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Special Cases: Natural Anomalies and Historical Monsters Hardcover – December 1, 1997

ISBN-13: 978-0811815680 ISBN-10: 0811815684 Edition: First Edition, First Printing

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Chronicle Books; First Edition, First Printing edition (December 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811815684
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811815680
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 8.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 2.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,126,408 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Under the guise of cultural studies, humankind's ceaseless fascination with human anomalies has gained a newfound legitimacy, and publishers are producing ever more works to satisfy both the prurient and intellectual ends of the scale. This handsomely produced book, unfortunately, seems unsure about where to place its focus and, ultimately, will disappoint most readers. Purcell, a photographer, writer, and curator of a show at the Getty Research Institute, from which this book was derived, has written a rambling, unconstructed text that not infrequently touches on fascinating ideas and historical examples. But just as often she abandons a theme just as she gets beneath the surface or moves on to another sample before fully examining the specimen before us. Her thesis?that the collectors and classifiers play as much a role in creating a freak as do the abnormalities?is interesting, if not entirely new, but never truly develops. Recommended only for academic cultural studies collections; popular collections would do better with Lawrence Weschler's Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder (LJ 10/1/95) and Jan Bondeson's A Cabinet of Medical Curiosities (LJ 10/15/97).?Douglas McClemont, New York
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Purcell must have felt challenged in selecting a fitting title for her unusual book, which, though based on an exhibition she curated, is much more than a catalog. Readers may feel challenged, too, by the striking illustrations, the detailed text, and the many direct and indirect questions that artist and historian Purcell raises, especially why and how people react to the sight of anomalies and monsters. A few of her particular subjects are well-known, but most aren't, for they were selected "from the dustiest corners of the furthest reaches of the oddest places." Their range runs from a seventeenth-century depiction of the bodies floating in Noah's flood to the graphic illustration from the fifteenth-century traveler Bernard de Mandeville's Voyages of a dog-headed man devouring a Crusader to the colorful Mary Sabina, the "Piebald Black Child," as eighteenth-century Europe called her. In all, a volume with diverse and peculiar appeal. William Beatty

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Customer Reviews

2.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on October 27, 1999
Format: Hardcover
This book could have been so much more. It is flawed by a very odd writing style---deadpan and stilted. The format is so odd as to make it almost unreadable at times---two blocks of print on each page, at very different levels, as if one is meant to be a caption, yet it isn't! The author doesn't seem to know whether she wants to be a book for the curious, or a book condemning you for being curious. A fascinating subject, which is why this book can be interesting at all, but really not handled well here---don't bother with this one.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 4, 1999
Format: Hardcover
The illustrations are spectacular in Special Cases, and many of the anecdotes are vividly written. But the author also omits much of the subject matter's historical and scientific context, leaving the "special cases" looking more like simple freaks. As well, this book is poorly organized and poorly edited, so that by the end I was completely frustrated with Ms. Purcell.
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9 of 11 people found the following review helpful By "pvarlet" on June 22, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Visually, the book is rewarding. The author has photographed her specimens imaginatively, compelling the reader to look twice to identify the subject matter. The text, however, is a great disappointment. Not only is the format confusing (as some reviewers have already pointed out), but with a writing style so disjointed and without an appreciable sense of structure, the book leaves us readers floundering in a fishpond, desperately seeking the shore.
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7 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 29, 1998
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book was very hard to read, the format was confusing. The material reads like it came from magazine captions. The pictures are mostly line drawings.
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