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220 × 171 × 20 mm
272 pages
128 illustrations, 71 in colour
15 Oct 2018

Dinomania Why We Love, Fear and Are Utterly Enchanted by Dinosaurs Boria Sax

At once reptilian and avian, dinosaurs enable us to imagine a world far beyond the usual boundaries of time, culture and physiology. We have envisioned them in diverse and contradictory ways, reflecting, in part, our changing conceptions of ourselves. Their discovery, around the start of the nineteenth century, was intimately tied to our awareness of geological time; their vast size and power called to mind railroads, battleships and factories, making dinosaurs, paradoxically, emblems of modernity. At the same time, their world was nature at its most pristine, and they simultaneously symbolized childhood innocence and wonder. Dinosaurs provided a sort of code that has enabled people to speak indirectly about the possibility of our own extinction. Not unlike humans today, dinosaurs seem both powerful – almost godly – and helpless in the face of cosmic forces even mightier than themselves.

Dinomania tells the story of our romance with the titanic saurians, from early stories that were inspired by their bones to the dinosaur theme parks of today. It concludes that, in our imaginations, dinosaurs are, and always have been, essentially dragons, and their contemporary representation is once again blending with the myth and legend from which it emerged at the start of the modern period.

‘Our fascination with these Mesozoic creatures has influenced thousands of years of culture, art, literature, religion, and science. How can this be, when dinosaurs weren't identified by humans until the mid-nineteenth century? . . . In this wide-reaching social history of the dinosaur-human relationship, Sax brings the story up to the present by highlighting contemporary museum exhibits, amusement parks, genre fiction, movies, and toys. With many historical illustrations, Dinomania is an entertaining addition to literature on popular science, pop culture, and public opinions.’ — Booklist

‘For all that contemporary popular culture groans with books about dinosaurs, models about dinosaurs, films about dinosaurs and all manner of dinosaur paraphernalia, dinosaurs are invented. This is the theme of Boria Sax’s engaging Dinomania. Because dinosaurs are essentially fictional, we are free to-re-create them in our current preoccupations and identities.’ — Literary Review

Dinomania is visually impressive; 128 illustrations form a striking record of changing portrayals of dinosaurs. Dinomania is a broad discussion rather than a deep one; it covers a wide range of topics, connecting them to each other but not exploring any one of them in great depth. It’s not superficial, though; it’s somewhere between an erudite after-dinner conversation and a more grounded academic discussion. This discursive approach works for a topic that invites speculation. Dinomania is a fascinating look at a curious subject. It ties many aspects of society together by looking at them from a new angle. Unlike most cultural histories, however, it’s got dinosaurs in it.’ — Fortean Times

‘This book is, essentially, a human social history of dinosaurs from the turn of the eighteenth century to date – that is, since Mary Anning was extracting fossils, including dinosaur bones, from Dorset . . . The pictures in the book are excellent . . . Having thought on the matter extensively since reading the book, I don’t know whether Sax has answered the questions implied in the title. Whether he has or not, doesn’t matter at all. The book is fascinating and well worth owning. The text is interesting and informative, and the pictures (all 128) add huge amounts to what is said. The book is not intended to be about dinosaurs, per se. Rather, it is about human interactions with human perceptions of dinosaurs.’ — Geoscientist

‘In this erudite, wide-ranging and engaged work, Boria Sax explores the cultural flesh that has been wrapped around the fossilized bones of these iconic creatures. He asks, “What is a dinosaur?” and shows that the answer is not merely a scientific one but is intimately linked to wider cultural trends and concerns. Extinct they might be, but Sax reveals how dinosaurs live on among us.’ — Garry Marvin, Professor of Human-Animal Studies, University of Roehampton, London, and author of Wolf (2012)

‘Rewarding for its unique and provocative take on more recent dinosaur enthusiasm. Recommended.’ — Choice

‘Anyone buying this lavishly and beautifully illustrated book will know from its title not to expect a history of dinosaurs. This book instead, which appears to be born of the author's own genuine fascination with the creatures, traces how society has treated the discovery of the dinosaur from the earliest of times.’ — Magonia Review

‘We love to be terrified and Dinosaurs somehow manage to do that, unless of course it is Dino out of the Flintstones, a dinosaur that everyone simply loves. The reality is entirely something different and as you work your way through this fascinating work, you will come to understand why these amazingly enormous, Dinosaurs are loved and mostly respected . . . A treasure trove of photographs, illustration and graphics accompany the text.’ — Blue Wolf Reviews

Lizard and Dinomania present author/researcher Boria Sax at his multidisciplinary best: mixing and relating biology, botany, paleontology, anthropology, biography, history, mythology, art history, popular culture and more, into coherent wholes. The skillful way he interweaves these various themes reminds this reviewer of the pictures and models of DNA strands as the complexity of the finished product emerges. . . . Boria Sax and Reaktion Books receive extremely high marks for the quality of these books: not only good binding, but exemplary reproduction of illustrations in both black and white and color. An editorial choice was made to place illustrations throughout – rather than in special sections – something for which all readers should be grateful.’ — The Independent Scholar

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Boria Sax teaches at Sing Sing prison and online in the graduate literature program at Mercy College. He has published many books including City of Ravens (2012), Imaginary Animals (Reaktion, 2013) and Dinomania (Reaktion, 2019).

i Dragon Bones
ii How Dragons Became Dinosaurs
iii Mister Big and Mister Fierce
iv From the Crystal Palace to Jurassic Park 100 v The Dinosaur Renaissance
vi The Totem of Modernity
vii Extinction
viii A Dinocentric World

Photo acknowledgements