Oct 31, 2018otterno11 rated this title 2.5 out of 5 stars
I had been aware of the popular podcast Lore, apparently now also a show on Amazon, and though I heard good things, I never got around to listening to it. When I noticed this book at the library, I was intrigued and checked it out on the spot, always on the lookout for atmospheric autumnal reading.
Since childhood, I’d always been a fan of those anthologies of unexplained mysteries, real life accounts of the paranormal, and weird folktales, and, I’d wager, Aaron Mankhe was too. Authors like Daniel Cohen, Maria Leach, and many others populated the school libraries and Scholastic book club forms of my youth, purveying dozens of collections of “true” ghost stories, urban legends, cryptids, and other such believe it or not tales. I couldn’t get enough. So, in reading Mahnke’s The World of Lore: Monstrous Creatures, I was definitely hit with a certain nostalgia.
However, because of this, none of it seemed very fresh to me, either. While he avoids the glaringly obvious, like the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, Roswell, et cetera, none of the stories Mahnke includes are exactly obscure. If you are at all into this stuff, as I am, you are bound to have encountered the majority of these stories before. Mahnke hits all the popular ones, Mercy Brown, the Jersey Devil, “Bloop,” the mothman, the windigo, the Beast of Bray Road, the Fox Sisters, they all make an appearance. For the most part there was very little I hadn’t already read about, often in the aforementioned works, and at the same time, Mahnke provides few new insights or ideas to these stories, either.
As I read through the book, Mahnke’s writing also began to grate on me a bit. Other reviews indicate that these are the actual podcast scripts and this did not surprise me at all, as the writing style is exceedingly conversational, almost to a distraction. For the most part, these are rather superficial, shallow treatments of folkloric themes with little analysis and a lot of vague generalities. For instance, in setting up each tale, Mahnke engages in such banal platitudes as “our connection to animals is nearly as old as humanity itself,” “there’s something dark and mysterious about the ocean,” and “there are a lot of differences between the northern and southern states in America.” As seen in the these examples, there are certain turns of phrases and ideas that pop up again and again, often variations of that old term paper cliche “since the dawn of time…”
There is also often an odd credulity to these retellings, and while Mahnke often tut tuts the silly superstitions of these people who had such an “inferior” understanding of the world than our own (problematic by itself), he also spends much time hinting that maybe there was something supernatural at work after all. While including a bibliography and sources for each chapter, it mostly seemed like each chapter consists of simple summaries of a few thoughts and ideas gleaned from blogs, articles in popular magazines or websites (i.e., The Atlantic, or NPR), or books on the subject, with little attempt to access the reliability of the tales.
That’s not to say any of this is all bad, of course. I would have loved this as a kid, and as many of those dusty paperbacks I loved are now long out of print, and out of date, The World of Lore seems highly appropriate for weirdness-curious tweens and I’d happily recommend it to them. The illustrations, by M.S. Corley, were all pretty neat, too. If nothing else, it let me know that there is no need for me to devote any more time to Lore.