Ander Monson : Predator, a Memoir



A N D E R   M O N S O N





A   M E M O I R ,   A   M O V I E,   A N   O B S E S S I O N


  T H E   B O O K  

Predator: a Memoir is the product of 146+ viewings of the 1987 Arnold Schwarzenegger action movie Predator, the greatest American film of its era, or at least the most American film of the era. Though beloved by many, the movie Predator is widely misunderstood as just a big dumb action movie, but in fact it's a genre-hopping, sly commentary on the limits of colonialism, technology, manhood, and action movies as a whole. It's also a surprisingly deep dive into the bonds between men and how and when they break. The book is a love letter to the movie and a guide to its many layers and secrets. Why is Predator—of all the hyper-stylized action movies of the era—the movie that spawned one of the deepest and most beloved action/sci-fi franchises, including at least seven feature films and countless novels and graphic novels and games? Why is Predator the character we love to see fight our favorite fictional characters? What does it mean that two actors from the film (Schwarzenegger, Ventura) went on to become governors? Why did Predator parent me as comprehensively as it did, and what did that do to me—and to men like me? And why and how should you watch this movie? Well, you'll have to read it to find out.

Kirkus Reviews:

In a country where incomprehensible, violent tragedies are becoming commonplace, Monson finds clarity processing the new American way against the backdrop of his favorite movie. "The world we're living in watched it and consumed [the film], and now I see it everywhere I go," he writes, effortlessly connecting incidents like the Jan. 6 insurrection to the golden age of 1980s action blockbusters, a time of glorified violence and explosive machismo. While the text initially feels like an arbitrary lens to discuss toxic trends in masculinity, Monson finds a cracking pace that imbues the film with an improbable resonance, at once lowbrow and mesmerizingly cogent. A frame-by-frame discussion unspools with repeated pauses and digressions, all of which scatter fragments of memoir and existential inquiry within celluloid scenes of over-the-top alien action. Monson positions the film as a watershed moment in American masculinity as well as in his own development, and he's a sympathetic but critical participant. As he notes, he was a teenage hacker and made bombs with his friends based on recipes from The Anarchist Cookbook, and while he recognizes and shuns the part of him that could have evolved into the worst of today's men, he still revels in the film's muscle and aggression. The '80s were also an era of film novelizations, and the author spends many compassionate chapters telling the story of Paul Monette, the acclaimed poet and author of Borrowed Time: An AIDS Memoir, who, oddly, wrote the Predator novelization as a side gig while his partner was dying. All these pieces form an illuminating whole despite their buckshot focus. In a discussion of Predator's alien and its infrared vision, Monson profoundly elucidates: "These shots are really about adaptation, our ability to see ourselves as others do, and to—hopefully—evolve, at least a little." An unlikely treatise on manhood with the charm of a late-night movie marathon.


Publishers Weekly:

The cult 1987 sci- horror movie exposes the male heart of darkness, according to this rueful homage. Novelist and critic Monson (Vanishing Point), whoʼs watched Predator—in which Arnold Schwarzenegger and other armed mercenaries battle an extraterrestrial big-game hunter—some 146 times over three decades, gives a scene by scene, sometimes frame by frame analysis. He admires the flickʼs visual effects and nuanced characterizations, along with the sheer panache of its over-the-top violence ("Itʼs brilliant. Dillon screams. The camera lingers on his disconnected arm. The arm still pulses with simulated blood, the nger twitching on the trigger, bullets ying"). He further dissects its rendition of a manly archetype of combative, emotionally repressed men spewing quips amid the carnage, one that he connects to serial killings, the January 6 riot, and other masculinist pathologies. Monson riffs on such tangents as rocker Little Richard, shoot-ʼem-up video games, and the [possibly] gay actor who portrayed the alien Predator, and explores the movieʼs resonance with his youthful miscreancy in rural Michigan dabbling in amateur explosives and computer crime. Written in loose-jointed yet elegant prose that guiltily savors Predatorʼs pleasures, Monsonʼs subtle, twisty appreciations and critiques—"Itʼs satire wrapped in gun pornography.... tenderness wrapped in beefy macho posturing and explosive ballets"—transform the movie into a penetrating commentary on the contradictions of manhood. Movie buffs will want to snap this up.


  E V E N T S  &  S C R E E N I N G S  

Tucson, Seattle, San Francisco, Chicago, Iowa City, Ann Arbor, and more. Come and join me in watching Predator on the big screen.


  C O N V E R S A T I O N S  

"It's so easy to lose who we used to be." — in conversation with J. C. Hallman at the Brooklyn Rail

Shooting at Nothing: an Interview with Ander Monson by Abigail Oswald in the Cleveland Review of Books

On Predator and the Lives of Writers podcast with Michael Wheaton


  S E C R E T S   O F P R E D A T O R  

Around the 90th viewing of Predator I started watching the film frame by frame. Join me in discovering some of the many secrets of Predator. Click the obscured shot of Schwarzenegger to begin.


  G E A R  

While you wait for the book, you can order a t-shirt or two if you want (more will be coming shortly).

The Predator VHS Shirt


The Monson vs Predator Shirt



E D I T I O N V H S - S T Y L E


Protect your copy of Predator: a Memoir in VHS style, with this limited edition VHS-style slip book case. There are two ways to get one of these: (1) come to one of my fall book events, or (2) preorder the book from my local bookstore, Antigone Books (they'll ship!).


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L I P   B A R R I E R S

TURN YOUR GIRLYMAN SELF INTO A BURLYMAN SELF. Now you too can turn the tables on whatever Predator rules your life by buying battlefield-tested Predator Tactical Lip Barriers.


  O T H E R   D A T A  

Number of times watched Predator to write Predator: a Memoir: 146.

Number of times watched Predator: 151.

Number of memoirs written: 1.

Number of not memoirs written: 1.