of 1812. Gura nimbly chronicles Apess’s
development as a writer, (his A Son of the
Forest in 1829 was the first autobiography published by a Native American
author), his growth and struggles as a
frontier minister, and his leadership in
the Mashpee Revolt, in which he advocated the equality of Native Americans
and whites. Gura’s storytelling draws us
naturally into this fascinating life of a
man who strove to claim a place for himself and his people in this new nation.
Manual of Psychomagic:
The Practice of Shamanic
Alejandro Jodorowsky, trans. from the Spanish
by Rachael LaValley. Inner Traditions/Bear &
Company, $19.95 trade paper (256p) ISBN
Paris-based filmmaker (El Topo),
comic book author, and psychotherapist
Jodorowsky returns to “psychomagic,” a
neo-Freudian technique of his own
invention first explored in Psychomagic:
The Transformative Power of Shamanic
Psychotherapy. It aims to heal the mind
from childhood trauma via symbolic acts
that satisfy amoral, unconscious urges for
incest, cannibalism, matricide, copro-phagia, and the like. The resulting compilation of over 200 examples of sympathetic magic that Jodorowsky has used
with individual practitioners proves
wildly creative and boldly cinematic.
The unifying factor is a bizarre sense of
whimsy—one particular ritual has a
person pursue a promotion by writing
“ I am worthy! I can do it!” on a piece of
paper and then carrying it around inside
her vagina. The cure for claustrophobia
involves being placed nude in a coffin
and buried by “six charitable people,”
who later cover the patient with honey
and lick it off; achieving “happiness of
living” requires covering yourself in
excrement and begging for three hours,
then showering in your mother’s home.
Even the most adventurous veteran of self-help literature will likely demur. But for
the armchair student of human psychology, imagining Jodorowsky’s vibrant,
visceral, and entirely unapologetic paths
to the unconscious should be an absolutely delightful exercise. (Mar.)
What drew you to the Lusitania story?
I began reading about it on a whim and
became transfixed. I realized that the
time line of events most people assume
isn’t correct. The sinking of the
Lusitania wasn’t the proximal cause for the
U.S. entering WWI. It
was almost two years between the sinking and the
war declaration, and President Wilson’s request for
war never mentions the
Lusitania. I decided I
could tell the story in as
compelling and suspenseful way as possible. My
approach to history—my
goal—is not necessarily to
inform, but to get readers to sink into
the past, linger there, and arrive back in
the present with the feeling of having
lived in another place and time, at least
for a little while.
Your research took you to many places.
Which location had the biggest impact?
The National Archives of the United
Kingdom—the real meat was there.
But there was also the Cunard Archives
at the University of Liverpool, which
contains the files of morgue photos
taken after the sinking of the Lusitania.
With my research, I really need absolute confirmation of what actually happened, direct physical connections to
the past. I also hadn’t expected the Edith
Bolling Galt/Woodrow Wilson correspondence to be so ardent. Edith was
more restrained than Wilson. He knew
very quickly he wanted to marry her,
but she parried his thrusts in a kind of
romantic sword fight.
To an extent, you present the Lusitania
incident as a romance. Can you expand
I really liked Wilson’s romantic saga.
Here was this stiff, professorial type
writing torrid love letters to his girl-
friend about falling down the precipice
of love. I would have loved to include
some of his complete letters; they were
such intense pleas for
love. But overall it
speaks to the romance of
What do you think
about some people’s
insistence on blaming
the Lusitania’s sinking
on something or someone other than the German U-boat commander
Neither captain was really prepared for
the moment of contact. For Schwieger, it
was a miracle that this massive thing was
there for him to torpedo. He approached
with cynicism because torpedoes had a
60% failure rate. A sweep of random
things converged on that day, fascinating things that led to this tragedy.
What about those passengers who got
on board a vessel belonging to a belligerent nation in wartime?
People thought differently about risk and
threat then. It was a civilian ship, and
the Lusitania could outrun any submarine. So this population of people was
very confident that Cunard and the
Royal Navy would be looking after them.
Why weren’t they under convoy? That’s
the real question. Winston Churchill
[First Lord of the Admiralty] believed
merchant traffic had to look out for itself in wartime. He was a ruthless
guy—remember, he admitted, “ I love
PW Talks with Erik Larson
Love and the ‘Lusitania’
Larson crafts a gripping historical suspense story about the romance and
tragedy of the Lusitania in Dead Wake (reviews, Jan. 5; pub month, Mar.).