Books That Make Us Human

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Imaginative-conservative Daniel McCarthy kicks off his list of books that make us human with an unusual choice:

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson — It’s an untrue truism that good monster stories are really about humanity, but this one is, albeit in an unexpected way. Matheson’s novella has been filmed many times; the only cinematic treatment worth catching is the 1971 Charlton Heston version, “The Omega Man.” I would go so far as to argue that I Am Legend has inspired even more films than is commonly thought, since the mood and menace of “Night of the Living Dead” owe almost everything to this book. But what do zombies — or vampires, in the book — tell us about being human? The answer lies in the twist ending, which I won’t give away. Suffice to say the story viscerally confronts us with how purblind our self-understanding can be.

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