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Encyclopedia of Urban Legends
ABC-Clio | 2001-06-01 | ISBN: 157607076X | 294 pages | CHM | 3,4 MB

If you remember the point in your cognitive development where you discovered that a true tale and a tale that is not true sound pretty much the same, then you can understand the power of your standard urban legend. The one that goes farthest back in my own mental file cabinet would be "The Kentucky Fried Rat," which was told with regards to a particular fast food restaurant in Albuquerque when I was in high school. Of course, some of these go way back, such as "The Bullet Baby," the one set in the Civil War where a bullet goes through the scrotum of a Union soldier and lodges in the reproductive tract of a young woman who gives birth to a healthy baby nine months later. That hoax was first published in an 1874 medical journal. You can see the basic principle involved, in terms of taking things that "could" be true, even if it requires a hefty grain of salt, and spinning a tale. I can imagine somebody trying to come up with alternative methods of accomplishing a virgin birth and throwing out this whopper.

Brunvand, a professor emeritus at the University of Utah, has written several books on the subject of urban legends, such as "Too Good to Be True," "The Vanishing Hitchhiker," and "Curses! Broiled Again!" In this collection he is interested in looking at these urban legends as examples of modern folk narrative. There are hundreds of individual urban legends included here, along with their variations, and most entries are cross-referenced and include bibliographical citations. Whenever possible he traces the evolution of particular legends and their connections to other fields including film, literature, comic books, music, etc. He also points out how the Internet has speeded up the dissemination of urban legends to an extent never before imagined.

There are even some entries that explain how to collect, classify, and analyze texts and performances for those who want to research the subject further. Throughout the book what Brunvand calls "legend themes" are explored and he often touches on the scholarly approaches to the genre. But for most readers the fun is going to be finding out where some of the stories they have heard about or even believed in the past really came from. In my defense I want to point out that I really did not care if the story about the "Neiman Marcus Cookies" was true; I really liked the recipe because these are super rich cookies and you can only eat one at a time, which, for me, would be a good thing.

Enjoy this great book! Brought to you by SMIRK


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