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The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends and Their Meanings [Paperback]

Jan Harold Brunvand
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
Price: £11.00 & FREE Delivery in the UK. Details
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Book Description

26 Jan 1983
The noted folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand has written a first book about one of the most common forms of contemporary folklore - the urban legends. All of the major legends are fully discussed, from teenage horror stories like "The Hook" and "The Boyfriend's Death" to spoofs of adult foibles like "The Solid Cement Cadillac" and "The Nude Surprise Party."

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The Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends and Their Meanings + Be Afraid, be Very Afraid: The Book of Scary Urban Legends + Too Good to be True: The Colossal Book of Urban Legends
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Product details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; New edition edition (26 Jan 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393951693
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393951691
  • Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 13.7 x 2.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 502,258 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"A uniquely entertaining book, edifying scholarship, diverting social history." -- Elaine Kendall, Los Angeles Times Book Review

A uniquely entertaining book, edifying scholarship, diverting social history. -- Elaine Kendall, Los Angeles Times Book Review

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
We are not aware of our own folklore any more than we are of the grammatical rules of our language. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
3.8 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent introduction to urban folklore 12 May 1997
By A Customer
"The Vanishing Hitchhiker," folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand's first book on urban legends, provides a thorough introduction to the definition, interpretation, and themes of urban folkore. About three dozen classic "friend of a friend" tales are covered in depth; each is presented through several examples, accompanied by a detailed analysis, and listed in a Notes section highlighting folklore journal articles about it. All in all, an excellent introduction for those who care to learn more about the field of urban folklore rather than just read collections of urban legends.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent book about stories and culture 7 Aug 1998
By A Customer
This book is excellent. By reading it you get a good scope on what urban legends are and how they fulfil their role in communication in society. I have done some research in Folklore and Urban Legends in the Netherlands, and Brunvand's work has had a major influence on the scope of my thesis. He knows what he is talking about. This book gives a good insight in storytelling, culture and American Society. A must for researchers in cultural studies, and probably a good book for those who want to learn more about the American society. It is fun to read, clearly written and Brunvand has a nice style of writing. I think many people would like this book, whether they are doing research, are on holiday, on the train or whatever. It's a book of all times, and so are the stories...
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3.0 out of 5 stars The Study Of Urban Lore 7 July 2012
By Dave_42
Jan Harold Brunvand's "The Vanishing Hitchhiker" is the first of several books he has published which take a scholarly look at Urban Legends. Where did these legends start, how have they evolved to fit a new time or situation. Urban Legends are interesting stories, as you will find people who are swear that they happened (usually not to them, but to a friend or a relation or a relation of a friend, etc.), and you can even find cases where they are reported as happening. They can be based on something which really happened, or something which never have happened, but regardless, their spread and retelling takes on a life and purpose of its own.

The first chapter of the book deals with all the foundational information. What are "Urban Legends"? How should they be interpreted? Brunvand uses "The Boyfriend's Death" legend to help explain the phenomena and how they are studied. By far this is the most important chapter of the book, as this is then the material the reader will use on the majority of the rest of the book.

Chapters 2 through 7 are all about the legends, broken into groupings such as Automobile, Teenage Horrors, Contaminations, the dead, kind of a catchall he titles "Dalliance, Nudity, and Nightmares, and then finally two favorite media legends. Chapter 8 then looks at urban legends in the making, where he looks at legends which never take off into the population as a whole (or haven't yet), or have gone into a period of inactivity, etc.

This is a good introduction into the study of Urban Legends. My negatives are all on the writing style of the book, and not the content. The presentation could have been much more accessible and interesting. While that may not matter as far as the quality of the information is concerned, it would have helped bring more people to a point where they can appreciate the topic and the significance of studying these stories.
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