The first book of nonfiction from one of our great fiction writers.
Given that most Americans proudly consider themselves non-political, where do our notions of collective responsibility come from? Which self-deceptions, when considering ourselves as actors on the world stage, do we cling to most tenaciously? Why do we so stubbornly believe, for example, that our country always means well when intervening abroad?
The Tunnel at the End of the Light argues that some of our most persistent and destructive assumptions, in that regard, might come from the movies. In these ten essays Jim Shepard weaves close readings of film with cultural criticism to explore the ways in which movies work so ubiquitously to reflect how Americans think and act. Whether assessing the “high-spirited glee of American ruthlessness” captured in GoodFellas, or finding in Lawrence of Arabia a “portrait of the lunatic serenity of our leaders’ conviction in the face of all evidence and their own lack of knowledge,” he explores how we enter into conversations with specific genres and films―Chinatown, The Third Man, and Badlands among others―in order to construct and refine our most cherished illusions about ourselves.
“It’s a pleasure to read Shepard’s graceful prose, and the insights just seem to flow from his pen. [These essays are] vital for precisely the reason that the films they discuss remain vital: they balance entertainment with deeper concerns about morality and society. . . . This collection shows Shepard’s voice to be as essential as ever.”
—Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
“Shepard displays a talent for sharp film criticism laced with equally penetrating political insight. . . . Amid the thumbs up or down style that dominates 21st-century American film criticism, Shepard’s provocative engagement with this art form offers a bracing change of pace.”