"Inventive, original, and endlessly interesting,
Preparing the Ghost is a gorgeous exploration of myth, history, language, and imagination. . . . A journey through passion, obsession, fear, and adventure, and the hunger to behold what lurks within the depths of the sea."
"The most original book I have read in years."
"Slyly charming. . . . stunning writing and perversely wonderful research. . . . Alluring. It’s hard to imagine a better book about not entirely understanding giant squids."
New York Times Book Review - Jon Mooallem
"Totally original and haunting in the way you’d expect a book about a real life Presbyterian clergyman and amateur naturalist from the late-19th century—and his relationship with a giant squid—to be."
Flavorwire - Jason Diamond
"A mysterious but seductive mix of history, creative non-fiction, memoir, and poetry. . . . keeps the reader riveted with the lure of the unknown and dark, sultry prose."
"A multi-tentacled and entirely captivating saga of profound mystery and relentless pursuit."
"Part history, part lyric poem, part detective novel—Matthew Gavin Frank’s
Preparing the Ghost is just as intriguing and hard to classify as its subject. I never thought I’d care so much about the elusive giant squid, but thanks to this book, I can’t help but see its shadow everywhere."
Preparing the Ghost, Frank's slyly charming book-length essay, explores Harvey's compulsion to understand the mystery of the giant squid and also Frank's compulsion to understand compulsions like Harvey's. Frank is interested in both the way we mythologize what we can't fully understand and the amount of uncertainty that surrounds every story…Frank winds up musing about a lotit's a wide-ranging bookbut the giant squid is always pulsating somewhere in the darkness underneath it all…It's hard to imagine a better book about not entirely understanding giant squids.
The New York Times Book Review - Jon Mooallem
In this four-part essay, Frank (Pot Farm) chronicles his research into a 19th-century Newfoundland eccentric who photographed a giant squid, though as a creative work it is less interested in the facts of its subject than in the questions it raises. Readers interested in cryptozoology may be disappointed to find information about the creature spread diffusely throughout the larger narrative, but this is fitting for a subject defined by its elusiveness, a creature of quasi-mythic status and “exaggerated melodrama.” Frank’s inquiry is concerned primarily with the nature of myth and our tendency to “mythologize the actual,” in this case a beast made marvelous by the “fusion of its size and its rarity.” He sifts through historical interest in the squid to ask questions about the nature of empathy, our means for “sharing our obsessions,” and the role of myth as “expression of our greatest semi-imagined fears.” Woven into these big questions are little stories, personal anecdotes, family history, and profiles of contemporary and historic players in the narrative of the giant squid. In this blending of the large and small, Frank sees human lives that are “delicious, disturbing, and downright huge,” and expresses his personal experience with a seldom encountered subject. (July)
Preparing the Ghost reads like a cross between Walt Whitman and a fever dream. Who would think squid and ice cream go together? I remained riveted to the very last word."
"Matthew Gavin Frank has fashioned a book-length essay marked by unforeseen oneiric asides, and of real and imaginary escapades in search of one Newfoundlander’s giant squid.
Preparing the Ghost is a mash-up of a meditation on the nature of myth, the magnetic distance between preservation and perseverance, and the “sympathetic cravings” that undergird pain. In Frank’s heart-thumping taxonomy, monstrous behemoths square nicely with butterflies and ice cream. Don’t ask me how: read this book!"
"A great essay takes us into the author’s polymathic mind and out to the wondrous world, teaching us something we didn’t know we wanted to know. In
Preparing the Ghost’s deliciously delirious layering of science, biography, history, mystery, linguistics, myth, philosophy, epistemology, adventure, travel Matthew Gavin Frank has given us a truly great essay."
"Matthew Gavin Frank reinvents the art of research in extraordinarily imaginative ways. His meditation on the briefly known and the forever unknowable courts lore (both family and creaturely), invites the fantastical, heeds fact, and turns the human drive to notate and list into a gesture of lyrical beauty."
"What a marvelous essay Matthew Gavin Frank has written.
Preparing the Ghost is driven by narrative, by lyric association, by memoir, by lists, by research, by imagination. Frank delivers this story of Moses Harvey, the first person to photograph the giant squid, with a passion as supercharged as Harvey’s own. Above all, this is an essay about obsession, mystery, mythmaking, and the colossal size of our lives. Take it all in. Revel in its majesty."
"One of the handsomest, most elusive creatures on earth and its first photographer get their close-up in Matthew Gavin Frank’s marvelous
Preparing the Ghost."
Vanity Fair - Elissa Schappell
"In a book as coiled, strange and tentacular as its subject, Matthew Gavin Frank considers the squid.
Preparing the Ghost: An Essay Concerning the Giant Squid and Its First Photographer is an act of love and erudition."
An investigation of our first encounters with the giant squid, a creature “more bizarre than anything appearing inStar Wars.”Poet and creative writing teacher Frank (The Morrow Plants: Poems, 2013, etc.) moves like a wraith around the myth, superstition and spirit of the giant squid—and not as a single-subject exploration but through the conjured memory of Moses Harvey, a preacher in Newfoundland during the mid-1800s. Harvey had heard stories of the beast—a kraken, a devil-fish that lived up to its name—and one morning in 1874, he was able to lay eyes on one. It was washed ashore, dead, but damn if he wasn’t going to commune with the creature up close and personal. He paid some men to carry the squid to his tub—“Nothing says domestication like a giant squid strung over a clawfoot bathtub”—before he said farewell and shipped it off to Yale for safekeeping. Surrounding the event is a great embroidery of story: “I am mythmaking, I suppose,” writes Frank, and he does it with transporting authority. Readers walk through the cold, pins-and-needles rain that falls forever in Newfoundland and perambulate the town as Frank walked it in modern times. The author concocts the background out of whole cloth, an imagined scenario. Though there are facts enough to keep it real, there are also moments in which there is a strong sense of the unconscious at work. “Somewhere, in the recesses of these recessive versions of our dominant truths,” writes Frank, “behind a daisy chain of lanterns and Darwin’s theories drunk and conga-lining, Rudolph Valentino was blond.” This track eventually wends its way back to myth and Newfoundland.Fantastical, atmospherically moody and Poe-like in its laudanum-fueled dreaminess.