Cinematic States

Stories We Tell, the American Dreamlife, and How to Understand Everything

by Gareth Higgins


A Northern Irish writer explores his adopted homeland through film in this irreverent yet moving journey through each of the 50 states. Set among a personal backdrop of immigration memoir, he takes on American myths in their most powerful form-the motion picture-by setting out to determine if a Kansas yellow brick road really does lead to the end of the rainbow, and whether it first has to pass through Colorado’s Overlook Hotel.

Amid the multipurpose woodchippers, friendly exorcists, and faulty motel showers, resurrected baseball players, and miracle-working gardeners, he examines what the stories we tell reveal about American lives and uses this to sum up what he has learned about the promises, failures, and hope that is America.



“This is really wonderful stuff. Thoughtful and unique and insightful and funny. It’s unlike anything I’ve ever read, and it took me back to my childhood. The book creates SO MUCH good will by reminding us why we love movies.”
Scott Teems, director, That Evening Sun

“Gareth Higgins has written a truly original and brilliant book . . . Higgins shows us America in the language we understand best, the movies, with a witty sympathy for his subject that cuts America (and all humans) some forgiving slack. Higgins lets us (as he puts it) kneel at the altar of the white screen and insist that it answer . . . life’s questions alongside him.”
Frank Schaeffer, author, Crazy for God

“To paraphrase Tennessee Williams, with Cinematic States, Gareth Higgins is the opposite of the autobiographer, who gives you personal history that has the appearance of critical and political analysis. Gareth gives you art and political criticism in the pleasant disguise of autobiography.”
Monte Hellman, director, Two-Lane Blacktop


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Additional information


Conundrum Press








6 x 9

Publication Date

November 5, 2013

The Author

Gareth Higgins

Gareth Higgins

Gareth Higgins is a peace activist, a blogger, and a contributing editor at Sojourners Magazine. He has written for the Independent, the Irish Times, and Third Way. He cohosts the award-winning podcast, The Film Talk, and has present on BBC Radio. He is the author of How Movies Helped Save My Soul and coauthor of Religion, Civil Society, and Peace in Northern Ireland. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

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