Werewolves. I really am not sure why I love them so much but I always have. When I was spending most of my Saturday afternoons watching Shock Theatre as a kid, Lon Chaney Jr.’s The Wolfman became my hands-down favorite. Later, An American Werewolf in London became my favorite horror film of the 80s and gave me a lifelong admiration for Rick Baker’s work, due mostly to the unforgettable transformation scene.
Recently I showed Beth American Werewolf and was so glad she liked it (she’s usually not up for horror films, but we make it all work somehow). In fact, I was delighted as it’s a film I can watch over and over again, all the while wishing John Landis would do another major project (this was not it). Meeting, and getting to briefly hang out with, David Naughton (the American Werewolf in London) was one of the high points of my book tour last October.
And, of course, there are the werewolves of history. One of the most interesting aspects of the early modern witch hunts in Europe has to do with the French fascination with the loup garrou, the werewolf. Shapeshifters came to be seen as one of Satan’s premier servants, people who could transform into powerful demonic wolves because, like witches, they had made a pact with the Horned Man. In most of the stories, the Devil gave them an ointment that allowed their transformation. Like an evil Estee Lauder. Ok, like a more evil Estee Lauder.
I’m currently reading Jay M. Smith’s Monsters of Gevaudan: The Making of a Beast that explores the panics over a werewolf-like monster terrorized southern France in the 1760s. I’ll probably post a review here when I’m done. Everything I’ve read suggests that this is an incredibly important work of cultural history that locates monster tales in the story of emerging modernity…or at least in the emergence of a narrative about modernity.
No new blog post this previous week…both because of a head cold that would not die (and then seemed to come back for inevitable and inferior sequels) and because of all the other writing and prep work I’ve been doing.
March will be a busy month for me, including no less than three roundtable discussions about everything from our fascination with the apocalypse to evil and the meaning of the Frankenstein tale. I’m especially excited about the latter, taking place at Canisius College in Buffalo, because I’ll sit on the panel with two of my favorite novelists—Sheri Holman (Witches on the Road Tonight) and Christopher Bram (Gods and Monsters—the basis of the Oscar-winning film.).
Later this month, I’ll be giving the keynote at Coastal Carolina’s Phi Alpha Theta ceremony, probably talking about monsters and the history of the body. I’m also a guest at the UCF Book Festival in Orlando at the end of the month.
Keep an eye out for more blog posts coming soon. I’ve decided that, as the spring gets busier, I hope to post more, but shorter, ruminations on Monsters in America.
Have you picked up Monsters in America yet? Thought about using it for a class? Here and here are a couple of reviews. I’ve also been skyping into classes the last couple of semesters that have been using the book and that have been great fun. I’ll skype into yours too!