Did your cousin's wife's dentist's daughter go to the tanning parlor once too often and had her insides cooked? Has your husband's brother's nephew teacher try to make a dead rabbit look alive? If so, you've heard-or you yourself may have told-two of the seventy-plus legends in this collection.
Urban legends are "those bizarre but believable stories about batter-fried rats, spiders in hairdos, Cabbage Patch dolls that get funerals, and the like that pass by word of mouth as being the gospel truth." But of course, though often told as having happened to a FOAF (friend of a friend), they aren't true. Included in this collection are legends about sex, horror, cars, business, and academia. Among them are "The Bible Student's Exam," "The Pregnant Shoplifter," "The Ice Cream Cone Caper," "Don't Mess with Texas," and "Mrs. Fields' Cookie Recipe."
Did you hear about the woman who cooked herself by overdosing at the tanning salon? Or the airline pilot who locked himself out of the cockpit and had to smash his way back in with an axe? If so, you've heard an "urban legend," one of scores that Brunvand presents here in yet another of his pleasantly chatty surveys of modern folklore. Brunvand (The Mexican Pet; The Vanishing Hitchhiker) provides much commentary for each legend, dividing his material - adapted front a syndicated column he writes - into seven rough groupings ("Automobile Legends," "Sex and Scandal Legends," "Academic Legends," etc.). He concentrates on the origins of the legends, their relation to parallel legends, and their meaning. Most readers will recognize at least some of the stories, a surprising number of which have been accepted, at least momentarily, by the national media as fact - paradigmatically, the assumption of widespread tampering of Halloween candy. Brunvand explains that this heinous act is actually an extremely rare phenomenon mushroomed into legend - a legend with Biblical roots (the apple in Eden), a 1940's counterpart (skillet-heated pennies given to trick-or-treaters), and a reputation nurtured by films like the Halloween quartet. A number of the better-known legends have made their way into popular outlets such as the "Dear Abby" or "Ann Landers" columns - a not surprising fate for stories that, as Brunvand points out, often serve as barometers of fears about technology and other modern woes; an exemplar of these legends is that of "Aids Mary," of a lovely woman who's hopping into beds around the country, knowingly spreading AIDS. There's much light material here too - e.g., "Dave's Behind," that David Letterman is contractually protected from being photographed from the rear - all duly referenced and cross-collated by Brunvand into a work that's an entertaining and informative bit of popular anthropology. (Kirkus Reviews)