If You Love Movies, You’ll Love this Book

Gareth Higgins is a writer, film critic, peace and justice advocate, Wild Goose Festival organizer, and one of the fascinating people I met on my Mennonite Church Canada tour to the UK.

Our group had a brief Q&A with him sandwiched between the other activities at Greenbelt (an annual festival “where arts, faith, and justice collide”), and I also attended his movie review session–Gareth is a great communicator who interacts well with his audience, and wow, does he ever know his movies!

All of that made me eager to review his new book, Cinematic States: Stories We Tell, The American Dream Life, and How to Understand Everything.

Cinematic StatesThe subtitle is especially ambitious, and the premise of the book is intriguing — a look at America through the lens of different movies set in each of the fifty states plus Washington DC.

I might have expected that Gareth would choose To Kill a Mockingbird and Forrest Gump for Alabama and Rocky for Pennsylvania, but many of the other movies he discusses are unfamiliar to me. Now I’d like to see Ace in the Hole (1951), Nashville (1975), and several others he includes. Being introduced to these new-to-me movies is part of what makes this a great book, but most of all I appreciate Gareth’s observations and cultural commentary. Originally from Northern Ireland and now living in the US, Gareth has a unique perspective–keenly observant, sometimes irreverent, always thought-provoking.

I found the book uneven though, with Pennsylvania and Rocky much more well-developed over half a dozen pages than, say, Connecticut or Washington State which are discussed in barely a page and a half each. On Washington State and McCabe and Mrs Miller, Gareth says, “America’s contemporary economy would be unthinkable without Washington–if it fell into the sea and took Microsoft, Amazon, and Starbucks with it, would there even be a contemporary American economy?” That’s a tantalizing comment, and I wish the thought were developed further.

If you love movies–and who doesn’t?–you’ll love this book. See for yourself by reading a sample chapter here, or even better, listen to the recording of Gareth reading a portion of his book at Greenbelt in his wonderful Irish accent.

Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book through the Speakeasy blogging book review network in exchange for an honest review.

Other posts related to my Mennonite Church Canada Learning Tour:

The Ode Less Travelled

Coventry Cathedral in a Day

Advices & Queries at the Woodbroke Quaker Study Centre

A New Centre for Research on Lewis, Tolkien, and Other Inklings

Wesley’s Chapel, the Museum of Methodism, and Me



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2 replies

  1. If you really like me… if you REALLY like me… you’ll find some way of getting a copy of this book to me. 😉

    Seriously, I love “Craig Detweiler’s” Into the Dark, Jeffrey Overstreet’s “Through A Screen Darkly” and Robert K. Johnston’s “Reel Spirituality”. The whole exegeting culture, listening to stories, etc., through film… totally geek fest for me.