Colin Winnette’s Haints Stay and the weird mythic roots of Westerns

1440512071.71Lincoln Michel at The Oyster Review:

The Wild West has always been surreal. Even when it existed, it was being transformed into myth, often by the very figures associated with it. In 1883, Buffalo Bill retired from bison hunting and “Indian fighting” to dazzle crowds with a Wild West vaudeville show that featured the likes of Wild Bill Hickok and Annie Oakley. These performances helped define the frontier in the public’s mind. The real Wild West might have been a mostly dull place where banks were safe places for money and cowboys had to actually, you know, deal with cattle. But in the Wild West of our imagination, a bank is robbed every day at high noon and the lone gunslinger forever stalks his enemies through the wasteland with inhuman vengeance.

It is a small step from the mythic to the bizarre, and the Western has always been a ripe genre for artists with an eye for the uncanny. From films like Alejandro Jodorowsky’s El Topo and Jim Jarmusch’s Dead Man to novels like Robert Coover’s Ghost Town and Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, the American West has been frequently depicted as a strange land. Add to that weird Western tradition Colin Winnette’s Haints Stay.

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