Margot Mifflin
July 09, 1999 AT 04:00 AM EDT

”Gothic is a wonderfully versatile genre, ceaselessly permutating to reflect the anxieties of succeeding ages,” writes Richard Davenport-Hines in Gothic: Four Hundred Years of Excess, Horror, Evil and Ruin almost comprehensive treatment of the subject. With cross-disciplinary panache, he covers everything from gothic art and architecture (including a passage on ”arboreal gothic”) to literature, film, and pop music. You’ll forgive him his panting enthusiasm for neo-goth author Poppy Z. Brite and ’80s mope-rockers the Cure, but not at the expense of shock-meisters Thomas Harris and Marilyn Manson, who don’t even enter his discussion. Even so, this is a wide-ranging and smartly written history of bloodlust. B+

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