The Truth Never Stands in the Way of a Good Story

Front Cover
University of Illinois Press, 2001 - Social Science - 217 pages
"My sister's boyfriend knows a family who . . ."
"One of my wife's colleagues has a friend who knows someone who . . ."
"This is a true story that was forwarded to me by. . ."
"This is not a joke!"

In this lively and engaging book, the nation's foremost expert on urban legends explores the spontaneous germination of these bizarre yet plausible narratives that play on the absurdities and prey on the fears of modern life.

Through voluminous correspondence from readers of his books and syndicated newspaper column, Jan Harold Brunvand has become something of a clearinghouse for evolving versions of urban legends. Here he looks in detail at a dozen rampant and long-lived examples of this vigorous category of contemporary folklore, tracing their histories, variations, sources, and meanings.

Brunvand tracks the various permutations-by fax, by e-mail, by newspaper, by word of mouth--of such legends as "The Red Velvet Cake," "The Brain Drain," and "The Baby Roast." He points out their common elements--notably, their insistence on the truth of the story and their attribution to a "friend of a friend." His son Erik Brunvand, an associate professor of computer science at the University of Utah, contributes his own view of computer hacker legends traded across the Internet.

Captivating and thought-provoking, The Truth Never Stands in the Way of a Good Story pins down the qualities that give urban legends their air of authenticity and make them hard to believe yet impossible to dismiss. For those interested in popular culture and current events as well as those wary of being taken in by false information, Brunvand's book reinforces his most basic piece of advice: "Don't believe everything you hear."

 

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The truth never stands in the way of a good story

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Verbally transmitted stories that have influenced history, beliefs, morals, and humor, folktales usually derive from a retelling by a "friend-of-a-friend" through which the tale has become accepted as ... Read full review

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Contents

INTRODUCTION
Richard M Dorson and the Urban Legend
7
The Brain Drain Legend of the Long Hot Summer of 1995 and Beyond
17
The Baby Roast as a New American Urban Legend
32
Whats Red and White and Baked All Over?
56
The Story behind a Missouri Legend
70
The Legend of the Clown Who Cussed the Kids
78
A Faxlore Phenomenon
89
The Folklorists Search for the Ghost in Search of Help for a Dying Person
117
The Missing Day in Time
131
Some Oddities of Military Legendry
143
Some News from the Miscellaneous Legend Files
154
Legends of the Computer Age
164
The Future of Urban Legends
193
INDEX
205
Copyright

A Blast Heard round the World
102

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About the author (2001)

Jan Harold Brunvand, is professor emeritus of English specializing in folklore at the University of Utah. He is the author of numerous books, including The Baby Train and Other Lusty Urban Legends and Too Good to Be True: The Colossal Book of Urban Legends.

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