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Book Write-Ups

Lists, analysis, and reviews of books by Mary Kay McBrayer

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Can confirm: Scots tell one hell of a story. When I got to visit just before the cold really embraced the highlands, it seemed like while everyone was well-versed in their history—and I do mean everyone—in the case of a story, Scots do it right. They state the facts, but they don’t dwell on them. 

For example, I asked the friendly bartender in Inverness, “Can you tell us the story of Sawney Bean?” He looked at me so bored while he wiped out a pint glass and said, “What, you mean the facking inbred cannibal clan?” 

I laughed, and he continued, “That’s about the story then. They killed and ate travelers till the English went and rounded them up. Do you want to hear a ghost story?”

If you are a reader, you’re undoubtedly familiar with Victor Hugo’s 1831 novel, The Hunchback of Notre Dame, a work of historical fiction set in the Gothic Era of Paris. (Its opening line throws us back “three hundred and forty-eight years, six months, and nineteen days” to January 6, 1482; for some historical perspective, the story takes place only 51 years after Joan of Arc was burned at the stake.) You likely know of Quasimodo, of Esmeralda, maybe you know Dom Claude Frollo or even Captain Phoebus … but here are some facts about Hunchback you might not know.

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Step right up, step right up, and feast your eyes on the horrors of the circus midway…


What is it about the circus and its ballyhoo that makes it such a fertile breeding ground for horror?

I have a theory: for the longest time, circuses were where those cast-off from society were able to work for their living. As such, they developed an aura of mystery, and when the masses are uncomfortable, they tend to label the thing that makes them uncomfortable as monstrous.

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