Meaning of monsters (Review of a trio of books)
I’m in a reading phase. I have 168 on the list of books I have and need to read. I recently got through three and here are my impressions. They sort of have a monster theme. From imaginary/real to some people think are real to YES ABSOLUTELY REAL AND IN MY BASEMENT!
I heard the author of Monsters in America (Poole, 2011) interviewed on Monster Talk and knew I had to get the book. It was not like any monster book or any history book I have read before. Monsters are complicated. This book expresses that. It’s not so simply to just trace the roots of the folklore, the monsters are ever changing in response to how we need to use them. The research that went into this book is outstanding and deserves to be in every monster-lovers library (cryptozoology or horror fan). It’s not the easiest read because of the density of information but because I love this stuff, I had no trouble plowing through it quickly. I learned a lot of new stuff. While I won’t always agree exactly with the interpretations, this is a great mind-opening array of ideas that helped me understand American pop culture a bit more deeply.
The Loch Ness Monster (Dinsdale, 1961) is considered a classic in cryptozoological literature. Written as a personal account of research by Tim Dinsdale, mine was an old rebound library copy, not a revised edition. I thought I knew what Tim had found, but I was sort of wrong. This book was both interesting and very disappointing. It was the story of someone swept up in a belief. Too swept up. He was an engineer and had an engineer’s way of thinking about things – everything is literal and has a cause. Tim uncritically took eyewitness stories at face value, extracting facts that may not have been factual and computing things from these “facts”. He was so careful. But you can be careful sorting nonsense and you will get neatly arranged nonsense. This book is still worth a read for cryptozoologists but as a caution against what not to do – Do not jump with both feet into a dream, a fantasy, a thought that you will be the one to uncover the truth. This is an amateur monster hunter making amateur mistakes. First, he believes. Then, he seeks confirming evidence. Finally, he does not give up his belief. We are left with his account, which is valuable and a film which we aren’t clear what it is. It really did not help us get any closer to the monster. But, I’m also saying this from a perspective 40 years later.
About 2 months ago I found a spider bite on the back of my hand, I don’t know how I got it. It itched a bit and the flesh necropsied. Neat! I still have a little scar. I fell bad for the little bugger who bit me. She had no chance to get anything out of it. So it was time to pick up The Private Life of Spiders (Hillyard, 2008). This is a coffee table book that you should read cover to cover. I loved it. It’s full of fascinating photographs of the animals. Long ago, I recall it was recommended but I can’t remember where I read that, but I didn’t forget it. I located it through some discount outlet and finally got around to reading it, usually a few pages before bed. Close ups of spiders before bed is not going to float everyone’s boat. In fact, it can seem downright nightmarish. But this book is an excellent tool for cognitive behavioral therapy. Don’t like spiders? Get this book and discover how fascinating they are. You will stop and examine every eight-legged beastie you find and feel much more kindly inclined to them. I learned so much. I was a fan of spiders before (though I did not like when they were in the bathroom) and am even more amazed now. This is a wonderful book every animal lover must own.