By Angela Carter

A set of brief tales which tear in the course of the data of cinema, of paintings and of the unconscious. a tender Lizzie Borden visits the circus; a pianist makes a Faustian pact in a fly-blown Southern brothel; and a transfigured Mary Magdalene steps out of the canvases of Donatello and de los angeles travel.

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Additional info for American Ghosts and Old World Wonders

Sample text

McGough, a Gimbels buyer from Philadelphia, except his experience was more disturbing. His porthole was open, and as the berg brushed by, chunks of ice fell into the cabin. Like Mr McGough, most of the Titanic’s passengers were in bed when the jar came. On this quiet, cold Sunday night a snug bunk seemed about the best place to be. But a few shipboard diehards were still up. As usual, most were in the first-class smoking-room on A deck. And as usual, it was a very mixed group. Around one table sat Archie Butt, President Taft’s military aide; Clarence Moore, the travelling Master of Hounds; Harry Widener, son of the Philadelphia streetcar magnate; and William Carter, another Main Liner.

Peacetime conscription in Britain and the United States had created a generation ready to laugh at all things military, as reflected in films such as Private’s Progress and television characters like Sergeant Bilko, which showed soldiers as essentially lazy and corrupt. The public was ready for new heroes and legends, or for older ones to be revived. Even so, as the New York Times reviewer commented in 1955, there were already fifty books on the Titanic disaster in the Library of Congress, including four novels and six books of verse.

Whatever the reviewers might think, the book sold very well and made Lord’s reputation as a storyteller. It was filmed in 1958 with the highly popular British star Kenneth More in the role of Second Officer Charles Lightoller. The book helped to establish the idea of reporting a dramatic event through the accounts of ordinary people involved, which was used, for example, by Cornelius Ryan in The Longest Day. And it put the ageing story of the Titanic back in the forefront of the public consciousness.

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