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Vanishing Hitchhiker: American Urban Legends and Their Meanings Hardcover – 16 Jun 1982


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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Co.; 1st Edition edition (16 Jun. 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393014738
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393014730
  • Product Dimensions: 2.5 x 2.5 x 2.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 576,259 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"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 --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Jan Harold Brunvand lives in Salt Lake City, where he is professor emeritus at the University of Utah. He is the author of numerous books, including The Vanishing Hitchhiker; The Choking Doberman; The Baby Train; Too Good to Be True; and Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 12 May 1997
Format: Paperback
"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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Dave_42 on 7 July 2012
Format: Hardcover
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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By John M. Ford TOP 500 REVIEWER on 10 Jun. 2011
Format: Paperback
Academic and professional folklorist Jan Harold Brunvand teaches us about "...modern American folk narratives, stories that most people have heard as true accounts of real-life experiences, and few except scholars recognize as an authentic and characteristic part of our contemporary folklore." Brunvand invented the term "urban legends" to describe these narratives and literally wrote the book on how to recognize, interpret and document them. This is that book--the first one, anyway.

Brunvand distinguishes the urban legend from tall tails, jokes and its other narrative cousins. The prototypical urban legend is represented as true, spread primarily by word of mouth, unattributed--often happening to a "friend of a friend," and has many variations in detail while preserving the story's core elements. Readers are encouraged to become amateur folklorists who can recognize these narratives, question their veracity, and explore our motives for repeating them to each other.

The bulk of the book presents and analyzes urban legends for readers benefit and entertainment. They are grouped by loose theme into chapters that cover car stories (e.g., "The Philanderer's Porsche"), teen horror tales ("The Hook"), contaminations ("Spiders in the Hairdoo"), death ("Dead Cat in the Package"), nudity ("Nude in the RV"), and business ripoffs ("Red Velvet Cake"). The final chapter reviews several "myths in the making" that were on the rise at the time the book was first released.

For the urban legends themselves, I agree that the snopes web site is a far more current, extensive, and dynamic collection. But reading this book is worthwhile for Brunvand's early thoughts and theories about their origins and our motivations for telling and believing them.
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