Praise for Wasteland
Recipient of the AudioFile Magazine Earphones Award (Audiobook)
“Through books, movies, and more, noted historian Poole traces the roots of modern horror to a singular event that shaped the world forever: WWI. His thesis is that the barbarism of war never fades. With his earnest intensity, Eiden sounds like an energetic history professor who knows he's appreciated by his audience. While the descriptions of war can be horrifying indeed, both author and narrator weave an engaging and insightful listen that captures the reality of battle with a sensitive and respectful touch.” AudioFile Magazine
"Wasteland, W. Scott Poole’s exploration of some of the Great War’s consequences for popular art, is fully attuned to the conflict’s devastating psychological impact . . . Highly persuasive . . . Poole’s general conclusions about World War I’s transformation into art, and the process of psychological displacement that accompanied it, are incontestable." D.J. Taylor, The Wall Street Journal
"Thoroughly engrossing cultural study . . . Poole persuasively argues that the birth of horror as a genre is rooted in the unprecedented destruction and carnage of WWI . . . Will make it hard for readers who haven’t considered the wartime context for horror’s emergence to forget it." Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Elegantly written and cogently argued, Wasteland convincingly demonstrates the modern horror genre's origins in the great Dance of Death that was the First World War." David J. Skal, author of The Monster Show: A Cultural History of Horror
"W. Scott Poole combines smart readings of the horror classics with detailed knowledge of twentieth-century history, art, and literature to dig deep into the serious side of these popular entertainments. I thought I already knew the subject inside out, but Wasteland introduced me to fresh facts, new ideas, and surprising connections. This is cultural history of a very high order: intelligent, lively, and wonderfully readable." Christopher Bram, author of Gods and Monsters
“Poole brings a scholar’s eye to the horror found in literature, film and other artistic expressions ever since [World War I] . . . Wasteland will appeal to film and military buffs, horror fans, those interested in popular culture and those who seek a better understanding of the escalating violence of the last 100 years . . . A fascinating read.” Bill Schwab, The Missourian
"Tackling the indescribable horrors of wartime is a delicate but necessary task, as Poole ventures in his latest title. Beginning with the Great War, the author exhaustively discusses the influences each era’s war had on their directors, writers, actors and audiences of the horror genre, all while giving history lessons of the war in tow." Ahlissa Eichhorn, Fangoria
"Wasteland spans multiple nations, dozens of battles, and traces how warfare influenced artists of all crafts. Moving beyond prejudiced perceptions of high- and low-brow art, as well as the various designations used to pigeonhole artists, Poole reveals the connective tissue holding together the bones of modern monsters." Dustin Waters, Charleston City Paper
“A fascinating read.” Wayne Miller, Vampires.com
"Poole brings a scholar's eye and a devotee's heart to a study of the literary, film, and artistic incarnations of horror from the World War I period to today." Kirkus Reviews
“[A] fascinating new book about how [World War I] reshaped western culture . . . Poole is a very gifted writer.” Gene Walz, Winnipeg Free Press
“Poole writes with empathic insight . . . The arc of Wasteland spans wide across the arts . . . He writes fluidly and with sharp intent about the traumatized and boundary shattering anxieties shot through the work of the postwar surrealists, the war-inflected apocalyptic racist horror of Lovecraft, and what he sees as the shadow of war in the fiction of Kafka . . . His skilled knitting together of a broad range of genres and the spirit of unease permeating them all carries its own salient kind of moral horror.” Chris Barsanti, Rain Taxi
“A sophisticated work of cultural history . . . The book's wide-ranging erudition, strong prose, and clear love and fascination with both history and horror . . . will appeal to a variety of readers.” Jesse Kavadlo, PopMatters
In this thoroughly engrossing cultural study, Poole (In the Mountains of Madness), a history professor at the College of Charleston, persuasively argues that the birth of horror as a genre is rooted in the unprecedented destruction and carnage of WWI. Filmmakers and artists, many of them veterans, he proposes, saw in horror imagery a way to critique war, and thereby “transformed fantasy into a simulacrum of reality.” Poole locates glimpses of the war’s horrors in work produced during and soon after it—not only explicit references, as in the trench warfare art of Otto Dix and the war dead rising at the end of Abel Gance’s film J’Accuse, but in more subliminal images: the technologized tools of killing in Kafka’s story “In the Penal Colony”; the somnambulist who unthinkingly obeys an authoritarian master in the film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari; images of body dismemberment in Freud’s essay The Uncanny. Although some may feel that Poole overstates the proliferation of war horror images in the arts, his extensive and well-supported citations will make it hard for readers who haven’t considered the wartime context for horror’s emergence to forget it. Agent: Deirdre Mullane, Mullane Literary. (Oct.)
Poole (History/Coll. of Charleston; In the Mountains of Madness: The Life and Extraordinary Afterlife of H.P. Lovecraft, 2016, etc.) brings a scholar's eye and a devotee's heart to a study of the literary, film, and artistic incarnations of horror from the World War I period to today.
This is really two books, one an excellent examination of the nightmare repercussions of the Great War and a second that is only partially successful in tying it to the origins of horror as entertainment—and catharsis. Tales of the macabre existed long before the war, but the author argues that the war remains the true wellspring of the modern genre. His evidence makes a persuasive case, up to a point. The book is obviously the result of significant research, but Poole spends too much time playing amateur psychologist in an effort to support his premise, frequently interpreting the facts to fit his conjectures. The author's command of literary and film studies is evident, and he takes care to examine a wide range of noted works and their creators rather than just the standard-bearers. But he also undercuts his arguments through overstatement—e.g., claiming that the recent rash of zombie films and TV is "a national obsession." An astute exploration of the cultural significance of a film like Nosferatu is one thing, but some readers may have a hard time taking seriously the claim that an orgy of ooze like the dreadful 1982 remake of The Thing is a "classic." This is not a matter of being dismissive of genre works, which can be superb, or of the author, who is clearly a sharp, talented historian.
A mixed bag studded with insights and flaws. Poole, who tends to conflate his personal tastes with high art, fires pre-emptive strikes against critics dismissive of the horror genre, but he fails to accept the legitimate reasons why these judgments hold sway.