high highs and low lows.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    Thoughtful, insightful, and empathetic. If you have any interest in the interwar years, film history, horror, surrealism, and/or the history of fascism, you will likely enjoy this quite a bit. It is well written and academic without being stodgy.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

    When I first picked up this book, I expected it to be a history of horror through the lens of WWI and WWII. However, I believe it is more accurate to say that it is a military and cultural history during the two world wars and the interwar period through the lens of horror, depicted in film, art, and literature. It traces how WWI influenced the horror genre, as well as how horror influenced society leading up to and beyond WWII. The various depictions of horror “made an eerie static noise out of When I first picked up this book, I expected it to be a history of horror through the lens of WWI and WWII. However, I believe it is more accurate to say that it is a military and cultural history during the two world wars and the interwar period through the lens of horror, depicted in film, art, and literature. It traces how WWI influenced the horror genre, as well as how horror influenced society leading up to and beyond WWII. The various depictions of horror “made an eerie static noise out of which whispered voices saying all manner of sinister things - some true, some not - all of them warnings and portents. Monsters” (178). I was particularly fascinated by Poole’s analysis of ‘Frankenstein’ (1931): “Since the story has been told over and over again, modern viewers are likely to forget, in a way that 1931 audiences would not have been able to get out of their minds, that we are watching a field of corpses stumble about the stage. We are seeing a thing of unimaginable horror, a kind of living graveyard that became the ultimate death doll, the most memorable cemetery automaton, in an era that produced so many for screens in Europe, America, and around the world” (219). One of my few complaints is that, with all of the descriptions of paintings, sketches, and movie scenes, the book does not provide pictures the way that other nonfiction books tend to do. However, this is a minor thing, since each piece is easy to look up and I now plan on watching almost every classic horror film mentioned throughout the book.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Joshua Buhs

    The thesis is simultaneously obvious and brilliant: that modern horror is rooted in responses to the unspeakable awfulness of the Great War. Everything lines up: chronology, biography, culture. The book then spins off in other directions, some more fruitful than others--probably too much political history for this narrative. (One can feel Poole straining to stay true to his thesis while also tempted to write a cultural history of 20th century horror.) But Poole is a mostly graceful stylist, and The thesis is simultaneously obvious and brilliant: that modern horror is rooted in responses to the unspeakable awfulness of the Great War. Everything lines up: chronology, biography, culture. The book then spins off in other directions, some more fruitful than others--probably too much political history for this narrative. (One can feel Poole straining to stay true to his thesis while also tempted to write a cultural history of 20th century horror.) But Poole is a mostly graceful stylist, and there are lots of fascinating nuggets about the production of early twentieth century horror, particularly German film, which seems to be a fascination for him. Worth a read.

  19. 4 out of 5

    John

    The book was not what I expected. The focus is less on the war itself but more on the horror genre in various presentations. That is not necessarily a bad thing, per se, but I think there must be a foundational interest in the horror genre first, rather than an interest in the history and aftermath of the war. But a very innovative approach, coupled with a compelling argument about what the war wrought. And I did learn about the horror genre (H.P. Lovecraft, for example) that made the overall wo The book was not what I expected. The focus is less on the war itself but more on the horror genre in various presentations. That is not necessarily a bad thing, per se, but I think there must be a foundational interest in the horror genre first, rather than an interest in the history and aftermath of the war. But a very innovative approach, coupled with a compelling argument about what the war wrought. And I did learn about the horror genre (H.P. Lovecraft, for example) that made the overall work an informative read.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Wes K.

    Poole's evaluation of the artistic response to WWI is compelling and illuminating. While he has the philosopher's habit of circling around points with multiple examples before finally committing to his argument, his depth of knowledge and expansive body of evidence will have you hanging on every word. A must-read for fans of horror. Poole's evaluation of the artistic response to WWI is compelling and illuminating. While he has the philosopher's habit of circling around points with multiple examples before finally committing to his argument, his depth of knowledge and expansive body of evidence will have you hanging on every word. A must-read for fans of horror.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Bryan Alexander

    My review. My review.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Paul Spence

    The Great War—now better known as World War I, before World War II forced historians to retcon the name—gave rise to fabled books and their film adaptations such as Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises (1926), Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun (1938), and Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front (1928), as well as the Lost Generation of American writers: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, John Dos Passos, and many more. Yet readers will find very few references to them in Wastel The Great War—now better known as World War I, before World War II forced historians to retcon the name—gave rise to fabled books and their film adaptations such as Ernest Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises (1926), Dalton Trumbo's Johnny Got His Gun (1938), and Erich Maria Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front (1928), as well as the Lost Generation of American writers: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gertrude Stein, John Dos Passos, and many more. Yet readers will find very few references to them in Wasteland: The Great War and the Origins of Modern Horror. Instead of the usual litany, author W. Scott Poole provides an alternative—or, perhaps, in keeping with this book, uncanny—analysis of the artistic and cultural legacy of the War to End All Wars. Paraphrasing Freud, Poole writes that "the return of the dead constitutes the most primal and profound fear of humanity" and, separately, that "no war fought before 1914 had so many corpses"—at least 16 million. Our primeval dread, combined with the enormous death toll, gave rise to both the narratives and imagery associated with what we now think of, and take for granted, as horror. For a sophisticated work of cultural history, with a wide range of textual analyses ranging from Franz Kafka to the aforementioned Sigmund Freud, André Breton to Luis Buñuel, Fritz Lang to H.P. Lovecraft (the subject of one of his previous books), Poole is strikingly literal in his premise. Simply put: "The Great War had placed human beings in proximity to millions of corpses that could not be buried. Worse, many could not be identified, and more than a few did not even look like what we think human bodies should look like." Horror in film and fiction, then, as others have argued, "mirrors the era's deepest fears", and after the literal horror of the Great War, that fear was human corpses and, to a lesser extent, the disfigured bodies of survivors, on a scale never seen or even imagined. It's remarkable that this thesis is not already conventional wisdom. If the Great War provides the framework for understanding horror's development, the idea cuts both ways: horror also provides the clearest framework for understanding the Great War, as much as such a thing is possible. If the war itself proved incomprehensible, then perhaps Frankenstein's monster, representing director James Whale's "direct confrontation with death in the Great War", could provide a fathomable proxy. Since, though, horror fiction, the macabre, and the Gothic of course predate World War I, Poole also needed to demonstrate differences between Victorian-era novels like Frankenstein, The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, and Dracula to the then-emerging medium of film. In retrospect, those novels depict relatively little violence, low body counts, and local stakes (no pun intended), whereas by 1922, in the film Nosferatu, the first film adaptation of Dracula, the title's vampire, quoting Poole, "brings a flood of death to Wisborg, just as the Great War had brought to all of Europe what the poet Rainer Maria Rilke called 'these days of monstrously accelerated dying.'" For Poole, then, "our monsters are born out of our moments in time." Films like Abel Gance's J'Accuse, Fritz Lang's Metropolis, and writer Hans Janowitz's The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari were created by veterans of the Great War, and unsurprisingly, seen in this light, now-familiar images like the biplanes that shoot down King Kong (director Merian C. Cooper, another veteran) now seem steeped in a particular kind of early 20th century militarism. Nosteratu's production designer, Albin Grau, a World War I veteran, insisted that the film "could only be seen in light of the war. The war itself had been, for his entire generation, what Grau called 'a cosmic vampire' that had come 'drinking the blood of millions.'" And yet, while Poole's thesis is persuasive and his prose sharp, perhaps the origin of modern horror is more complicated. In the rapidly accumulating examples and analyses, the study suffers from a familiar cultural history problem: single-mindedness. The Great War is Poole's Theory of Everything. While Nosferatu's Albin Grau provides an excellent money quote, and I don't doubt his intentions, the influenza pandemic of 1918 killed far more people—50 million worldwide—than World War I, and so the film's contagion imagery spoke, and still speaks, to other anxieties in addition to the war. Similarly, film itself as an art form and technology, not just horror film, gained popular momentum during this time period. Horror films emerged after WWI in part simply because films emerged. Yes, many of early horror's creators were veterans. But by then, over four million men were veterans. The book's framework indeed helps us to read Nosferatu, and later, zombie and even contemporary iterations of undead hordes like Game of Thrones' White Walkers—which Poole refers to again as "the dead in a specific historical context… the dead at war again"—as manifestations of the trauma inflicted on the collective psyche. But seeing films like Frankenstein and King Kong, despite their directors' veteran status, exclusively through this lens risks reducing these monsters' rich and storied ambiguity, and the possibility that the context in which the films were created is now one of many possible. Here, "Dr. Frankenstein's lab seems as much a factory as a lab, just as the war had been a mechanism that made corpses by the millions," and Kong's attempted destruction of Manhattan "seems an eerie presage of the ruined cities of the 1940s that the destruction of World War I hinted at." These interpretations, like almost all of the book's film and literary criticism, are incisive but brief, confined, and reliant on "seems". Monsters contain multitudes—if they can be contained at all. The films, along with many others under consideration, instead lend themselves to a wide array of interpretations. Frankenstein and King Kong can be understood through gender, the control of women's bodies by men and monstrous male ids, at least as much as through WWI. For that matter, even the popularity of zombies seems rooted in different fears: White Zombie (1932), the first full-length zombie film, one of the only major horror films from the era not discussed in the book, has little WWI subtext: coming near the end of the US occupation of Haiti, the film represents post-colonial and racial anxieties, even as it employs imagery Poole attributes to the war. By 1968, Night of the Living Dead continued to use horror to explore racial tension (whether director George Romero intended to or not) but updated for the Cold War. And even the White Walkers seem more emblematic of global climate change than, nearly 100 years earlier, the Great War—and perhaps, in their on-the-nose name, they too embody undead, unthinking racism. Poole writes that "We can't disentwine the historical from the horrific," yet for a writer who invokes Freud, Poole, discounts ways in which our fears also cannot be disentwined from our desires, and vice versa. And while the book meticulously catalogues our fears, there's little trace of wish fulfilment, the ways in which horror, perversely or ironically, alleviates anxiety, rather than merely reenacting it. Stephen King famously wrote that we "crave horror movies" because they represent a "peculiar kind of fun." For fans, they are fun, but it would be hard to understand that from this study. What's more, the endings of these movies are all the same: the monster is killed—sunlight for Nosferatu, a stake for Dracula, fire for Frankenstein's monster (a weakness not present in Mary Shelley's very different novel), silver for werewolves (yes, the book includes werewolves; Poole is nothing if not comprehensive). And then, in the films' final moments, order is restored by uniting the heteronormative romantic couple: Henry Frankenstein and Elizabeth toast to the House of Frankenstein, John Harker and Mina ascend the staircase from Dracula's crypt into the sunrise, and Ann Darrow is safe in Jack's arms as Kong plummets. Poole points out that James Whale hated the studio's "Hollywood ending" of Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, but what Universal understood in its admittedly tacky, tacked-on dénouements is that films may horrify, but they also trap their terrors within narrative structures and conventional resolutions. At least, until audiences choose to be terrified once again. Still, the book's wide-ranging erudition, strong prose, and clear love and fascination with both history and horror—this review barely scratches the surface of all of the topics and texts covered—will appeal to a variety of readers, but only those who can persevere without losing heart. If the wish fulfilment of the horror story can be found in its conclusion, the Great War, worse than any movie monster, defies any such resolution. Throughout, Poole questions whether World War I ended in 1918 at all, despite that we celebrated the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day on 11 November 2018. Two of the book's five chapters, as well as its Afterword, are devoted to the period leading up to World War II, and then beyond. As Poole reports, "bloodletting on an enormous scale continued into the early 1920s," while conflicts in Russia, Poland, the Balkans, Greece, Turkey, and what became known as the Middle East continued to produce hundreds of thousands of casualties. But it gets worse. Late in the book, Poole develops the idea further: "the Second World War represents a continuation of a 'Great War' that opened in August 1914 and… did not [my emphasis] reach resolution in August 1945. In fact, the consequences of the conflict continue to unfold even as a write these words, almost a hundred years after the guns fell silent on the day of the armistice." The Great War has become its own zombie, mindlessly marching on a hundred years after it was declared dead. That the spectre of a war begun a century ago has not ended, and may never end, is the book's most horrific message of all.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Brendan

    As a horror fan, I'm predisposed to like this book, but wow is it brilliant. Great and very readable accounting of how the mass mechanized slaughter of WWI gave birth to horror fiction and also the horror of fascism. Essential reading for any horror fan. As a horror fan, I'm predisposed to like this book, but wow is it brilliant. Great and very readable accounting of how the mass mechanized slaughter of WWI gave birth to horror fiction and also the horror of fascism. Essential reading for any horror fan.

  24. 4 out of 5

    David

    I have very mixed feelings about this book. It is only fair to say that I have never enjoyed the horror genre. But the author has some important things to say about the way in which the many deaths of the first world war drove this category of literature of movies and how it was leverage by the fascists in their drive to power. But the chapter on horror and fascism I found compelling and timely. He suggests that fascism is about art more than politics and that culture always trumps politics – at I have very mixed feelings about this book. It is only fair to say that I have never enjoyed the horror genre. But the author has some important things to say about the way in which the many deaths of the first world war drove this category of literature of movies and how it was leverage by the fascists in their drive to power. But the chapter on horror and fascism I found compelling and timely. He suggests that fascism is about art more than politics and that culture always trumps politics – at least that’s the fascist perspective. The author argues that fascism is about a certain cultural aesthetic – treating enemies as subhuman monsters, theatrical and real violence. People supported fascism because they saw it as an effort to combat monsters in their midst. Fascism gave the middle class and the lower orders a chance to vent their rage at the world upon marginalized groups. The author sees this as something that runs parallel to the popular horror movies of the first half of the 20th century and reinforces Fascism. Like I said pretty disturbing stuff. Poole also compares this to Trump and Bannon and how they are employing the same strategy to achieve political power.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Shannon A

    A book I never really thought I would read as I don't care for horror. I flew through the pages. This is one of the most intriguing histories of war and how it's influence has reached into every aspect of our lives to this day. I simply could not put this book down! Shannon Alden, Literati Bookstore A book I never really thought I would read as I don't care for horror. I flew through the pages. This is one of the most intriguing histories of war and how it's influence has reached into every aspect of our lives to this day. I simply could not put this book down! Shannon Alden, Literati Bookstore

  26. 5 out of 5

    Fred Svoboda

    I much liked this book but thought it was about twice as long as needed to make its points. It gets repetitive after a while and the reader's attention flags, or at least mine did. Also, Poole is not immune to feeling pleasure at turning a phrase, sometimes when he should just be straightforward. Thesis: A. Execution: B. I much liked this book but thought it was about twice as long as needed to make its points. It gets repetitive after a while and the reader's attention flags, or at least mine did. Also, Poole is not immune to feeling pleasure at turning a phrase, sometimes when he should just be straightforward. Thesis: A. Execution: B.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Lars Kokemüller

    Politics, history, art, horror, 1920 Europe - Whoever DOESN’T live this book (despite its slightly flawed theses) can never be a friend of mine.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Kierah

    (See end of review for a list of films discussed in this book!) I found this book by idly glancing along a shelf in the bookstore, and when I picked it up and recognized the name W. Scott Poole, I was very excited. After reading his biography of H.P. Lovecraft, In the Mountains of Madness: The Life and Extraordinary Afterlife of H.P. Lovecraft, I knew I was picking up a book written by a thoughtful critic who wouldn't shy away from serious engagement with issues like racism, antisemitism, and mis (See end of review for a list of films discussed in this book!) I found this book by idly glancing along a shelf in the bookstore, and when I picked it up and recognized the name W. Scott Poole, I was very excited. After reading his biography of H.P. Lovecraft, In the Mountains of Madness: The Life and Extraordinary Afterlife of H.P. Lovecraft, I knew I was picking up a book written by a thoughtful critic who wouldn't shy away from serious engagement with issues like racism, antisemitism, and misogyny. Poole brings his thoughtful, analytical approach to a sweeping overview of early horror, ranging from the 1910s into the 1940s, examining the genesis of modern horror and persuasively linking it to the devastation of the first World War. What makes this book so enjoyable is how successfully Poole blends his academic and critical approach with a passionate and engaging style, directed not at niche specialists but at the general reader. Anyone picking this up hoping for a deeply in-depth academic work will be disappointed, because while Poole does engage seriously with recognizably theoretical ideas--especially around Freud, the uncanny, the death doll and fear of the double, and so on--he is not writing a densely annotated, thorny text here. This is a text inflected with the personality and interests of its author, which rescues it from the droning quality of many works written to analyze film and other artistic media, as full of engaging storytelling as it is concrete interaction with serious ideas and political moments. It's not a book without flaws. Poole's academic inflection shows most clearly in the structure of his chapters, especially chapters early in the book. Anyone familiar with the typical academic essay or paper will recognize the formulaic structure he slips into, especially with the repetitive summing-up at the end of each chapter. It's not typical for a book aimed at a popular audience, and for me, it came off as distracting, interrupting the pace of a book that otherwise moves relatively quickly. Poole is also entwining narratives about the lives of multiple prominent figures of this era--Fritz Lang, Otto Dix, Sigmund Freud, T.S. Eliot, James Whale, H.P. Lovecraft, and more--and the way he braids their timelines over and through each other can be distracting, even, at times, frustrating. He will frequently allude to events later in their lives, only to withhold that information in order to move to the next strand of the braid, and giving you the story he's promised only after another half a chapter or more. Overall, however, this book is interesting, engaging, enjoyable, and very thoughtfully and passionately written. For the fan of horror and history, it's a must-read, and likely a fantastic jumping-off point to deeper engagement with the materials Poole uses. *** One other, admittedly minor, disappointment was that the endnotes of the book didn't contain a list of the films, books, stories, artworks, etc. that Poole analyzes. I've made a list of the films here, and hope to add to it if I've found any missing. I didn't include films such as, for example, King Kong, which received only a glancing mention. The Eyes of the Mummy, 1918, dir. Ernst Lubitsch The Doll, 1919, dir. Ernst Lubitsch J'accuse, 1919, dir. Abel Gance The Golem: How He Came into the World, 1920, dir. Paul Wegener The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, 1920, dir. Robert Wiene Nosferatu, 1922, dir. F.W. Murnau Warning Shadows: A Nocturnal Hallucination, 1922, dir. Arthur Robison Waxworks, 1924, dir. Paul Leni The Phantom of the Opera, 1925, dir. Rupert Julian Metropolis, 1927, dir. Fritz Lang The Cat and the Canary, 1927, dir. Paul Leni The Man Who Laughs, 1928, dir. Paul Leni M--A City Looks for a Murderer, 1931, dir. Fritz Lang Frankenstein, 1931, dir. James Whale Vampyr, 1932, dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer The Old Dark House, 1932, dir. James Whale Island of Lost Souls, 1932, dir. Erle C. Kenton The Testament of Dr. Mabuse, 1933, dir. Fritz Lang The Invisible Man, 1934, dir. James Whale The Black Cat, 1934, dir. Edgar G. Ulmer Bride of Frankenstein, 1935, dir. James Whale J'accuse (remake), 1938, dir. Abel Gance

  29. 5 out of 5

    Marco Subias

    This excellent, groundbreaking work argues that World War One not only defined the shape of horror fiction after the conflict and that it continues to do so today, but that the war essentially created the horror genre as we know it. Some horror fans know James Whale's films owe much to his military service, but Wasteland shows how the horrific martial experiences of many authors, painters, and directors caused them to create art as a reaction of the war’s very real horror. Wasteland should also This excellent, groundbreaking work argues that World War One not only defined the shape of horror fiction after the conflict and that it continues to do so today, but that the war essentially created the horror genre as we know it. Some horror fans know James Whale's films owe much to his military service, but Wasteland shows how the horrific martial experiences of many authors, painters, and directors caused them to create art as a reaction of the war’s very real horror. Wasteland should also be of interest to anyone interested in veterans' experiences in general and how they felt and were treated after returning from this conflict. At times, Poole stretches his arguments too far. Corpses and skeletons played a major part in scary literature before World War One ever started, and would have been common in the horror genre even of this conflict had never happened, for example. There is no doubt in my mind though that this conflict served as a tremendous catalyst in the birth of horror as we know it. Poole also diverges into political topics later in the book and makes assertions about them with little or no supporting evidence. Despite such minor flaws, this is a definitive work and essential reading to everyone interested in the history of horror.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Lance Eaton

    Poole's work is a fascinating study of modern horror as part byproduct of World War I. Drawing upon a host of creators in Europe and the Americas, he explores how so much of their work in horror, directly and indirectly was derived from the devastation, destruction, and violence that came with the war. He links much of the body horror (Phantom of the Opera, Frankenstein, Nosferatu) with the returning of soldiers from war with missing body parts and scarred bodies; kept alive when they might prev Poole's work is a fascinating study of modern horror as part byproduct of World War I. Drawing upon a host of creators in Europe and the Americas, he explores how so much of their work in horror, directly and indirectly was derived from the devastation, destruction, and violence that came with the war. He links much of the body horror (Phantom of the Opera, Frankenstein, Nosferatu) with the returning of soldiers from war with missing body parts and scarred bodies; kept alive when they might previously have died, they brought constant reminders of the war for decades to come. Poole's work is quite convincing as he draws on people such as H.P. Lovecraft, Fritz Lang, F. W. Mirnau, Max Ernst, Andre Breton, James Whales, Lon Chaney, Arthur Machen, T.S. Eliot and many others, showing their connections to the war or the ways in which their works channeled the fears and pain of the war and its aftermath. It's an impressive tapestry that he crafts and one that I think anyone wanting to understand the evolution of horror in modern times would do well, not just to study, but to build upon for other areas of significant trauma in human history.

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