Books: Pick of the Week

Article excerpt

Marina Warner gives the opening talk of the Birmingham Readers and Writers Festival on Friday, based on her new book No Go the Bogeyman. Full of baby-snatching ogres and scuttling squid-headed aliens, her book examines the different ways we use to scare children to death.

Snip! Snap! Snip! the scissors go. When Warner first read the demonic children's tales of Dr Hoffman, she now admits, she was so terrified a shear-fingered tailor was going to chop her thumbs off she ran wimpering to the garden and begged her father to sling the book on the bonfire. Probably as an attempt to exorcise Struwwelpeter's blood-hungry spectre, Warner has gone on to trawl the world for hundreds of other menacing examples of bogeymen and bugaboos.

Meet Lycaon, who baked his victims into pies and was turned into a werewolf, discover the darker cultural history of bananas, and wonder at the psychiatrists' bills in the Catalan town of Berga. To this day, it seems, the mothers of Berga celebrate the feast of Corpus Christi by laying out their new- born babies in the town square so that the infants can be jumped over by a man dressed as Satan. Poets Linton Kwesi Johnson (above) and Brian Patten, meanwhile, are finishing up their "Double Vision" tour. …