THE BABY TRAIN by Jan Harold Brunvand


and Other Lusty Urban Legends
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 Brunvand's fifth collection/analysis of ``urban legends'' (Curses! Broiled Again, 1989, etc.)--and the formula's wearing thin. As before, the industrious professor of English (University of Utah) has tracked down myriad stories that, through mass circulation, have gained the ring of truth--for instance, the title legend, in which an early morning train wakes local college students who, unable to get back to sleep, allow ``young love [to run] its natural course,'' resulting in an unusually high birth rate on campus. Brunvand discusses origins and possible variants of each legend (for example, pointing out the similarity of ``The Baby Train'' legend to the legend that birth rates soared in N.Y.C. nine months after the 1965 power blackout). It's a charming presentation, often witty, and loosely organized into categories such as ``Sex and Scandal Legends,'' ``Animal Legends,'' and so on. But few of these legends have the classicality, punch, or resonance of those covered in earlier volumes (e.g., stories like ``The Hook'' or ``The Microwaved Pet''). The well seems to be running low: One of Brunvand's ``Horrors'' legends here, about a West Virginia ``flying monster'' named ``Mothman,'' was covered extensively in John Keel's classic work of cryptozoology, The Mothman Prophecies (1975); and the author's lead-off kicker, his ``experience unique in my three decades as a folklorist: I witnessed the genesis of a legend firsthand,'' turns out to be a trifle about a waitress mistaking the words ``plan one'' for an order of ``plum wine.'' The text concludes with ``A Type-Index of Urban Legends,'' a classification grid organizing the several hundred legends that Brunvand has reported on to date. And then there's the legend about the author who, as his inspiration faltered, began to write the same book over and over again.... (Photographs and drawings--not seen.)

Pub Date: March 8th, 1993
ISBN: 0-393-03438-0
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1993