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The Mother Judd is one of the most egregious purveyors of urban legends you'd ever want to meet, to the point of swearing that it was her friend who owned the dog in the case of the blow-dried bunny. So when Jan Harold Brunvand started publishing collections of them I sent him a few and even ended up getting a credit in one of his books, I think The Vanishing Hitchhiker, as he shot down one after another urban legend. Then when the Internet came along we long-sufferers got the terrific Snopes website, to help debunk these myths. But, with the Internet came the familiar explosion in dubious stories that all of us have a friend or two who mail by the bushelfull. With Hippo Eats Dwarf the torch passes to a new debunker, one who specifically focuses on Web hoaxes, Alex Boese.

This voluminous collection probably only scratches the surface of all the bogus stories, photos, etc. that are floating around in the ether, but it's still an invaluable and very funny resource. You'll likely have a section you find especially amusing--for me it was actually a bunch of real personal ads that people had placed in newspapers. I laughed so hard it brought tears to my eyes. But this points up one of the really interesting points that Mr. Boese has to make--real life is so damn bizarre, particularly know that global communications bring us stories from every corner of the world, that it's becoming harder and harder to separate the hoaxes from reality. To help us differentiate he offers his own Reality Rules -- like "Reality Rule 10.3: Truth is often stranger than fiction, but that doesn't mean every strange thing is true" -- and definitions -- "Zoomout Moment, n.: When you suddenly see the big picture and realize you have no clue how things really are." These original contributions make this much more than just a pastiche of clipping from the Web and provide ways to think about the phenomenon of misinformation and why folks are so often ready to believe it. The book would benefit from a firmer authorial line on what it all means, but Mr. Boese makes it clear he's not here to offer one and leaves it up to the reader to puzzle over how we've arrived in such a "hippo-eats-dwarf" kind of time. Believe me, after reading all the nonsense folks have believed you will be puzzled.


Grade: (B+)


See also:

Urban Legends
Alex Boese Links:

    -Museum of Hoaxes
    -ESSAY: Hippo Eats Dwarf (Museum of Hoaxes)
    -ESSAY: Hippo Eats Dwarf (Urban Legends,
    -Technorati: "Hippo Eats Dwarf"
    -AUDIO INTERVIEW: Radio Interview with Alex Boese on Hippo Eats Dwarf (Written Voices Radio)
    -INTERVIEW: Alex Boese, author of Hippo Eats Dwarf (Harcourt)
    -REVIEW: of Hippo Eats Dwarf: A Field Guide to Hoaxes and Other B.S. By Alex Boese (Steven Martinovich, Enter Stage Right)
-REVIEW: of Hippo Eats Dwarf (Buzzle Staff Editor, 4/29/2006, Buzzle)
    -REVIEW: of Hippo Eats Dwarf (Music Guy, Pop Culture Madness)
    -REVIEW: of Hippo Eats Dwarf (Dr. Jonathan Dolhenty, The Radical Academy)
    -REVIEW: of Hippo Eats Dwarf (Cameron Hatch, The Hatch Report)

Book-related and General Links: