29.8.16

Ghosts Go Pop

June Michele Pulliam, Anthony J. Fonseca. Ghosts in Popular Culture and Legend. Greenwood Press (28 Aug. 2016)

With entries that range from specific works to authors, folklore, and popular culture (including music, film, television, urban legend, and gaming), this book provides a single-volume resource on all things ghostly in the United States and in other countries.
* Provides accessible, interesting, and fun-to-read information authored by expert researchers and coedited by scholars who are experts on the topic of ghosts across human culture
* Presents analytical discussions of the figure of the ghost in each work that will be beneficial to students in film studies, English, or other classes tasked with writing an essay on the horror genre or ghost films and books
* Explores how the idea of the ghost implies belief in there being more to human existence than the physical body and is intrinsically connected to the concept of the afterlife-and how these concepts often coexisted uneasily with beliefs regarding afterlife in religious theologies

18.8.16

The Return of the King

Ted Harrison. The Death and Resurrection of Elvis Presley. reaktion books, (August 2016)

Elvis Aaron Presley is more popular today than ever, yet he died nearly forty years ago. His music is constantly remixed and re-released to a new generation of fans, and his image thrives in popular art and culture. Elvis’s Graceland home and Tupelo birthplace have become places of pilgrimage. His relics command astounding prices at auction. Around the world it is estimated that there are 200,000 Elvis impersonators paying tribute to their hero. Elvis is the subject of some truly astonishing rumours and legends, including the one that he never actually died. Ted Harrison asks what lies behind the remarkable resurrection in popular culture of the King of Rock ’n’ Roll.

The Death and Resurrection of Elvis Presley tells the story of Elvis after Elvis. It shows how his estate, which was pillaged by his manager, was saved through the business acumen and financial vision of his ex-wife Priscilla Presley. It explores a spiritual dimension to the Elvis revival, where fans create a fantasy quasi-religion through which they blend and confuse Elvis and Jesus. In the growing myth of Elvis, Harrison identifies a vibrant synthesis between money and faith, unique to the modern age, but reminiscent of the early centuries of Christianity. Underpinning the whole story is Elvis’s extraordinary charisma, thousands of fans simply having a lot of fun and ultimately some great, enduring music. This is a must-read for the many millions of loyal followers, as well as those who are more critical of the King.

5.8.16

Beastly and Bizarre .

Juliette Wood. Here be Dragons: Mythical Beasts in Ancient Legend and Modern Myth. Continuum. (25 Aug. 2016)

'Here be dragons' was the traditional warning used by ancient mapmakers to indicate dangerous, or simply unknown, lands. These were the dwelling places of fantastical beasts, creatures such as dragons, sea serpents, unicorns, griffins and mermaids. Throughout the ages, such beasts have been viewed in complex and contradictory ways because they embody both our fear and our fascination of the unpredictable natural world around us. They appear in the earliest myths and accompany the heroes of medieval romance and folktales.

Whether as the symbolic creatures of myth, or as the marvellous beasts of medieval legend and travellers' tales, fantastic animals have always inspired art and literature. Today they feature among the many marvels that populate the alternative worlds of fantasy and the outer reaches of cyberspace. Drawing on sources as diverse as myth, history and folklore, this book explores the ways in which mythical beasts continue to inhabit our fantasies and to define our constantly changing relationship to both real and imagined worlds.

Christopher Dell. Monsters: A Bestiary of the Bizarre. Thames and Hudson. (11 Aug. 2016)

Monsters have preoccupied mankind from the earliest times: even cave art includes animal-human monsters. Certainly monsters were present in the ancient religions of Egypt and Mesopotamia; the Old Testament describes the giant land and sea monsters Behemoth and Leviathan, while in the world of Classical mythology, monsters embody the fantasies of the gods and the cruellest punishments of human beings.

While we may no longer worry about being eaten by trolls on the way home, there remains a fascination with these creatures who have shadowed us throughout history. This book explores monsters down the ages and throughout the world. It provides a dark yet engrossing visual history of the human mind, lit up by flashes of wild and unearthly inspiration.

2.8.16

Victorian Values

Two new titles from the Amberley stable, giving interesting glimpse into the forgotten corners of 19th century life. I really want to know more about the rat-killing monkey of Manchester!

John S. Croucher and Rosalind F. Croucher. Mistress of Science: The Story of the Remarkable Janet Taylor, Pioneer of Sea Navigation. Amberley. (15 August)

It is hard to imagine a more male-dominated field in the nineteenth century than that of sea navigation; this was the high-point of the British Empire and sea navigation drove it. Yet in the midst of this domain Janet Taylor emerged as a young woman confident of her ability to match the best male minds in the business. Janet was one of the most remarkable scientists of the nineteenth century, and yet until now her story has never been told. A gifted mathematician, astronomer, author and instrument maker, Janet also possessed extraordinary skills as a teacher of navigation and business woman.

Jon Bondeson. Strange Victoriana: Tales of the Curious, the Weird and the Uncanny from Our Victorain Ancestors. Ambereley. (15 August)

This book makes use of a privately held archive of the old periodical 'Illustrated Police News' to describe strange, macabre and uncanny episodes from the Victorian era. Dog-Faced Men are exhibited on stage, the doctors congregate around the bed of the Sleeping Frenchman of Soho, Miss Vint demonstrates her Reincarnated Cats, and scantily dressed Female Somnambulists tumble from the roofs. From the spectral world, we have the Haunted Murder House near Chard, the Ghost of Berkeley Square, the Jumping Spectre of Peckham and the Fighting Ghost of Tondu. The White Gorilla takes a swig from its tankard of beer, eagles come swooping from the sky to carry off little children, heroic Newfoundland dogs plunge into the waves to rescue drowning mariners, and the Rat-Killing Monkey of Manchester goes on a rampage in the rat-pit, swinging a hammer.

23.7.16

Alternative Archaeology Analysed

An academic approach to 'alternative' archaeology.

Jeb J. Card, David S. Anderson (Editors) Lost City, Found Pyramid: Understanding Alternative Archaeologies and Pseudoscientific Practices. The University of Alabama Press; 2nd ed. edition (30 July 2016)

From the publisher's website: Lost City, Found Pyramid delves into the fascinating world of sensational “pseudoarchaeology,” from perennial discoveries of lost pyramids or civilizations to contemporary ghost-hunting and reality TV. It examines how nonscientific pursuit of myths and legends warps both public perceptions of archaeology and of human history itself. A collection of twelve engaging and insightful essays, Lost City, Found Pyramid does far more than argue for the simple debunking of false archaeology. Rather, they bring into focus the value of understanding how and why pseudoarchaeology captures the public imagination. 

By comprehending pseudoarchaeology’s appeal as a media product, cultural practice, and communication strategy, archaeologists can enhance and enliven how they communicate about real archaeology in the classroom and in the public arena. The first part of Lost City, Found Pyramid provides numerous case studies. Some examine the work of well-intentioned romantics who project onto actual archaeological data whimsical interpretative frameworks or quixotic “proofs” that confirm legends, such as that of the Lost White City of Honduras, or other alternative claims. Other case studies lay bare how false claims may inadvertently lead to the perpetuation of ethnic stereotypes, economic exploitation, political adventurism, and a misunderstanding of science. 

Offering much of interest to scholars and students of archaeology, archaeology buffs, as well as policy-makers involved in the discovery, curation, and care of archaeological sites and relics, Lost City, Found Pyramid provides an invaluable corrective and hopeful strategy for engaging the public’s curiosity with the compelling world of archaeological discovery.

18.7.16

Northern Echoes

Continuing this author's series examining the myth and folklore of European cultures.

Claude Lecouteux, Encyclopedia of Norse and Germanic Folklore, Mythology, and Magic. Inner Traditions (21 July 2016)

The legends of the Norse and Germanic regions of Europe--spanning from Germany and Austria across Scandinavia to Iceland and England--include a broad range of mythical characters and places, from Odin and Thor, to berserkers and Valhalla, to the Valkyries and Krampus. In this encyclopedia, Claude Lecouteux explores the origins, connections, and tales behind many gods, goddesses, magical beings, rituals, folk customs, and mythical places of Norse and Germanic tradition.

More than a reference to the Aesir and the Vanir pantheons, this encyclopedia draws upon a wealth of well-known and rare sources, such as the Poetic Edda, the Saga of Ynglingar by Snorri Sturluson, and The Deeds of the Danes by Saxo Grammaticus. The author describes the worship of the elements and trees, details many magical rituals, and shares wild folktales from ancient Europe, such as the strange adventure of Peter Schlemihl and the tale of the Cursed Huntsman. He also dispels the false beliefs that have arisen from the Nazi hijacking of Germanic mythology and from its longtime suppression by Christianity.

Complete with rare illustrations and information from obscure sources appearing for the first time in English, this detailed reference work represents an excellent resource for scholars and those seeking to reconnect to their pagan pasts and restore the old religion.

11.7.16

Comic Strips and UFOs

Bill Schelly. Otto Binder: The Life and Work of a Comic Book and Science Fiction Visionary. North Atlantic Books (June 7, 2016)

Otto Binder: The Life and Work of a Comic Book and Science Fiction Visionary chronicles the career of Otto Binder, from pulp magazine author to writer of Supergirl, Captain Marvel, and Superman comics. As the originator of the first sentient robot in literature ("I, Robot," published in Amazing Stories in 1939 and predating Isaac Asimov's collection of the same name), Binder's effect on science fiction was profound. Within the world of comic books, he created or co-created much of the Superman universe, including Smallville; Krypto, Superboy's dog; Supergirl; and the villain Braniac. Binder is also credited with writing many of the first "Bizarro" storylines for DC Comics, as well as for being the main writer for the Captain Marvel comics. 

In later years, Binder expanded from comic books into pure science writing, publishing dozens of books and articles on the subject of satellites and space travel as well as UFOs and extraterrestrial life. Comic book historian Bill Schelly tells the tale of Otto Binder through comic panels, personal letters, and interviews with Binder's own family and friends. Schelly weaves together Binder's professional successes and personal tragedies, including the death of Binder's only daughter and his wife's struggle with mental illness. A touching and human story, Otto Binder: The Life and Work of a Comic Book and Science Fiction Visionary is a biography that is both meticulously researched and beautifully told, keeping alive Binder's spirit of scientific curiosity and whimsy.