Disclosure: I accessed this book through my local public library's digital collection. I do not know the author nor have I ever communicated with him about this book or any other matter. I am an author of romance fiction and assorted non-fiction.
I truly enjoyed this book, and found the author's perspective both interesting and ultimately respectful of believers and skeptics alike.
It would be impossible, of course, for a single volume to catalogue all the thousands, perhaps millions, of alleged hauntings in this country. Dickey can probably be accused with some justification of cherry-picking the examples he used to best illustrate his theories: among them that whether ghosts -- as the more or less embodied spirits of the dead -- are real or not, we need them. And so we would have created them anyway even if they weren't real.
The aspect of the book that fascinated me the most was the way he deconstructed some of the most well-known and even well-documented hauntings, as evidence that it's in the creation of a ghostly narrative that fits what we collectively as a culture want the haunting to be that it comes alive, pun of course intended.
Because I'm not a fan of horror fiction -- it's all I can do to get through the least horrific Lovecraft for Halloween Bingo -- I can't say if the creation of a fictional haunting narrative follows that theory. I do, however, think it applies to the gothic romance. The haunting, the ghostly presence, has to integrate with the living characters in an organic way for the two stories to work with each other.
This is proving to be one of those books that brings together a lot of old friends. There are references to James W. Loewen and Frederic Jameson and Walter Benjamin.
Loewen, of course, is contemporary and accessible. I can't recommend enough his Lies My Teacher Told Me and Lies Across America.
Jameson is less accessible, but then he is a theorist more than a commentator, imho.
Even before Dickey mentioned Walter Benjamin, I distinctly felt his influence -- his spirit? -- from The Arcades Project, a good portion of which I read in grad school. I still have his Reflections, one of the texts for that particular (and particularly annoying) class, because the texts were far better than the instructor. (Yes, I'm lookin' at you, Arthur Sabatini.)
I've reached the part in Ghostland that deals with haunted cities, and it's almost impossible not to have a slideshow of abandoned Detroit buildings running through my imagination.
Pages read are based on digital edition accessed via the public library.
When Obsidian Blue reviewed this last year, I was very much intrigued and put it on my mental list of books to track down. Imagine my delight on finding it in he library's digital collection. It was while trying to access Ghostland that I screwed up and ended up reading another couple chapters of that silly Breaking the Rules, but once I got into Ghostland, I was pretty well hooked.
My own current work in progress involves an allegedly haunted house, so Ghostland is sort of research. Ah, if only all research could be this enjoyable!
As I prepared to post this status report, I read through all the reviews here on BookLikes, just to get a feeling for how other people reacted.
Even though I've had my own experiences with the strange and unexplainable, I tend to be more of a skeptic than a believer when it comes to ghosts and so on. I'd like to believe, but I'm too rational and logical.
So I'm finding Colin Dickey's attitude less offensive than other reviewers have. In fact, I'm finding it refreshing.
Because I screwed up my log-in on the library's digital site, Chapter Nine of this dumb book opened up this afternoon when I tried to read something else. It was like a train wreck that I couldn't pull my eyes way from.
I guess what bothered me the most about this book was how it upended my trust in readers. As of today, it has another review, 4-stars, and the consensus seems to be that it's a light, fun summer read, nothing heavy, nothing that would require the reader to actually think.
But reading requires the reader to think, doesn't it? I mean, isn't that the point of reading? You look at the little symbols called letters that make up the words and the sentences and the paragraphs, and you turn that into something inside your mind so you can "see" what's going on. Unlike television or movies, where all the action and all the voices and all the sights are put in front of you for passive enjoyment, books require you to activate your imagination at least a little bit.
This book didn't provide the necessary detail to prompt the imagination. At the 25% mark, I had no idea what Rosy looked like, or Matt, or any of the other people. I didn't know what Rosy's house looked like, or Matt's. Or the school.
Those were just the visual cues. What about sounds? Smells? Textures? Virtually all of that was missing, along with stage directions and even speech tags.
Also missing was consistent, coherent motivation. Rosy behaved out of character without sufficient reason. She tossed over her Rule about dating locals without hardly a thought. She proved to be absolutely spineless in the face of a confrontation with a student's parent and with a school official.
She even ignored basic better judgment more than once by engaging with Matt while still believing he was in a relationship with Angelina.
So after I had skimmed through two or three more eye-rollingly horrible chapters, I shook my head in frustrated dismay and returned the book to the library, prepared to move on to something else.
This is one of those bad books that's going to stick with me for a long time. It's one thing for an author to self-publish a book that reads like a rough draft. It's another for a publishing company to put out something so poorly written. But it's an entirely different thing when readers don't -- or can't -- recognize even the more basic flaws. I guess I expected more from readers.