Meehan Crist

  • interviews May 14, 2014

    Bookforum talks with Jen Percy

    In 2005, Special Forces machine gunner Caleb Daniels lost eight members of his unit in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan. Here, Meehan Crist interviews Jen Percy about her recent book, which describes Caleb's attempts to recover from the trauma via exorcism.

    In 2005, seasoned Special Forces machine gunner Caleb Daniels lost eight members of his unit in a Chinook helicopter crash in Afghanistan. As Jennifer Percy describes in her recent book, Demon Camp, Caleb was haunted afterward by images of friends’ charred bodies. When he left Afghanistan, something he called The Black Thing followed him home. Caleb struggled to adjust to civilian life, certain The Black Thing was trying to kill him. Then he met a minister, who persuaded him the apparition was a Destroyer Demon, just one in a pantheon of demons and angels fighting a war between good and evil.

  • Long and Winding Road

    One day not so long ago, Rebecca Solnit found herself with an apricot problem. Her mother was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, and about a hundred pounds of the fruit had been harvested from a tree in the yard of the home where her mother could no longer live, then deposited—fragrant and overripe—on the floor of Solnit’s bedroom. “There they presided for some days, a story waiting to be told, a riddle to be solved, and a harvest to be processed.” With this seemingly simple story, Solnit opens a door into a maze of stories within stories, a dreamlike memoir composed of fairy tales, literary

  • culture October 10, 2012

    The New Wounded by Catherine Malabou

    In the 1600s, French philosopher René Descartes split the world into two kinds of stuff: material stuff subject to the laws of physics and immaterial stuff that operates according to some other set of rules. He argued that the human body is material but the mind is immaterial, relegating it to what the British philosopher Gilbert Ryle famously called “a ghost in the machine.” But even Descartes, years after articulating his theory of the mind-body divide, amended it to suggest that the physical brain might act as an intermediary between the two. In his revised theory, the “spirits” of the mind

  • Memory: Fragments of a Modern History

    In 1906, a young carpenter named Richard Ivens was accused of murder after a woman’s body was found in a vacant lot behind his Chicago workshop. Subjected to hours of interrogation, he signed a confession, but later retracted it, insisting the admission of guilt was obtained after police caused him to have a “false memory” of the crime. Here was a legal, scientific, and perhaps even philosophical conundrum: Could a person be made to remember an event that never happened?

    Thus begins Alison Winter’s impressive cultural history of memory. “We have become the first culture in history to subject