the only thing i knew about i am legend when i picked it up is that it's about vampires, and there is a movie based on the novel starring will smith. also- i was reading justin cronin's the passage and had to put it down in the middle due to frustration and boredom [more on that later].  legend is meant to be the book that started it all. the idea of a virus that wipes out much of the human race, giving rise to packs of vampires in a post apocalyptic landscape was conceived by richard matheson in the 1950s before george romero, stephen king, guellermo del torro, or justin cronin wrote a single line. it's pretty much a classic- an ur-text of sorts when it comes to modern vampires and zombies for that matter.

while all the tropes the genre is now known for are there, it's still a damn good read. the discovery of the virus, the aftermath, and the behavior of the vampires themselves are certainly intriguing. but what makes the story especially compelling to me, is the abject despair and loneliness we see in our hero, robert neville. he is the last man on earth and the psychological aspect of this is what tears at him most intensely. the horror of the vampires beating down his door every night only breaches the superficial level of the darkness neville faces. what he finds almost impossible to live with is himself and the fear that there will only ever be himself.  

i think for this reason, legend is a far superior story to much of what has proceeded it. it gets at the thing that we may fear more than monsters and violence and death- which is being alone.


image from near dark, 1987, directed by katherine bigelow



i practically grew up in public libraries. i had strict parents, so while all the cool kids got to hang out at the mall and drink orange juilius and buy novelty items at spencer gifts, i spent after school hours at the local branch. but- it was kind of special. one summer i read every single OG hardbound nancy drew book in the series, then out of desperation and potential boredom moved on to the hardy boys counterpart, which proved to be surprisingly entertaining despite the absence of dreamy ned nickerson.

to get back to my point though, public libraries are great, even rinky dink local ones, and full of potential adventures for a kid. i stumbled across these pics of an addition that was recently done to the cambridge public library in massachusettes. it's completely inspiring, and not the unassuming 1970s stucco varieties i grew up with. i like the way the original 1887 building has been restored and adjoined to a striking glass building. the mashup feels right, the perfect place to spend an after school noon. but are the kids still reading nancy drew these days?



library photos from william rawn associates



2009 turned out to be a bit of a zombie renaissance. not that the zombie genre has ever gone out of style. even as it is often considered a bit of a low rent sub-genre of horror- historically, it has also mirrored various socio-political anxieties of the moment. george romero's living dead trilogy did this most famously of course, concerning itself with large issues such as the tide of conservatism, the cold war, and rampant consumerism. all whilst presenting some good seat squirming horror. in fact zach snyder's remake of romero's "dawn of the dead" transplanted many of these anxieties onto the post 911 homeland security weary landscape. last year's zombieland however, while a clever film, seems mainly concerned with simultaneously making fun of the zombie film and reveling in it. the violence is extreme and yet the film is incredibly funny. this tone is in part matched by pride prejudice and zombies. here an authentic victorian style coupled with violence and mayhem give the book a buffy sort of flavor where the dramatic lives of teenage girls are punctuated by banal ongoing skirmishes with the undead.

world war z however, lands more squarely in the romero tradition. by asking the question- what would happen if world war three broke out...against zombies it opens up a discussion outlining many major global conflicts of the 21st century. and then extrapolating the behavior of various government agencies upon that basis. it's really quite brilliant. and while well received i think the political depth of the book may have gone overlooked by some. READ IT.


wwz image from deviant art