Best Weller's Pick
Every other month the staff of Weller Book Works nominates and then votes on books we deem worthy of extra attention, our Best Weller's selection. We discount these books to you by 20% during the months for which they're chosen because we believe in them.
World War I introduced the world to carnage on a massive scale. New and more grotesque ways of destroying life played out on the battle fields of Europe, much of it mechanized and devoid of humanity. The psychological terror and unresolved trauma of war bore fruit, as Bram Stoker Award nominee and historian W. Scott Poole writes, in the birth of the horror genre we know today.
Wasteland: The Great War and the Origins of Modern Horror draws a direct line from the shell-shocked soldiers who returned from war to the films they made, heavy laden with sinister shadows and deep with metaphor. The films of Weimar Germany such as Nosferatu, Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and M had an immense influence on American film noir and later on the walking dead of George Romero’s films, the automaton killers of the Halloween and Friday the 13th franchises, and the surrealist horror of David Lynch. Poole writes, in a world traumatized by war, these dark shadows and sinister automatons made sense to film audiences in a way that escapes modern viewers.
Poole examines the work of authors and artists of the time and points to the evidence of war terror in their works; those of Kafka, Dali, and the French existentialist philosophers. With an historian's approach, Poole traces the lineage of literary horror from present day to the works of H. P. Lovecraft and Arthur Machen. Writers such as Lovecraft, Frank Belknap Long, and Machen would take the mostly innocuous Victorian horror tale and express the casual disregard for life experienced in the world war in a new kind of psychologically terrifying tale, particularly evidenced in Lovecraft's philosophy of Cosmic Horror.
If Wasteland seems like a mere dissection of popular culture, it is not. Poole turns a searing eye toward the lives of poet T.S. Eliot, his mentor Ezra Pound, Salvador Dali, and Lovecraft who expressed fascist sympathies after the war, and draws parallels to the troubled (and troubling) Presidential administration of our times. Poole makes the point that the violence of World War I may correlate with the escalating conflicts we have seen in the last century and a cyclical return to fascist ideologies. For those of us who don’t remember a time before daily news cycles about never-ending foreign conflicts, he points to the horror of World War I as the origin of the madness, and delivers a cautionary tale: we must either deal with the original trauma of a world shocked out of its senses, or suffer the inevitable return of war and totalitarianism.
-- Emma Fox