Wisconsin Death Trip by Michael Lesy
Wisconsin Death Trip is a collection of photographs and news reports from Jackson County, Wisconsin take from between 1885 to 1900. The goal of collecting the work was to get an idea of what everyday life in that place and time period was like. As the title suggests, it's not a pretty one. The region was plagued by murder, economic downturn, and rashes of suicides and arson.
The photographs take up a large part of the book and juxtaposed with the news stories are extremely disquieting. What seems to be blank looks on the people's faces (this was before smiling for photos was common) become masks of despair.
One could debate if this method of examining a time period is the best way of really getting into the psyche of the everyday person of the time, like the introduction states its goal is. Despite that, it remains a fascinating project. It's part history and part art book without being a history of art book. It's no wonder it maintains a cult following.
Buy Wisconsin Death Trip by Michael Lesy.
Wytchcult Rising by Philip LoPresti
This novelette from writer and photography Philip LoPresti is a story of an inbred cult living deep in the woods. The narrative jumps between a young boy involved in the cult, incapable of talking or walking from his deformities, and a third person perspective.
The prose is simple but poetic. The narrative recounts the cult's rituals in disturbing detail. Eventually, a group of men stumble upon the cult. After dispatching the men, the cult decides they no longer need to remain hidden in the woods and decide to take a nearby village for themselves.
The story is relatively simple, reminiscent of films like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and books like Off Season for its atavistic, incestuous family living in the dark recesses of the backwoods, but incredibly effective. The cult's strange and violent rituals, focused around sexual bodily fluids like semen and menstrual blood, give a sense of Dionysian spirituality and place it in opposition to the chasteness valued in Abrahamic religions.
Also included in this short book are photographs by LoPresti. They are just as disquieting as the story itself. Some of them showing death and destruction explicitly, but most resembling more the aftermath of the cults doings. LoPresti is just as talented a photographer as he is a writer.
Unfortunately, this book is out of print. If it's reprinted at anytime, I'll update here.