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Pub Date: June 1st, 1986
Publisher: Doubleday

A colorful patchwork of tall tales, ghost stories, regional yarns, ""spread-eagle oratory,"" animal fables and popular ballads that will delight general readers, though some folklore ""purists"" may object to a number of Battle's selections. Those who insist folklore must be rooted in the oral tradition will be less than pleased with the inclusion of ""Casey at the Bat,"" written by Ernest Lawrence Thayer and first published in the San Francisco Examiner in 1888. The Paul Bunyan stories will please them even less, created as they were by an adman bent on bolstering sales for a Minnesota lumber company a few decades later. And ""Pecos Bill""? The naysayers are sure to point out that he first galloped into sight on the pages of Century Magazine back in 1923. Such quibbles aside, this is nonetheless a valuable compendium of America's native storytelling art, whatever the source. Some readers may also find the use of dialect in many of the stories a distraction, though there will be those who feel the practice lends authenticity to the material. At times, however--as in ""De Ways of de Wimmens""--the supposed ""Negro dialect"" comes periously close to parody. The reader gets the impression of having wandered into a minstrel show. It all depends on your tolerance for tortured spellings and sometimes mystifying ellipses. The work is divided into 13 chapters that make comparing various approaches to such general topics as ""Love and Marriage,"" ""Witches, Ghosts and Strange Events"" and ""Swappers, Liars and Boasters"" entertaining and enlightening. Selections range from tales several pages long to a collection of such well-worn phrases as ""no bigger than a minute"" and ""fat and sassy."" Square-dance calls from the Midwest, ""hoodoo"" charms from New Orleans, fiddles and children's rhymes give added dimension to the anthology. A thorough and imaginatively presented collection.