Not just a lot of symbolism
'Gothic: Four Hundred Years of Excess, Horror, Evil, and Ruin'
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $35
Review by Catherine Alexander
July 21, 1999
Goth·ic ('gä-thik) adj. 1591 1 of, relating to, or resembling the Goths, their civilization, or their language: UNCOUTH, BARBAROUS 2 a: of, relating to, or having the characteristics of a style of architecture developed in northern France and spreading through western Europe from the middle of the 12th century to the early 16th century that is characterized by the converging of weights and strains at isolated points upon slender vertical piers and counterbalancing buttresses and by pointed arches and vaulting. b: of or relating to an architectural style reflecting the influence of the medieval Gothic 3 Of or relating to a style of fiction characterized by the use of desolate or remote settings and macabre, mysterious, or violent incidents
(CNN) -- I start with a definition of the word Gothic simply because I was not quite sure what it meant. Over the course of reading "Gothic" and talking to others on the subject matter, I have found out two things: the word Gothic means different things to different people, and, no matter which definition applies, they speak passionately about the subject and have very strong feelings about the word. People associate "the Gothic" with fear, power, horror, danger, beauty, art, and life. But no one really seems to be sure where these feelings originate.
"Gothic: Four Hundred Years of Excess, Horror, Evil, and Ruin" delves into the history of that which is Gothic. It examines Gothic as it relates to art, literature, architecture, film, and lifestyles. The author is thorough in analysis crossing centuries and art forms, explaining the evolution of the love affair humans have with the dark and unknown; and how, over time, the object of human fear has shifted from nature, to foreigners, to family, and finally, to ourselves.
The book is so detailed that in parts it reads as a well-written textbook. Though you may feel the urge to take notes, don't expect the book to be boring -- just packed with information. After all, any book with half a chapter devoted to the Marquis de Sade and a list of the similarities between "All My Children" and 18th century gothic literature can't be all bad.
If you are just looking for symbolism on Cure song lyrics (based on the writings of Camus, I was pleased and surprised to find out) or how Alice Cooper came to be, skip to the last chapter. But if you have a melancholy English/history major in your life, this book is a must buy.
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