Arts & Culture

Book Reviews: October 2019

The latest from Rusty Tagliareni, Christina Mathews, and Jack Slocomb


Abandoned Asylums of the Northeast

Rusty Tagliareni and Christina Mathews (Arcadia Publishing)

In the mood for some spooky reading this month? Look no further than this collection on abandoned asylums throughout the northeastern region of the U.S. Its authors explore the dusty, forgotten remains of these hospitals, most of which are now overgrown with nature and strewn with creepy relics of days past. One such asylum is the “Psychopathic Building,” a large, forlorn structure with grand pillars at its entrance, which sits on the grounds of the still-active Spring Grove Hospital Center in Catonsville. Apparently, the building is now home to more than a few stray cats. Let’s face it—a psychiatric hospital can give you the heebie-jeebies as it is; an abandoned one adds another dimension altogether. Gorgeous and haunting color photographs tell their own stories, showing the weathered ruins of these once-thriving buildings, now an archaic part of our country’s history. Many are inaccessible to the public (one is only accessible by boat), so the authors’ collection gives us a glimpse into places we’re not likely to explore ourselves, even if we dared.


Native Tongue

By Jack Slocomb (Akinoga Press)

These poems are clearly written by a man who doesn’t just take note of but closely observes—and relishes—the changing seasons. In his debut collection, Jack Slocomb waxes poetic about the Allegheny Mountains, where he grew up. Their expression of fall and winter, on which this volume focuses, can be distinctly felt, as if the reader were walking alongside Slocomb on a dank forest path among the autumn leaves. Though he penetrates deep into the natural world, it’s not without bridging a connection to human beings and our common language with nature (hence, the book’s title). He shows us how a place impresses itself upon a person’s identity, and allows us to wonder how we, in turn, might shape the land. His second volume, Spring/Summer, is slated to be released in 2020. This collection is an ideal way to slow down this time of year and luxuriate in the wonders of summertime giving way to fall.