rushthatspeaks: (sparklepony only wants to read)
[personal profile] rushthatspeaks
By the time you finish reading this review, I intend to convince you that you have seen a ghost. I believe that in the majority of cases I will be successful.

Yes, I do mean you, whoever you are, reading this now. And yes, by ghost I do mean a spectre raised from an untimely grave to torment the guilt of the living and deny the peace of the dead, and by seen I mean seen, with your eyes, or possibly in some circumstances heard with your ears; I mean these things absolutely literally.

Having said that, I will now proceed to tell you that this slender little book of literary criticism, The National Uncanny, is one of the very best books I have read in an extremely long time, one of those books which makes the inside of the reader's head a different and a better place. It is a study of the figure of the Native American as ghost in American literature, but it contains wildly impressive theoretical insights on a variety of different topics at the rate of slightly more than one insight per paragraph. I found myself trying to quote some of the better bits to my wife a while ago and discovered I was literally just reading out loud without being able to skip anything. This is not the way I am accustomed to academic criticism working, although it is the way I would always like it to work.

What Bergland has done here is to look at the figure of the Native American as ghost from the very beginning of writings by and about Native Americans in English in what is now the United States, and then proceed through history to note changes in the tropes involved, up until the late twentieth century. In order to do this, Bergland has had to define what the figuring of Native Americans as ghosts in American literature is, what purposes it serves in literature and in culture, who has used the trope, and for what reasons they might have used it. All of this she has done, clearly and concisely and with beautifully complete documentation.

So let's start with ghosts, what is a ghost? What was a ghost in Europe? What was a ghost to the Northern Europeans who came to colonize North America?

A ghost, in pre-Enlightenment Europe, Bergland answers, is: a), a public phenomenon. It is visible to many. It may not be visible at all times, but if one person in a group sees it, all will, because the ghost is present on public business-- it is, b), the evidence of a crime. A ghost may haunt because of murder, or the theft or concealment of property, or fraud, or rape, or the illegal transfer of power in a kingdom, all of which are public affairs, crimes which it is in the public interest to have solved. Look at the ghosts in Shakespeare. It was a revolutionary dramaturgical gesture at the end of the nineteenth century to have Hamlet's father's ghost played as an offstage voice and to make it obvious to the theatre-goers that only Hamlet saw him. For generations before that, everyone on stage had seen him, and had been seen by the audience to be frightened. There is some question as to whether this sort of ghost is physically tangible, but there is no doubt of its being audible, if it speaks. It demands resolution for the crime that created it, either via selfish revenge or unselfish justice. It is also, c), a legacy handed down from ancestors. If Hamlet had decamped for Paris suddenly in the night, his father's ghost would have haunted Elsinore over the generations, until something was done by somebody to appease it, if indeed anything ever could. And a lot of the ghost stories one gets, in old Europe, are stories of ghosts which are signs of crimes generations or centuries old. They are part of both common and familial inheritance, manifesting as public scandals and as family curses and birthrights. Elsinore, haunted thusly, would have to be exorcised by Hamlet's descendants.

But in America and in modernity, we get a different kind of ghost. The characteristics of the post-Enlightenment ghost, and of the American ghost from the time of colonization, are as follows: a), the ghost is a private phenomenon. It appears to one person exclusively, or to a small group of beleaguered people, who are generally far away from society or who cannot get anyone to believe them. Sometimes, one person in a group may see it, or touch it, in the presence of others who do not know or believe it is there. There is generally no public acknowledgement of the haunting beyond dark and disbelieved rumor (whereas back in Europe you can take a tour to see the Screaming Skull of Bettiscombe). The new ghost is still, b), the evidence of a crime, but the crime may be murkier. The motivations of the ghost are less clear. There are a lot of vampire legends in New England, or there's that Rhode Island ghost of a young lady who may or may not have thrown herself or been thrown into a river. Suicide, infanticide, ghosts of incest, ghosts which do not speak, or which when they speak do not tell the hearers what must be done to let them rest. They do not call for the solving of the crimes of which they are symbolic. And, c), these ghosts are not ancestral to their viewers. They are strangers, and there may not even be local folklore which is clear on the subject, as with the Rhode Island young lady (suicide? murder? what was her name again? there are several distinct versions of it, which do not sound alike). To exorcise one, you do not need to be linked by blood, or by birth in the area. But it is much harder to tell if you have gotten rid of one, because their appearances are so limited, so subjective. They are not a force which produces societal justice; they are a force which produces individual madness.

At this point Bergland made an entire set of things come together in my brain by explaining the difference between the American and the European Gothic in fiction. In the European Gothic, the uncanny, whatever it is, is attempting to tear down a previously constructed edifice (building, society, family) from which it has come, while the non-uncanny elements of the story are trying to preserve the edifice. In the American Gothic, the non-uncanny elements of the story are trying to create such an edifice (building, society, family), and the uncanny, coming from outside, is trying to destroy it. Suddenly everything from Poe* to Shirley Jackson to Anne Rivers Siddons' The House Next Door made infinitely more sense. The difference in Gothic traditions is of course at least partially because of the difference between types of ghost.

Why the change in the American ghost? Well, partly because of the rise of the modern scientific method, and the development of ways to test the empirical validity of the supernatural. And partly because colonists in the Americas could not take their ancestors with them, moving from a built-up landscape full of folklore and traditions they understood to a landscape they could not see as fully settled, full of folklore and traditions they did not know. And partly because of the rise of interiority and subjectivity as useful societal concepts, and the intersection of interiority and subjectivity with the newly-minted American Dream. Bergland is literally the first writer I have seen mention that the United States began as a colonized country and became a colonial power, and that the second required systematic repression of the knowledge of what it had been like to be the first. This repression was produced at least partially via the myth of American exceptionalism: we won the American Revolution because we are just so gosh-darn special. Therefore, if we keep winning things, we keep on being special. A widespread mythology on both a national and a personal level-- and this is where that intersection of interiority with national myth comes in, that particular Puritan-Calvinist slant which says that if you won you must deserve to win, and if not, not. The awareness that no one can win everything all the time, and that those who do not win are not worthless, remains despite its repression. The American Dream as a system for judging self-worth is a false consciousness, and therefore, as are all false consciousnesses, it is haunted. You see, then, why the new ghost is so nebulous: it cannot be entirely banished until the false consciousness is banished, but the pervasive national mythology does not allow societal awareness of the falsity. Nameless crimes, nameless shames, nameless fears of not living up to a value system which is beyond human capabilities.

Which dovetails nicely with the fact that in the process of establishing their colonies the American colonists in fact committed a great many crimes, horrible ones, genocide and attempted genocide and murder and theft and fraud and rape and the illegal transfer of power in many kingdoms, so many crimes they have not been and cannot be documented in their entirety. Just the milieu in which one would expect an Old World ghost, publicly crying for justice. Just the milieu in which an Old World ghost, with its public exposure of crime and call for action, cannot be societally acknowledged.

Consequently white settlers have seen Native Americans as ghosts, and represented them as such in literature, from pretty much the first, and the new style of American ghost emerged out of this. The results of this process have even become on some levels reassuring: the train of thought goes, they're haunting us, so they serve as surrogate ancestors (Old World ghost-style), which gives our claim to the land a certain legitimacy, but they're not haunting us publicly enough to demand we do anything about it (subjectivity!).

And of course haunting, and the Native American as a ghost, implies something else very reassuring to the white settler too, doesn't it? It implies that all the Native Americans are dead. Or will be soon. It relegates them to the past. You don't have to pay as much attention, in some ways, to the crimes shown you by a ghost, as you do the crimes being committed against a real, living person with whom you have to coexist. Seeing the living person as a ghost means that on some level there's nothing you can do about the crime, that the crime has already been committed. This allows you to go on committing the crime with only that nagging sense that something deeply under the surface is wrong... which comes from being haunted in the first place, you can tell yourself. Seeing the Native American as a ghost actually served as a justification for the continuing removal of Native Americans from their land, because they were 'doomed', because 'their extinction was inevitable', the 'vanishing Indians'. This rhetoric is all over three-and-a-half centuries of American public speech, despite the fact that it is not remotely based in actual physical realities.

This is where we come to something else very interesting. As I have mentioned, Bergland describes the history of the trope of Native American as ghost in American literature, and the changes of that trope. Who uses the trope?

In every single instance-- from the very first usage through every significant change in trope that Bergland can find-- the Native American as a ghost appears first in work by Native American or otherwise culturally marginalized authors, and is then appropriated and changed in meaning by subsequent mainstream writers. Every time.**

The body of Bergland's scholarship is her list of examples of this appropriation. Her examples range freely through the eighteenth, nineteenth, and early twentieth centuries and describe in fascinating detail the work of a number of writers I now wish to read, such as the Pequot and Mashpee activist William Apess, whose policies of civil disobedience were a demonstrable influence on Thoreau, and whose rhetoric Hawthorne appears to have almost precisely inverted, intentionally or otherwise, in amazingly twitchy ways. (Hawthorne and Apess lived in the same small town at the same time.) One does not really need another addition to that portion of American letters composed of brutal takedowns of James Fenimore Cooper, since it is already such a well-respected art form, but Bergland's evisceration of the politics of interracial romance between Native American men and white women in Cooper's work as compared to the politics of interracial romance between Native American men and white women in previous best-selling works by female authors is breathtaking.

But the discussion I find most interesting is the late twentieth-century one, because it demonstrates so clearly the effect that this kind of appropriation can have on public life.

In 1977, Leslie Marmon Silko published Ceremony (another book I now intend to read). Ceremony is centered on Laguna Pueblo traditions. In it, there are a lot of ghostly figures, which for Bergland fall into two categories: the protagonist and his family, who are Laguna (the protagonist is a shellshocked veteran, ghostly in his own life; other family members and his lover are more or less supernatural figures); and white people, who were literally created in a witchcraft contest held centuries ago between Native Americans. White people are the deathly and fearful ghosts the Native Americans brought forth, who exist mostly in Native Americans' minds but who can do real, physical damage. They do not have agency in themselves, having been produced in a way that was a manifestation of evil, but also therefore cannot prevent themselves or necessarily be prevented from continuing to do great evil. This is a literal reversal of the usual discourse. Whites are seen here the way that white authors have represented spectral Indians. The arc of the protagonist is an emergence from marginalization and ghostliness in his own life via embrace of his culture and his cultural ideals, in ways which echo traditional Laguna stories. Eventually, for his own spiritual good, he even learns to transcend his hatred of white people, a vital step for him because he is part-white. Again, this is something of a trope-reversal-- just picture the sort of book this would be with the races reversed, well-meaning, naive, and probably out there somewhere. Ceremony received a lot of critical acclaim and is a famous novel of which I have heard all my life. I have not, however, had it directly suggested to me that I should read it, had it assigned to me in school, etc.

Also in the late 1970s, the Native tribes of Maine were on the verge of winning a suit they had brought to reclaim land which was theirs by treaty. The suit went on for a decade and could have threatened the land title of most of Maine's white residents. Tensions ran high, and there was significant public outcry against the Penobscot and Passamaquoddy tribes in the Maine press and elsewhere. The suit was settled in 1980.

In 1982, Stephen King, a Maine novelist, published Pet Sematary, a horror novel in which the protagonist and his family move into a house which is in front of a Micmac burial ground. (The Micmacs, note, used to be in a cultural confederacy with the Penobscots and Passamaquoddies, speak a similar language, and have similar customs.) The ghosts in the burial ground, and a cannibal god-figure represented as a version of the Wendigo, soon haunt the protagonist and his family, deathly, fearful ghosts who may have been created by the family's own dreams and hopes (specifically for the resurrection of the dead), but who have plenty of capacity to do real, physical damage. We are not really told how much agency they have, but we are told that they do great evil. Meanwhile the protagonist and his family attempt to cling to their traditional ways of life, settling and establishing themselves firmly against the Micmac menace and not in any way going and asking anyone from the tribe what they ought to do about the ghosts or how they could be respectful to the burial ground, until they are all eventually pulled down into a morass of ghostly loss of identity, zombiehood, possession and madness. Silko's protagonist's arc in reverse, and a re-reversal of the tropes she took and changed from the previous American cultural dialogue. Pet Sematary is a very best-selling novel of which I have heard all my life. I had read it by the time I reached high school and had seen the also very popular film before I entered college.

I do think the difference in levels of popularity is noteworthy and was not merely my experience, the difference between 'critically-acclaimed' and 'massive movie-producing bestseller'. Which book took deeper hold of pop-cultural imagination? Whites as ghosts, or Native Americans as ghosts? Well, when I described the circumstances above to several people in my daily life after reading Bergland's book-- that King wrote Pet Sematary in the context of a real lawsuit-- every single person I described it to made the same assumption when I asked them what they thought the outcome of the lawsuit would have been.

They assumed the tribes lost.

In actual fact, the tribes won approximately eighty million dollars and three hundred thousand acres of land, plus various things involving tribal sovereignty. Everyone I asked the question was delighted to hear this, but also genuinely shocked, astonished. Really, really surprised, because that's not how the narrative goes. Sure, in King's book the Indian ghosts win, but you know it's temporary, and also it's described as a terrible thing. They remain ghosts. Uncanny. Separate. Over there somewhere. Disruptive to the community. And that's the pop-culture narrative that remains about Maine and Native Americans from that time period. Pet Sematary. Which was way more popular than Ceremony...

Bergland's book came out in 2010, but I have another relevant anecdote about the way this kind of narrative takes over in pop culture from more recently. Do you all remember the 'Mayan Apocalypse' stuff that just wouldn't stay out of the media throughout 2012? Where it was stupid, and many people knew it was stupid, and yet it kept coming up, and a small number of people kept being frightened about it no matter how often they were told that that wasn't actually what the Mayans, you know, said or how their calendar actually works? I was on a messageboard, and I wish I had a citation for this but it was almost a year ago now, and someone said approximately the following: "If the Mayans came back and saw we were being like this about it, what do you think they'd say? Man, they'd sure think we were stupid... unless they really meant it was the end of the world." And after face-palming for approximately three separate reasons, I paged later in the thread, to find that someone else had said approximately this: "What do you mean, came back? We never went anywhere. I, personally, am full-blooded Maya, and on behalf of myself and my few hundred thousand closest neighbors, I have this to say to you and the entire internet about the so-called Mayan apocalypse: CUT IT THE FUCK OUT. Thanks." Which, exactly. Just about everybody you meet in the Yucatan is at least partially Maya.

You see how this is a similar discourse to the one in Pet Sematary? They're coming back (even though they never left) to do something unspecifiedly horrible (which wasn't actually in their cultural traditions, ever). And everyone in American pop life will think it is stupid and unlikely and not genuinely threatening, and also not be able to shut up about it, out of a vague sense of guilt and of maybe deserving something along those lines when you get right down to it.

I told you at the beginning of this review that I would convince you you have seen a ghost. Every time you saw someone or heard someone discuss the 'Mayan Apocalypse' last year? That is the ghost.

Compare the apocalypse discourse to the qualities of the new American ghost, as I described them: fear of this apocalypse is a private phenomenon, in that it demands no public action, is not a public concern although sometimes publicly discussed, is not widely publicly believed. There is the sense of a murky and confusing crime about it, that somehow the world deserves this specific apocalypse, and yet no insistence that that crime be given redress, or even that anyone understand what the crime was. The apocalypse is not ancestral to the people who fear it, but is a force from the outside coming to destabilize a structure supposedly newer and younger than itself. It is certainly raised from an untimely grave, because it kept coming back over and over and over again despite its widely-acknowledged total stupidity. It torments the guilt of the living, or else denies their existence entirely by relegating the very real and living Maya entirely to the past. It denies the peace of the dead by completely fucking misrepresenting them in ways which make them seem malevolent and occult and confusing. Unless you were so lucky as to be living under a rock last year, you saw it with your own eyes and/or heard it with your own ears.

That was a ghost, and a ghost in full daylight but still unrecognizable. That was a ghost which haunted and harmed, or rather, it was one small aspect of a ghost. There have been others.

The spectralization of Native Americans is a genuine ghost which haunts America. Do not think for one second that the ghost has been laid. It will turn up again in pop culture soon enough. The question is what harm it will do next time, and whether anyone will recognize it as it haunts.

* Bergland's book overreaches itself in precisely one sentence: I do not think it is reasonable to consider 'The Masque of the Red Death' in any way an example of racialized fear against Native Americans. The ghostly black and white polar inhabitants in 'MS. Found in a Bottle', sure, absolutely, that's racial anxiety right there. 'Red Death', not so much, and in order to convince me otherwise Bergland would have had to demonstrate the symbolic linkage of fear of Native Americans with fear of plague. Not only does she not do this, but in my experience it isn't a trope-- because Native Americans are figured as ghosts, not as contagions.

** A side-note: those of you who remember the controversy over Patricia Wrede's The Thirteenth Child a few years ago, a book in which there simply weren't any Native Americans at all, even as ghosts-- here is an additional explanation as to why that was so problematic. Denying the existence of people who in reality have been historically marginalized and badly hurt is bad enough. Denying their very existence as ghosts-- well, firstly, as Bergland amply demonstrates, Indian self-representation as European, Old-World-style ghosts seeking justice is one of the major rhetorical arguments used by Native American writers in American cultural discourse. So the absence of those ghosts removes one of the main avenues real, live Native Americans have into popular rhetoric. Secondly, the removal of the ghosts implies that America doesn't even need to have a guilty conscience anymore, that somehow the haunting is over, although the book's setting in other ways resembles the colonization of North America. It's an argument, albeit unconscious on the part of the book's author, for the truth of the false consciousness of American exceptionalism. To those aware of the crimes which have been committed against Native peoples, it comes off therefore as an almost Orwellian level of insulting. It is a double denial of the crime which does not even admit the possibility of guilt.

Date: 2013-04-12 05:08 pm (UTC)
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
From: [personal profile] kate_nepveu
This is fascinating.

Something I think I'm missing from your description:

What does Bergland argue was the Native concept of ghosts before Europeans, to the extent there was a single one? How was _that_ changed by European conquest?

Date: 2013-04-12 10:26 pm (UTC)
sovay: (Rotwang)
From: [personal profile] sovay
It takes until the twentieth century for Native writers to begin using their own ghost legends in fiction intended for mainstream audiences, as opposed to ethnography and anthropology.

Which itself implies those ghosts were serving some other function than the American or European Gothic conceptions.

Date: 2013-04-13 10:24 pm (UTC)
sovay: (Lord Peter Wimsey)
From: [personal profile] sovay
I would love to see a study of various tribes' conceptions of ghosts, but am not sure where to get one that wouldn't be, well, sensationalized.

I don't know that I've ever seen one (outside of, perhaps, journal articles). I wish I knew. The only tradition I know much about is the Navajo chindi, which is all the negative residue left of a person when they die; I don't have the impression of chindi as a haunting so much as a kind of infectious, non-sentient, attractable badness, dealt with by avoiding all aspects of the dead person from their corpse to their possessions to the place where they died to the speaking of their name: failure to observe the proper ritual precautions causes the very specific illness of ghost sickness [edit] which I see Wikipedia classifies as a psychotic disorder, huh, thanks, Wikipedia. And even this I'm remembering from books I read in college or childhood, so I have no idea what nuances I'm missing or equivalencies I've accepted that are not actually present in the Navajo traditions at all.
Edited Date: 2013-04-13 10:28 pm (UTC)

Date: 2013-04-13 02:21 am (UTC)
kate_nepveu: sleeping cat carved in brown wood (Default)
From: [personal profile] kate_nepveu
Ah, I understand now. Thanks!

Date: 2013-04-12 07:19 pm (UTC)
wordweaverlynn: (Default)
From: [personal profile] wordweaverlynn
Now on library list. Thanks.

Date: 2013-04-12 10:05 pm (UTC)
starlady: a circular well of books (well of books)
From: [personal profile] starlady
This is a fantastic review. Thank you.
Edited (Damn autocorrect) Date: 2013-04-12 10:05 pm (UTC)

Date: 2013-04-15 04:12 am (UTC)
genarti: Sepia-toned bridge & trees & figure sitting on bridge looking down, with text "we're gone but we don't know where." ([misc] and we don't know where)
From: [personal profile] genarti

This is fascinating, and compelling. (And a marvelous review.) I think I need to read this book.

Date: 2013-04-16 10:54 pm (UTC)
oyceter: teruterubouzu default icon (Default)
From: [personal profile] oyceter
This sounds great, thank you for the write up! I definitely have to check it out now.

Date: 2013-05-22 01:59 am (UTC)
siderea: (Default)
From: [personal profile] siderea
WOW! Here from [personal profile] staranise's journal. Thanks for writing this. I clearly need to read this book. It ties in amazingly with my theory about the whole "Cherokee Princess ancestor" phenomenon: that the purpose of the narrative is to cover up domestic violence and the murder of mothers. After all, every mythical "Cherokee Princess" in a white person's family tree three, four, five generations back is a marker of an absent -- erased -- actual white woman, who lived long enough to give birth at least once, and whose name, personhood, and existence the family conspired to expunge from their oral history while still claiming her issue as a legitimate scion. I suspect the place best to look for those missing ancestresses is in shallow graves. Indians as ghosts, indeed.

Date: 2013-05-27 05:32 am (UTC)
jjhunter: Drawing of human JJ in ink tinted with blue watercolor; woman wearing glasses with arched eyebrows (JJ inked)
From: [personal profile] jjhunter
As I wrote in recommending this review to another:
to read it is to experience a sea-change, a shiver-change in the understanding of perceiving - this is power to respect and do careful honor by
If your most excellent review has this power, well, let's just say I am eagerly awaiting a copy of the actual book.

Thank you so much for sharing.

Date: 2013-04-12 11:27 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I must read Ceremony because it may be the book I have been looking for. I'd never heard of it. I had heard of, but not read, the King.

You read my piece about Butler's Survivor and other novels in that mould and what I think they're doing? (Linking in case you missed it.) Because that fits with this too.

Date: 2013-04-12 01:54 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
CEREMONY is a really excellent book.

Date: 2013-04-12 06:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I am really looking forward to Ceremony. It sounds interesting on a whole lot of levels.

I read the piece when it came out but hadn't since and am glad to be reminded of it. That does fit with this, and there is definitely some interesting work for somebody to do in comparison of that sort of SF novel with things like Indian-captivity narratives and with the tropes of the Western in general. I'd also be interested to look at the work of the Native writers Bergland mentions, such as William Apess, against trope-reversals such as Pride of Chanur.

The King is not one of his better books but made a surprisingly good movie, which you would hate. It's a really problematic film racially, but is actually using its horror-genre features to look at the fear of mortality and the fear of the other in a more intelligent way than ninety percent of horror movies. I am not likely to see it again because of the racial issues, though.

Date: 2013-04-12 02:08 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
This is a terrific review, and I must read this book now. Also, you should definitely read CEREMONY. GARDENS IN THE DUNES might also be relevant.

Date: 2013-04-12 07:01 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
This book is so good! So very, very good!

I am definitely reading Ceremony, basically as soon as I can get my hands on it.

Date: 2013-04-12 03:23 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
A brilliant review that deserves a wider scholarly audience.

I must read Bergland because it's playing in what I think of as my backyard, the New England Gothic. I made some of those points myself, after all.

Lastly, just to put the record straight, I don't know if Bergland spoke to Stephen King about Pet Sematary and its foundation in "real" Indian myth, but I did. And King said he knew quite well that there were no Micmac in the area in Orono in which Pet Sematary is set, but he didn't want to use the names of the real tribes. And he also knew quite well that none of those tribes had the Wendigo legend as he described it--he picked that up from Algernon Blackwood, who got it from Canadian tribal legendry.

Date: 2013-04-12 07:07 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Thank you! I have no idea how I would get it a wider scholarly audience, but I'm glad you liked it. ^_^

The Bergland is really interesting to me as someone who's read a fair amount of scholarship on the Gothic and specifically on the American Gothic, because she's coming at the field from the angle of being an expert on eighteenth-century mainstream American lit, which gives her work different emphases. I was thinking of you while I was reading her theory sections, and I literally have no idea whether she has, for instance, read any of your stuff, since it wouldn't have come up in the bibliography to this book.

She didn't speak to Stephen King per se, but she did mention that she was aware that King was using the Micmacs instead of the tribes who were actually in the correct area. She views this as an effort at politeness but possibly not enough of one, which is about where I am on it. She doesn't mention the Wendigo thing so I don't know whether she knows about it, but I am interested to hear that King got it from Blackwood. (I love that Blackwood story.)

Date: 2013-04-12 03:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I am persuaded. I also very badly want to get my hands on this book and on Ceremony.

Date: 2013-04-12 07:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
This book is so good! I was just really pleasantly surprised. Also, the review is long enough already, but I didn't manage to mention that the Bergland is also very readable, good prose, witty, precise without being dry.

Date: 2013-04-12 04:44 pm (UTC)
ext_9800: (bird)
From: [identity profile]
I loved Ceremony, haven't read King's. Thanks for this rec, am getting this book.

Date: 2013-04-12 07:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I don't remember much about the King book. The movie is very good although very racially problematic-- a much more intelligent and probing horror movie than ninety percent of the genre, with serious looks at the fear of death and the fear of possession by the other. I probably won't see it again, though.

The Bergland is so awesome, I want everyone to read it.

Date: 2013-04-12 05:53 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Magnificent review. Thank you.


Date: 2013-04-12 07:11 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
You are very welcome and I'm glad you liked it.

Date: 2013-04-12 09:38 pm (UTC)
sovay: (Cho Hakkai: intelligence)
From: [personal profile] sovay
Do not think for one second that the ghost has been laid. It will turn up again in pop culture soon enough. The question is what harm it will do next time, and whether anyone will recognize it as it haunts.

Can you just get someone to republish this somewhere formal and pay you for it?

Also, when you get a copy of Ceremony, lend it to me.

[edit] Elsinore, haunted thusly, would have to be exorcised by Hamlet's descendants.

Please write this.
Edited Date: 2013-04-12 10:26 pm (UTC)

Date: 2013-04-13 09:09 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Can you just get someone to republish this somewhere formal and pay you for it?

I've no idea how one goes about doing that.

Also, I am not enough up on Danish anything to feel confident in writing about Hamlet's descendants, though I do agree that someone ought to. The thing is I think the someone should have been Isak Dinesen.

Date: 2013-04-12 10:32 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Interestingly, my kids had to read Ceremony in high school. I, however, have not read it. Or Pet Sematary!

Very well-constructed theory Bergland has. Thanks for sharing it and your thoughts on it.

Date: 2013-04-13 09:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I am glad you liked the review. Also I am glad Ceremony is being assigned.

Date: 2013-04-13 12:35 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Ceremony is often assigned in college courses these days, I think. Anyway, I see it on syllabi with some regularity. Not when I was in college, but I was in college a longish while ago.

This book sounds fascinating and I must run out and get a copy immediately. Relatedly, there's a bit in Jill Lepore's The Name of War, which is overall about rhetoric using the word "savagery" in King Philip's War, which circles back around to how King Philip/Metacom was potrayed (as "Metamora") on the stage in succeeding centuries. The gist: despite such demonization that King Philip's head was displayed on a pike for months after his execution, a century and a half later he was being portrayed, by a white actor, as the heroic doomed martyr of his people. Heroic and doomed because, as Bergland says: surely they are disappearing any moment now.

(The Mashpee Wampanoags chuckle mordantly from stage left.)

(Have I been meaning to write up the Lepore book for 6 months now? Yes, yes I have.)

Date: 2013-04-13 09:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
The Mashpee Wampanoags do, indeed, chuckle mordantly from stage left. That's the tribe William Apess did his non-violent civil disobedience things with. I must find out more about Apess. The way History As She Is Known just brushes people off and covers them over...

I would love to read a writeup of the Lepore.

Date: 2013-04-14 12:15 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Apess does come up in Lepore's book, although I'm fiddled if I can remember the details. Perhaps I will re-read before I write up.

Date: 2013-04-13 06:51 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Bergland's CV is really impressive. And she teaches at Simmons! If only we had lured her to Readercon last year so she could meet Shirley Jackson's daughter, the astounding Sadie.

Date: 2013-04-13 09:12 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Agreed on all counts.

Date: 2013-04-13 09:10 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Another nod to Ceremony. I was given a copy in college, when I was deeply interested in these things. It has a startlingly powerful use of language that I occasionally go back to remember.

I wonder what contrasts Bergland would find up here, where First Nations political actions (I'm thinking of the iconic Elijah Harper photo from the Manitoba parliament ending the Meech Lake accords, the Oka crisis, and the recent "Idle no more" movement) often emerge out of obscurity and into the public eye as a national call to conscience, acting, in a way, more like the European ghost.

Date: 2013-04-13 09:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I don't know much about Canada as compared to how much I know about the U.S., but from my very limited experience of CanLit and Canadian politics there's far less of the Vanishing Indian rhetoric and far more public acknowledgment that the First Nations are right there where they've always been. I suspect that part of this is that white settlement didn't penetrate as thoroughly into the Northwest Territories-- in the U.S. the white settlers really did take or try to take all the land, all of it, and then grudgingly allotted the worst of it as reservations, whereas I get the impression that in Canada the white settlers moved into the good agricultural land and then did not saturate in the same way the land which is better for hunting. I could of course be totally wrong. It seems likely to me there's less spectralization of the Native American in Canadian discourse as a result of the greater knowledge of continuing Native presence, and possibly also because Canada did not have to do the same sort of denial of itself as a colonized country. I really would need to know a lot more about CanLit and I'd love to see a formal study of this.

Date: 2013-04-14 10:31 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
I don't know that much about Canadian history, but the current total population of the Northwest Territories is about 40,000 (Yukon and Nunavut are each a bit lower). While white settlement may not have penetrated very far, I think the First Nations population was never that high there, either, compared to the provinces.

Date: 2013-04-13 10:43 pm (UTC)
seajules: (soul food)
From: [personal profile] seajules
This sounds like a fantastic book, and this review itself was a great pleasure to read. As a reading junkie, both of these things make me very happy.

Date: 2015-07-01 01:25 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile]
Great review! Thank you. :)


rushthatspeaks: (Default)

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