BN.com Gift Guide

Nightmare On Main Street / Edition 1

Paperback (Print)
Buy Used
Buy Used from BN.com
$16.50
Used and New from Other Sellers
Used and New from Other Sellers
from $5.75
Usually ships in 1-2 business days
(Save 73%)
Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (15) from $5.75   
  • New (6) from $16.82   
  • Used (9) from $5.75   

Overview

Once we've terrified ourselves reading Anne Rice or Stephen King, watching Halloween or following the O. J. Simpson trial, we can rely on the comfort of our inner child or Robert Bly's bongos, an angel, or even a crystal. In a brilliant assessment of American culture on the eve of the millennium, Mark Edmundson asks why we're determined to be haunted, courting the Gothic at every turn--and, at the same time, committed to escape through any new scheme for ready-made transcendence.

Nightmare on Main Street depicts a culture suffused with the Gothic, not just in novels and films but even in the nonfictive realms of politics and academic theories, TV news and talk shows, various therapies, and discourses on AIDS and the environment. Gothic's first wave, in the 1790s, reflected the truly terrifying events unfolding in revolutionary France. What, Edmundson asks, does the ascendancy of the Gothic in the 1990s tell us about our own day?

And what of another trend, seemingly unrelated--the widespread belief that re-creating oneself is as easy as making a wish? Looking at the world according to Forrest Gump, Edmundson shows how this parallel culture actually works reciprocally with the Gothic.

An unchecked fixation on the Gothic, Edmundson argues, would result in a culture of sadomasochism. Against such a rancorous and dispiriting possibility, he draws on the work of Nietzsche and Shelley, and on the recent creations of Toni Morrison and Tony Kushner, to show how the Gothic and the visionary can come together in persuasive and renovating ways.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

The New Yorker

[A] compelling explanation of our ever more ghoulish obsessions.

— Jeffrey Toobin

Canadian Review of Literature

One cannot but admire the forward pressure of the argument, the breadth of reference, the passion with which it is conducted, and, at times, the passages of analysis.

— Francis Devlin-Glass

New York Times

Absorbing...The Gothic thrives, Edmundson argues, in a world in which 'those in authority—the supposed exemplars of the good—are under suspicion,' a world in which cynicism ('the conviction that the worst truth that you can come up with about any person or event is the most consequential truth') is a given...Drawing upon his considerable knowledge of American and European literature, Edmundson does a nimble job of situating the current Gothic craze in context with philosophical developments, while at the same time assessing its social consequences...Nightmare on Main Street is a provocative and often illuminating book.

— Michiko Kakutani

Washington Post Book World

Edmundson's book has a simple yet visionary thesis. America—the patient—is infected with a psychological virus that fosters a death-worshipping attitude toward existence...Edmundson's clarity of vision, airtight logic, and captivating prose...succeed in convincing the reader of his thesis...[He] is strongly conversant with classic Anglo-American literature, movies and television. Part of this book's intellectual charm is that he draws on such a heterogeneous range of supporting examples, from Oprah to Hitchcock, from Wordsworth to Robert Bly, from Wes Craven to Keats.

— Paul Di Fillippo

News & Observer

I never would have thought that Forrest Gump, Sigmund Freud and O.J. Simpson had anything to do with one another. But Mark Edmundson turns them into one big, dysfunctional family in his provocative new book about contemporary American culture...The strength of Edmundson's analysis is his ability to use the concept of the gothic sensibility to tie together seemingly disparate strands of contemporary culture and show how our view of reality is shaped by them...I suggest Nightmare on Main Street to readers who want to understand the stories America tells itself.
— Greg Beatty

The New Yorker - Jeffrey Toobin
[A] compelling explanation of our ever more ghoulish obsessions.
Canadian Review of Literature - Francis Devlin-Glass
One cannot but admire the forward pressure of the argument, the breadth of reference, the passion with which it is conducted, and, at times, the passages of analysis.
New York Times - Edward Rothstein
In his provocative book about the Gothic, Mr. Edmundson notes that the genre flourished in the years after the French Revolution. Those drafty castles with their dark secrets, the vampirish counts and the leering clergymen were all embodiments of the ancient regime, the old feudal order haunting the unsteady world of the new. Modern innocents are lured into that realm and nearly overwhelmed by it, until they exorcise its demonic control. The past is finally passed. The disgusting is contained, controlled, overcome. But today, Mr. Edmundson argues there is no clear resolution to our Gothic tales. Their haunting addictions and demonic figures keep reappearing in rock videos, computer games, television talk shows and horror films. But the villainy is ambiguous...No sooner do we start to hate the wife abuser on a talk show than we learn that he too is a haunted victim of abuse or a recovering addict. We are all villains and all victims.
New York Times - Michiko Kakutani
Absorbing...The Gothic thrives, Edmundson argues, in a world in which 'those in authority--the supposed exemplars of the good--are under suspicion,' a world in which cynicism ('the conviction that the worst truth that you can come up with about any person or event is the most consequential truth') is a given...Drawing upon his considerable knowledge of American and European literature, Edmundson does a nimble job of situating the current Gothic craze in context with philosophical developments, while at the same time assessing its social consequences...Nightmare on Main Street is a provocative and often illuminating book.
Washington Post Book World - Paul Di Fillippo
Edmundson's book has a simple yet visionary thesis. America--the patient--is infected with a psychological virus that fosters a death-worshipping attitude toward existence...Edmundson's clarity of vision, airtight logic, and captivating prose...succeed in convincing the reader of his thesis...[He] is strongly conversant with classic Anglo-American literature, movies and television. Part of this book's intellectual charm is that he draws on such a heterogeneous range of supporting examples, from Oprah to Hitchcock, from Wordsworth to Robert Bly, from Wes Craven to Keats.
News & Observer - Greg Beatty
I never would have thought that Forrest Gump, Sigmund Freud and O.J. Simpson had anything to do with one another. But Mark Edmundson turns them into one big, dysfunctional family in his provocative new book about contemporary American culture...The strength of Edmundson's analysis is his ability to use the concept of the gothic sensibility to tie together seemingly disparate strands of contemporary culture and show how our view of reality is shaped by them...I suggest Nightmare on Main Street to readers who want to understand the stories America tells itself.
Boyd Tonkin
According to some critics, most of today's popular culture can fall under the enveloping shroud of a "Gothic" rubri. For a witty, lucid but fanciful essay in this vein [read] Nightmare on Main Street...This is fascinating, smartly-written stuff.
The Independent
Kirkus Reviews
What do Richard Nixon, Freddy Krueger, O.J. Simpson, and Edgar Allan Poe have in common with one another—but not with Percy Bysshe Shelley and Ralph Waldo Emerson? Answer: The former express our nation's cult of gothic guilt and fear; the latter are potential models of redemption.

Edmundson (English/Univ. of Virginia) argues that the gothic mindset, exemplified in lurid classics of the late 18th century (e.g., Walpole's The Castle of Otranto and Lewis's The Monk) dominates contemporary American culture. From these works he distills categories that he finds ubiquitous in modern pop culture, including protagonists equally divided between good and wicked selves, scenarios in which dungeons or other underground scenes of sadomasochistic horror figure prominently, the hidden past that refuses to die (in recovered-memory syndrome), and so forth. Racism is, above all else, the part of the American past that refuses to die, haunting us in fiction (Toni Morrison's Beloved), in the news (O.J.), and in cinema. Edmundson has written an entertaining and thoughtful book, but his overly elastic thesis occasionally gets the better of his good judgment. He is prone to write outlandish things, making his book at times a lurid bit of American gothic itself. His arguments often fall into the categories he criticizes: Poe, for example, is Emerson's evil twin in the American tradition (his America seems divided between angels and incubi). Though he justifiably scorns the recent angel craze as an expression of phony transcendence, he also presents Shelley, Emerson, Whitman, and even Nietzsche as angels of a sort (he calls them "visionaries") who might deliver us from our abject need. One might say that this book's thesis belongs in the American tradition of cultural pessimism, the very malady for which it purports to be the cure.

Even though Edmundson's main thesis is overdrawn, his book is rewarding. It has many startling insights, shrewd observations, and considerable narrative momentum.

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674624634
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/1999
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 212
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.45 (d)

Meet the Author

Mark Edmundson is Professor of English at the University of Virginia. His books include Literature against Philosophy, Plato to Derrida; and Wild Orchids and Trotsky.
Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Preface

American Gothic

The World According to Forrest Gump

S & M Culture

Notes

Index

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(0)

4 Star

(0)

3 Star

(0)

2 Star

(0)

1 Star

(0)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)