Here are some of the books I read and films I watched this semester when I should have been doing other things.


Shirley Jackson, We Have Always Lived in the Castle

Jackson has total control over this funny and macabre story of family, murder, and social rejection.

Steve Fisher, I Wake Up Screaming

Nobody actually wakes up screaming in this Hollywood-centered roman noir, which formed the basis of two film adaptations: I Wake Up Screaming with Betty Grable, Laird Gregar, and Victor Mature, and Vicki with Jean Peters.

Kenneth Fearing, Selected Poems

Fearing understood the looming disaster of mass culture and its tendency to commodify everything in its path. Yet he appropriated those materials for his own ends. By the author of The Big Clock.

Ambrose Bierce, Collected Stories

Celebrated as “the old gringo” by Fuentes, Bierce’s short fiction combines dark romanticism with cynicism.

Dave Eggers, The Circle

Satires of the IT industry and its deleterious effects on the social should probably be more grand guignol than this peppy dystopian takedown, but anything that punctures Silicon Valley’s bulletproof self-regard is worth reading.

Hideo Yokoyama, Six Four

At just under 600 pages this police procedural is a minor epic of bureaucratic politics, corruption, and betrayal.

Catherine Spooner, Contemporary Gothic

This is an edifying and entertaining primer on Goth and pop culture.


The Man Who Could Cheat Death

Anton Diffring’s perverse cosmopolitan charm carry this batty Hammer film about a man preserved far beyond an ordinary lifespan with the glands– yes, the glands— of his victims. A perfect companion to Circus of Horrors, which also stars Diffring.

Frankenstein Unbound

I hadn’t seen this Roger Corman film since undergrad. Raoul Julia as Victor Frankenstein, Jason Patric as Lord Byron, with a brief, disappointingly muffled turn by Michael Hutchence of INXS as Percy Shelley. Nick Brimble’s monster is distorted and tragic. Glorious scifi pulp.

The Witches

Joan Fontaine plays a psychologically fragile schoolteacher who arrives in a remote English village and gradually discovers the presence of Satan-worshipping locals. It’s slow to start but the climactic human sacrifice scene is huge fun.

Footsteps in the Fog

Jean Simmons plays an ambitious maid who’s too clever by half, drawn into the shadowy orbit of Stewart Granger’s aristocratic homme fatale.

Fanny By Gaslight

A dark melodrama about lost origins, malice, and class hierarchy

The Crimson Petal and the White

This is a fairly hard-boiled story, an adaptation of a novel by Michel Faber starring Romola Garai as Sugar, a literate and intelligent young prostitute in Victorian London. Her character develops in counterpoint with the wife of her primary john, a hypocritical bourgeois blind to the violence against women surrounding him not only on the streets but in respectable, middle-class homes.