“There's more to life than just books, you know. But not much more...” - The Smiths
Friday, February 11, 2011
Awful, Awful Books Part I
I read this as part of my research into witch hunts and Satanic Panic, as diabolic feasts involving babies and whatnot are such a huge part of myths of the sabbat and devil-worship. I wanted to know more about actual religious cannibalism, and this book seemed like a decent place to start, since Carole Travis-Henikoff is a paleoanthropologist with a deep interest in the subject (according to the intro, she spent 7 years researching it). But Dinner with a Cannibal was not helpful. It's focused heavily on endocannibalism (funerary cannibalism), but worse yet it's full of digressions and lengthy anecdotes and events that didn't actually happen. For instance, Travis-Henikoff tells us that in 1933, the Russian ship Dzhurma was trapped in ice while ferrying 12,000 prisoners to a slave labor colony in Siberia. The guards survived by cannibalizing the prisoners. This didn't happen. In his 2003 book Stalin's Slave Ships, Martin J. Bollinger explains that Dzhurma wasn't even in commission until 1935, and no other passenger ship experienced such a disaster. Note that Dinner with a Cannibal came out in 2008. Travis-Henikoff also uncritically accepts the fantasies of Marco Polo, the highly questionable revelations in Zheng Yu's Scarlet Memorial, and dodgy British accounts of leopard societies. All in all, though it contains a few interesting tidbits, this book is a waste of time and paper.
"All religions, arts and sciences are branches of the same tree. All these aspirations are directed toward ennobling man's life, lifting it from the sphere of mere physical existence and leading the individual towards freedom." - Albert Einstein