April 22, 2013
Salsi, Lynn. The Life and Times of Ray Hicks: Keeper of the Jack Tales. Knoxville: University of Tennessee, 2008. $34.95. Print.
Lynn Salsi’s The Life and Times of Ray Hicks: The Keeper of the Jack Tales is a biography of Ray Hicks, a master storyteller from Banner Elk, North Carolina. Hicks farmed in the Appalachian Mountains his entire life, and the “Jack Tales” referred to in the title of this book were passed down through his family in that area. He had very little money his entire life, worked from sunup to sundown just to keep his family fed, and spent most of his free time telling the stories he had learned from his grandfather or playing the French harp (harmonica). Although the book is basically a rundown of some of the most important aspects and events in Hicks’s life, some reoccurring themes emerge. For example, Hicks was very proud of the fact that he stayed home, cared for his mother, and was not bound by material items. Hicks was also proud… that he was the “true” holder of the “Jack Tales,” which were stories featuring a poor character from the mountains—Jack—who behaved much the way Hicks did. In fact Hicks repeatedly claimed that he and Jack were the same person. (more…)
April 1, 2013
Jessica Tiffin. Marvelous Geometry: Narrative and Metafiction in Modern Fairy Tale. Detriot: Wayne State University Press, 2009. 253pp. $29.95, bibliographical references and index (pbk. Alk: paper).
Marvelous Geometry is a book on literary adaptations of traditional fairy tale forms, and while useful to a folklorist with a literary background, seems to be mainly intended for people with a literary focus, and an interest in folklore and fairy tales. This is not strictly a folklore text, and gives background on folklore scholarship for those unfamiliar with the field. Said background is handled admirably, and this book would be useful for anyone studying literary fairy tales, feminist reinterpretations of fairy tales, popular reinterpretations of fairy tales, or anything along that line. (more…)
January 21, 2013
Keagan LeJeune. Always For the Underdog: Leather Britches Smith and the Grabow War. Denton: University of North Texas Press, 2010. Pp. xvi+220, 22 b&w illustrations, index. $29.95 cloth.
In this book, LeJeune writes about the complicated—and often contested—history of a legendary figure in Merryville, Louisiana: Leather Britches Smith. The area around Merryville was part of a contested zone known as “the Neutral Strip” that was left unprotected after the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. LeJeune reports that this area has a history of being a liminal space, existing as a wild place in between areas of civilization. Though not a native of the area, Smith has come to embody the wilderness spirit of the Neutral Strip because his history is equally ambiguous and notorious. LeJeune explains that Smith is an “outlaw-hero” figure who at the same time represents the ideals and possibilities of the area, and also the unpredictable and uncontrollable nature of the zone. Smith’s involvement in the 1912 Grabow War at the Galloway Mill in Grabow, Louisiana would ultimately both secure his place in local lore and lead to his demise. (more…)
January 13, 2013
Balázs, Béla. The Cloak of Dreams: Chinese Fairy Tales. Trans. Jack Zipes. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010. Pp. ix+177. Illus., two appendices, bibliography. $24.95 hardcover.
The Ohio State University
The Cloak of Dreams: Chinese Fairy Tales is a collection of literary fairy tales penned by the Hungarian author, film critic, filmmaker, and political activist Béla Balázs in the early 20th century. A complex man who experienced great suffering and isolation, Balázs was able to find comfort and beauty in the fairy tale form and often turned to it throughout his life. These particular tales were written in response to a collection of odd and often unsettling illustrations done in a Chinese style by the artist Mariette Lydis – Balázs produced what would become Der Mantel der Träume: Chinesische Novellen (The Cloak of Dreams: Chinese Fairy Tales) in 1922. This new translation is by prominent fairy tale scholar Jack Zipes and part of his new series entitled “Oddly Modern Fairy Tales.” As such, this edition includes introductions to both the author and the illustrator, two appendices – one an early and very positive review by Thomas Mann and the other an additional, earlier Taoist-inspired fairy tale by Balázs – and a bibliography. (more…)
January 1, 2013
Posted by folkpub under Book Review
, Music 1 Comment
John Minton, 78 Blues: Folksongs and Phonographs in the American South. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. (American Made Music Series), 2008. x+288 pp. (ISBN: 9781934110195) (cloth).
Yves Laberge, Ph.D.
John Minton is a professor of folklore at Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne and his third book, “78 Blues: Folksongs and Phonographs in the American South”, is taken from his Ph.D. thesis from 1990.
Unlike most scholarly written books, this essay is written in the first person. In seven thematical chapters, Minton reflects on his own initiation into the musical world in his youth (occuring mainly during the 1970’s) and his personal experience of discovering the various musical genres from the previous decades, being aware of the social background of the American music and the impact of the manufacturing of the records he used to listen to. He questions why, say, during the early seventies, almost everybody seemed to enjoy Robert Johnson’s songs as interpreted by contemporary rock groups like Cream, The Rolling Stones and The Allman Brothers, but most of that same audience could not stand (or even have access to) the original recordings of these same works made by the composer in 1937 and 1938, even on LP reissues. The old folk and blues repertoire was revisited for the old folk and blues repertoire (from Woody Guthrie to Mississippi John Hurt) that was “revisited” or rediscovered during the 1960’s by various white artists like Bob Dylan or The Beatles and many British groups (20). In other words, Minton’s awareness and (re)discovery of roots American music was made backwards in chronological terms: “Even then, I knew enough of Southern culture and history to realize they drew breath from a vast rural underclass and a vanished way of life” (20). Back in the 1920’s, most folksongs were not made by professional artists and performers borrowing various identities for every song, but rather by “ordinary people” whose identities were either “workmate, neighbor, church member” when they recorded their music (21). (more…)
December 31, 2012
Blank, Trevor J., ed. Folklore and the Internet: Vernacular Expression in a Digital World. Logan, UT, Utah State University Press, 2009. p.272. $24.95pb or free .pdf at http://digitalcommons.usu.edu/usupress_pubs/
If folklore is a form of artistically heightened communication, then it must necessarily arise in the course of most forms of human interaction. How these interactions are mediated changes over time, and the most recent seismic shift in how we mediate our communicative world has been the shift towards interaction in the space of distant co-presence that has been created by the advent of the Internet. On message boards, in social media, in email attachments and on Wikipedia, folklore is everywhere. Online communities develop their own modes of communication and methods of producing knowledge, along with verbal and visual art, that mark them as a community and heighten the discourse and practices with which they engage.
Scholarly attention has only lately been turning towards this type of folkloric production, but offline forms of folklore that also occur online are becoming seen as legitimate expressions of culture rather than as pale copies of real cultural work going on elsewhere. Folklore that is ‘born-digital’, as one could say, is also being increasingly recognized. Folklore and the Internet: Vernacular Expression in a Digital World does the important work of discussing how folklorists have dealt with technological shifts in the past, and how we can thus accommodate this shift, establishing the Internet as a field site like any other. (more…)
December 16, 2012
“Symbolic Ethnic Conflict”: Ethnicity and Trinbagonian Identity
Ethnicity is a key site of symbolic conflict in Trinidad and Tobago because of its role in the hegemonic practices promulgated by the nation’s former colonizers. However, there are a few cultural symbols including types of music and other artistic forms that can be seen as forms of mediation, in as much as they (consciously or otherwise) promote a nationalistic Trinbagonian identity. By briefly outlining the historical tenets that resulted in Trinidad and Tobago’s particular ethnic and social stratification and foregrounding the arenas in which ethnic cultural intermixing exists, this paper aims to garner an understanding of the role artistic creation can play in mediation. (more…)