No Go the Bogeyman: Scaring, Lulling, and Making Mock

Marina Warner, Author Farrar Straus Giroux $35 (435p) ISBN 978-0-374-22301-4
Noting an unprecedented and growing fascination with the grotesque in contemporary life, British cultural historian Warner (From the Beast to the Blond: On Fairy Tales and Their Tellers) has amassed an eclectic compendium of fact, folklore, history and art, examining the seductive charm of monsters, ogres, witches and other figures of horror from centuries past. According to Warner, the enormous popularity of R.L. Stine's Goosebumps series of juvenile fiction, the dark comedies of filmmaker Quentin Tarantino and the use of ""Quasimodo humps and lumps and lopsided pads"" by designer Rei Kawabuko in her spring 1997 collection for Comme des Gar ons are only the latest manifestations of a long-standing gothic tradition. She pinpoints three ways that horror serves to allay and confront human fears of abuse, abandonment and death: scaring (fear as a positive visceral experience); lulling (""Lullabies weave a protective web of words and sounds against raiders who come with the night...""); and making mock (dark comedy as a defense against fear). Freewheeling from text to text, Warner looks at fairy tales, cannibalism in Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus and Roald Dahl's The BFG, the Circe myth, the sexual symbolism of the banana and the visual art of Francisco Goya, Michelangelo Caravaggio, Louis Desprez and Albert Eckhout. Arguing that bogeymen and monsters are frequently cast as our alter egos, Warner demonstrates the strong ties between these figures and children, both as sources of identity (as in Maurice Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are) and of danger. Though sometimes digressive, this encyclopedic and kaleidoscopic volume will keep fans of the grotesque reading late into the night. 100 b&w illustrations and 30 color plates (Feb.)
Reviewed on: 02/01/1999
Release date: 02/01/1999
Genre: Fiction
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