Fear Icons: Essays

Kisha Lewellyn Schlegel. Mad Creek, $19.95 trade paper (184p) ISBN 978-0-8142-5494-3
In this impressionistic, reflective series of essays, Schlegel explores how various famous people serve to either instill, assuage, or represent fear to ordinary people and how fear can both skew and heighten one’s humanity. She describes a shooting-range simulation in which patrons pay to reenact the killing of Osama bin Laden using a mannequin and proposes that, in wartime, people believe “violence is a form of safety.” The iconography of the Virgin Mary prompts thoughts about the inherent fears of motherhood, with Schlegel reflecting, “In making my child’s life, I had made his death.” In one of the strongest pieces, “Dick, About Your Heart,” Schlegel considers former vice president Dick Cheney’s heart problems as a metaphor for his misdeeds. While not especially novel, Schlegel’s tack is clever (“You take a drug called warfarin that I pronounce ‘war-faring’ ”) and admirably empathetic. She further discusses how xenophobia can enter a person through cultural osmosis, and uses Liberace’s closeted existence to explore fears of deviance from gender and sexual norms. The author makes her motivation plain when she states, “I don’t want answers. I want description.” This is precisely what Schlegel presents, but the very act of naming and elucidating fears can dissolve their power, and that is a worthwhile (and timely) enterprise. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 08/13/2018
Release date: 10/01/2018
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