Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Bigfoot: The Life and Times of a Legend

In his folklorist history of Bigfoot, Joshua Blu Buhs tracks Bigfoot from the mists of native mythology to the backwoods of America and beyond. He explains how the wild-man, a figure common in oral tradition and storytelling, evolved into a North American monster against which white working-class males in the 1950s could test themselves, while shifting cultural norms and changing values threatened traditional male roles and ideas of masculinity.

A small part of that constituency forms the heart of this book. Sasquatch hunters and researchers are earnest and driven, yet divided by paranoia, suspicion, and ideological differences. In their quest for fame and acceptance, they fell victim to their own vanity, to hoax and fraud, and to tall tales and charlatans so dishonest that the hunters themselves became laughing stock. Bigfoot changed with the times, eventually becoming a staple of fiction and advertising, an environmentally friendly commercial symbol, fully co-opted by the culture at large and no longer wild and primitive.

Bigfoot: The Life and Times of a Legend is an oversized footprint of Americana, and a fun read - Bigfoot may not be stomping through the American wilderness, but his legend still lives in the forests of our imagination.

This review was first published by The Sacramento Book Review, August 2009

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