The spread via social media of myths and misinformation about everything COVID related is one of the defining characteristics of our times. In the current pandemic climate, it’s not uncommon to be discussing ‘misinformation’ and ‘myths’ with socially distanced friends over a BBQ.
Demonstrations in cities across Australia by opponents of COVID-19 vaccine mandates is testimony to the power of misinformation to evolve into myths. Myths that become highly influential in the thinking not just of individuals but of whole groups of people. How does this happen?
David Vernon’s latest book, A Good Yarn, provides a fascinating insight into how popular myths are made and can wield influence not just at the time of their invention, but for years, even generations to come. A Good Yarn shines a spotlight onto seven historical events that have grown into Australian legends. Ten years and many hundreds of hours of painstaking research in the making, the book explores how facts became blended with fiction to entertain and captivate audiences, disguising the true story as they went.
With an eye to the power of storytelling, Vernon begins each chapter with a fictional narrative, based upon what is known about the original event or incident. The reader finds themselves in a nineteenth century pub west of Sydney, hearing a hushed but fervent retelling of how Mr Fisher’s ghost helped police find his murderer, on a fated sailing ship destined to be shipwrecked sailing from Australia to England in 1909, or on the cliffs of Gallipoli helping to rescue wounded soldiers on a donkey. Having whet our appetite to know more, the author then sets out to sort fact from fiction, teasing out the threads of the reality behind the mythology.
“With so much fake news being bandied about in social media, I was keen to write a book in an entertaining way, that would help people to tell ‘real’ history from ‘fake’ history”, David Vernon said. “I chose a range of iconic Australian legends so as to illustrate just how myths emerge and evolve into enduring society wide understandings that no one questions”.
A Good Yarn is entertaining, informative and a rewarding read, even for those of us who might not normally pick up a book about Australian post-settlement history.
About the author
David Vernon is an award-winning writer and editor of short stories, best known for his nationally renowned Stringybark Stories competitions which have been running for more than ten years. He has published more than forty short story anthologies and his own writings have won many awards in competitions hosted by others.
David has qualifications in economic, politics, law and environmental science. He has always been fascinated by history and our interpretation of historical events.