75 in 2015: October, Part II

Psycho USAPsycho USA: Famous American Killers You Never Heard Of by Harold Schechter (2012)

Okay, so the title is a little clickbait-ish. I passed it up several times before checking it out from my library’s e-book selection just because of the title. I was pleasantly surprised by the content though. Don’t judge a book by its cover, right? What we’ve got here is short snippets of the crimes that were infamous for their day – and often similar to those that still live on in pop culture today – but were ultimately forgotten. All of the “crimes of the century” that faded. I really enjoyed how the book gave you short blurbs about crime (a few pages each) grouped into time periods with a little bit of analysis and context in between. It really worked and made this an enjoyable read.

And fyi – I love a good historic crime television show and only recognized one of the crimes mentioned. Pretty good, I think.

From Amazon.com: “In the horrifying annals of American crime, the infamous names of brutal killers such as Bundy, Dahmer, Gacy, and Berkowitz are writ large in the imaginations of a public both horrified and hypnotized by their monstrous, murderous acts. But for every celebrity psychopath who’s gotten ink for spilling blood, there’s a bevy of all-but-forgotten homicidal fiends studding the bloody margins of U.S. history. The law gave them their just desserts, but now the hugely acclaimed author of The Serial Killer Files and The Whole Death Catalog gives them their dark due in this absolutely riveting true-crime treasury.”

ArbusAn Emergency in Slow Motion: The Inner Life of Diane Arbus by William Todd Schultz (2011)

I didn’t like this one. I found it incredibly boring – and it certainly didn’t help that the book described photograph after photograph that I couldn’t actually see without looking them up online. I don’t know. . . my response to the psychological analysis of Arbus was pretty much “ugh, get over it.” I’m not proud of this reaction as I take mental illness very seriously, but it is what it is. The book was slow and seemed to rehash the same thing over and over again; I struggled to finish it. My least favorite so far this year.

From Amazon.com: “Diane Arbus was one of the most brilliant and revered photographers in the history of American art. Her portraits, in stark black and white, seemed to reveal the psychological truths of their subjects. But after she committed suicide in 1971, at the age of forty-eight, the presumed chaos and darkness of her own inner life became, for many viewers, inextricable from her work. In the spirit of Janet Malcolm’s classic examination of Sylvia Plath, The Silent Woman, William Todd Schultz’s An Emergency in Slow Motion reveals the creative and personal struggles of Diane Arbus. Schultz veers from traditional biography to interpret Arbus’s life through the prism of four central mysteries: her outcast affinity, her sexuality, the secrets she kept and shared, and her suicide. He seeks not to diagnose Arbus, but to discern some of the private motives behind her public works and acts. In this approach, Schultz not only goes deeper into Arbus’s life than any previous writer, but provides a template with which to think about the creative life in general.”

MoreauThe Island of Dr. Moreau by H. G. Wells (1896)

Excellent. I’m a big Wells fan, so I was surprised to be picking this up for the first time.

From Amazon.com: “A shipwreck in the South Seas, a palm-tree paradise where a mad doctor conducts vile experiments, animals that become human and then “beastly” in ways they never were before–it’s the stuff of high adventure. It’s also a parable about Darwinian theory, a social satire in the vein of Jonathan Swift (Gulliver’s Travels), and a bloody tale of horror. Or, as H. G. Wells himself wrote about this story, “The Island of Dr. Moreau is an exercise in youthful blasphemy. Now and then, though I rarely admit it, the universe projects itself towards me in a hideous grimace. It grimaced that time, and I did my best to express my vision of the aimless torture in creation.” This colorful tale by the author of The Time Machine, The Invisible Man, and The War of the Worlds lit a firestorm of controversy at the time of its publication in 1896.”

2015 total books: 69
2015 total pages read: 13,507
2015 total pages listened to: 8,013

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