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Monsters of Our Own Making: The Peculiar Pleasures of Fear Paperback – February 23, 2007
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"A pleasure to read, this study is rich, rewarding, and persuasive." -- CHOICE
"Fascinating, clever and original." -- London Review of Books
"A romp through a catalog of scary stuff" -- New York Times Book Review
"This erudite, extravagant banana split of a book is sure to leave even the most ravenous devourer of criticism feeling stated" -- Newsday
"A dream of a book. Dip into it anywhere and you will draw up wonders." -- Washington Post Book World
"This is an original and significant book that covers all aspects of culture from Greek mythology to contemporary popular culture." -- Jack Zipes, author of Why Fairy Tales Stick: The Evolution and Relevance of a G
""Fear is alive and well.... Warner's volume delves into the fraught relations of pleasure and pain with fear."" -- Journal of Folklore Research
About the Author
Marina Warner is a novelist and cultural historian. Her many books include From the Beast to the Blonde: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers and Phantasmagoria: Spirit Visions, Metaphors, and Media. She is professor of literature, film, and theatre studies at the University of Essex and lives in London.
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The original title, "No Go the Bogeyman" might have been better, but undoubtedly the publishers thought it was too nonsensical. The current title, however, is a bit misleading.
This scholarly dissertation on the subject of fear focuses almost exclusively on the folkloric motif of ogres, giants, goblins and trolls, etc. (the things which gobble up children.) A scant bit of attention is given to devils and monsters (surprisingly enough, Scylla from the Odyssey is a major subject) and witches (Circe, also from the Odyssey, playing a central role in Part 3). These "scary" themes are introduced and then subjected to deep, meandering Postmodern and Post-Freudian analysis.
The book is divided into three sections. The first (and longest) shows a strange obsession with cannibalism and anthropophagy. I began to worry that this was going to be all the book was about. Part two (the shortest and ironically the most interesting to me) discusses the morbid, vicious streak that runs through lullabies and nursery rhymes - and what social purpose it might serve. Part three deals with the comical grotesque; monsters as a subject of fun, transformation as a form of release from social constraint, and as a way of rationalising and conquering fear. The book ends with a fascinating chapter which reveals the horrible truth about ... bananas(!?) and a postscript that touches on the subject of modern-day (quasi-mythical, partly real) bogeymen: pedophiles, serial killers, and terrorists.
The language of this book is quite interesting in itself: It is peppered with subtle British-isms (for example: Comic monsters "pulling" their tongues instead of "sticking them out" as us Yanks do.) Unexpected words pop up which are seldom encountered outside the world of the professional scholar and wordsmith; you will need to have your unabridged dictionary handy. I turned to mine frequently for such gems as "reified," "epigone," "palinode," "fescennine," "apotropaic," and "usufruct," just to name a few. I know I'm just a dumb American, but seriously - I don't think even a well-educated Englishman has these words ready for use in his everyday vocabulary. Even knowing they exist - let alone using them correctly in a sentence - is pretty impressive to me.
Oh, and there are also lots of pictures: black & white illustrations throughout the text, and two sections of color illustrations. All of the pictures have captions and sources are thoroughly referenced .. except for the picture on the cover. What is it called? Does it portray a mythological subject, and if so, what? Who is the artist? I really want to know!
To sum up, this book is of great academic interest on the subject of dark folklore, but it is not Peculiarly Pleasurable as the subtitle would suggest.