Preparing the Ghost: An Essay Concerning the Giant Squid and Its First Photographer

Matthew Gavin Frank. Norton/Liveright, $22.95 (192p) ISBN 978-0-87140-283-7
In this four-part essay, Frank (Pot Farm) chronicles his research into a 19th-century Newfoundland eccentric who photographed a giant squid, though as a creative work it is less interested in the facts of its subject than in the questions it raises. Readers interested in cryptozoology may be disappointed to find information about the creature spread diffusely throughout the larger narrative, but this is fitting for a subject defined by its elusiveness, a creature of quasi-mythic status and “exaggerated melodrama.” Frank’s inquiry is concerned primarily with the nature of myth and our tendency to “mythologize the actual,” in this case a beast made marvelous by the “fusion of its size and its rarity.” He sifts through historical interest in the squid to ask questions about the nature of empathy, our means for “sharing our obsessions,” and the role of myth as “expression of our greatest semi-imagined fears.” Woven into these big questions are little stories, personal anecdotes, family history, and profiles of contemporary and historic players in the narrative of the giant squid. In this blending of the large and small, Frank sees human lives that are “delicious, disturbing, and downright huge,” and expresses his personal experience with a seldom encountered subject. (July)
Reviewed on: 04/21/2014
Release date: 07/01/2014
Genre: Nonfiction
Open Ebook - 192 pages - 978-0-87140-289-9
Paperback - 320 pages - 978-1-63149-056-9
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