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Hardcover Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween Book

ISBN: 158234230X

ISBN13: 9781582342306

Death Makes a Holiday: A Cultural History of Halloween

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Format: Hardcover

Condition: Good*

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Book Overview

From acclaimed cultural critic David J. Skal, an in-depth look at one of the most popular-and perplexing-holidays in America. Using a mix of personal anecdotes and brilliant social analysis, Skal examines the amazing phenomenon of Halloween, exploring its dark Celtic history and illuminating why it has evolved-in the course of a few short generations-from a quaint, small-scale celebration into the largest seasonal marketing event outside of Christmas...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

For All the HALLOWEEN Aficionados!!!

When it comes to HALLOWEEN, I am extremely enthusiastic about it! That's why I bought this book. This book talks about HALLOWEEN's dark history when it started 3,000 years ago with the Ancient Celts. It talks about the Witches at the Salem Witch Trials. It talks about haunted houses. Classic horror films, inspired by HALLOWEEN. It mentions a guy named Ronald Clark O' Bryan who poisoned his son's HALLOWEEN candy in 1974. It has classic pictures of how HALLOWEEN looked in the 18th and 19th and 20th century. It talks about the HALLOWEEN film series. It talks about Devil's Night when stupid teens set fire to thousands of buildings. It talks about Day of the Dead, the Mexican holiday similar to HALLOWEEN that celebrate the lives of dead relatives. All this and more is mentioned. If you are a big fan of the dark holiday known as HALLOWEEN, you'll love DEATH MAKES A HOLIDAY: A CULTURAL HISTORY OF HALLOWEEN!!!

Unofficial and Uncontrolled

"Halloween, the one major holiday that was unofficial, and therefore uncontrolled, was ... [a] holiday ripe for new myths and rituals." It's the new "myths and rituals" that are the main focus of David J. Skal's "Death Make a Holiday - a Cultural History of Halloween." Other reviewers have commented on the relative lack of "history" in this book and, in some ways, that's a fair observation. The history of Halloween is covered in the first chapter (The Halloween Machine) but from there the book becomes a contemporary view of the modern celebration, in all its permutations. This isn't an historical review as much as an invitation to join the author on a fascinating journey across this peculiarly American holiday's landscape. The metaphor of traveling cross-country could be particularly apt as several chapters focus on the regional aspects of Halloween. For example, "The Witch's Teat" examines Salem, the city where it's Halloween 24/7 and 365. This is a city where the police drive cars emblazoned with witches and wear them on their shoulders! Having visited Salem in the early `90's (and no where near October 31st) I can tell you from first hand experience that this is a municipality that's turned the tragedy of the witch trials into a ne0-goth theme park and is reaping a healthy return on investment. For some, this detailed description of Salem's fascination is too much - it somehow distracts from the genuine history of Halloween (whatever that is). For me, as a long-time fan of David's work, it's what I've come to expect. David's attention to detail is legendary and, often, exhaustive. If you haven't read "Hollywood Gothic" it's a pluperfect recounting of everything (and I do mean everything) Dracula related. If anything, I was a little surprised that David relented when he did to move on to other topics. Similarly, David takes us to Castro Street and San Francisco's often over-the-top Halloween parades and practices. Frequently not ready for primetime, this is new territory for much of America, certainly for me. (Google up "exotic erotic ball" and you'll see what I mean. Don't do it at work!) David handles the exotic and the erotic with a deft hand, addressing everything from the claiming of Halloween as a "gay high holy day" to the often disturbingly aggressive response of civic authority and televangelists determined to save the event's bohemian practitioners from themselves or an eternity in hell. And that leads me to another delicate topic that often arises in critiques of Mr. Skal's work: his supposed "gay perspective." Depending on the reviewer this is either so over-the-top that it detracts from the topic at hand, or so minimal as to be non-existent. I'm hetero and politically conservative and I've never felt that David was stridently pushing any personal gay agenda, or, conversely, ignoring the obvious facts of its existence and influence on society. This is purely my opinion, but in David Skal I read a man wh

fascinating, and also scary

I really enjoyed "Death Makes a Holiday"; I thought it was a fascinating and thorough exploration of a holiday whose origins were always mysterious to me. (They're still somewhat mysterious, as no one can explain for certain where all the traditions came from.) One of the other reviewers complained that he already knew some of the information in the book, but I've never found a history of Halloween that answers the questions this one does; maybe my local library needs to beef up their Halloween section. The book's approach is very personal: the author spends a lot of time on topics he finds interesting, such as monster movies, that not every historian would consider strictly relevant to the celebration of Halloween. However, I found those topics interesting, too, so I didn't mind. Skal's writing style is intelligent but conversational, so the book is a breeze to read. I especially enjoyed his first-hand interviews with haunted-house creators, and Sara Karloff. I wouldn't recommend the book for kids, though, because there are descriptions of real-life murders that are actually quite scary, even for an adult.

'Death Makes A Holiday' is Killer

A friend who knew I was into Halloween picked up this book for me. I'm glad she did because I couldn't put it down. I found the book a nice comprehensive look at a number of topics related to Halloween-- from it's patchwork history, modern religous signifigance (or lack thereof) and evolution into the holiday rivaling Xmas that we know and love. I was especially happy to see mention of Disney's Haunted Mansion and it's transformation with the help of Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas. Whitty, well written and very interesting book.

Death Makes a GREAT Holiday!

This is one of those books that is very hard to put down if you're a fan of Halloween as I am. I found this book to be extremely enjoyable and easy to read because it's informative and fun at the same time. In this book the author shares some stories, both positive and negative, about Halloween. This includes the trendy panics of candy tampering, religious nuts attacking the holiday for everything it's worth, the inevitable commercialization, people who go out of their way to make awesome Yard Haunts and Haunted Houses, movies that focus on or that relate to the holiday, and even a chapter about the Halloween after September 11th, 2001. In this book the reader will discover the history of Halloween (even the correct pronunciation of Samhain), and why certain people feel certain ways about the holiday. An absolute must for anyone who wants so gain or further his or her knowledge about this traditionally misunderstood holiday.HAIL HALLOWEEN!
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