Night Mother: A Personal and Cultural History of The Exorcist (21st Century Essays) (Paperback)

Night Mother: A Personal and Cultural History of The Exorcist (21st Century Essays) By Marlena Williams Cover Image
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Never watch The Exorcist, Marlena Williams’s mother told her, just as she’d been told by her own mother as a Catholic teen in rural Oregon when the horror classic premiered. And like her mother, Mary, Williams watched it anyway. An inheritance passed from mother to daughter, The Exorcist looms large—in popular culture and in Williams’s own life, years after Mary’s illness and death. In Night Mother, Williams investigates the film not only as a projection of Americans’ worst fears in the tumultuous 1970s and a source of enduring tropes around girlhood, faith, and transgression but also as a key to understanding her mother and the world she came from.

The essays in Night Mother delve beneath the surface of The Exorcist to reveal the deeper stories the film tells about faith, family, illness, anger, guilt, desire, and death. Whether tracing the career of its young star, Linda Blair, unpacking its most infamous scenes, exploring its problematic depictions of gender and race, or reflecting on the horror of growing up female in America, Williams deftly blends bold personal narrative with shrewd cultural criticism. Night Mother offers fresh insights for both fans of the film and newcomers alike.

About the Author

Marlena Williams is a writer from Portland, Oregon. Her work has been published in the Yale Review, Literary Hub, Electric Literature, Catapult, and elsewhere. She is a graduate of the MFA program at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Praise For…

“Masterful and thoroughly researched … An incredible work of film analysis, examining cultural context and interspersing personal history, that makes a great read for movie, horror, and pop-culture fans. Highly recommended for libraries with media analysis collections.” —Meghan Bouffard, Library Journal (starred review) 

“[A] searching debut … The sharp analysis offers novel and convincing perspectives on the horror classic, and Williamsʼs personal meditations are affecting. This is scary good.” —Publishers Weekly

“Williams’s multigenerational personal narrative of viewer responses to The Exorcist takes her analysis beyond anything readily paraphrased. Read it for yourself.” —Scott McLemee, Inside Higher Ed 

Night Mother … successfully weav[es] a first-person narrative with broader film criticism. Just as the film turns 50, horror fans should enjoy this book for its personal touch and thorough research.” —Brian Fanelli, Hippocampus Magazine 

“I devoured this book—its intense cultural analysis, its candid personal history, and its philosophical inquiry—like a woman possessed. Gutsy and deeply researched, Night Mother is a keen investigation of American cinema, American girlhood, and American fear.” —Elena Passarello, author of Let Me Clear My Throat and Animals Strike Curious Poses

“A mesmerizing mix of cinematic, cultural, and personal history … Night Mother—an unorthodox love letter in which Williams attempts to exorcise her own demons—is a powerful reckoning.” —Peggy Kurkowski, Shelf Awareness 
Product Details
ISBN: 9780814258767
ISBN-10: 081425876X
Publisher: Mad Creek Books
Publication Date: October 20th, 2023
Pages: 240
Language: English
Series: 21st Century Essays