“Warmly appealing . . . . This book’s long view, and its deep eccentricities, are what give it a burnished glow . . . . It’s a pleasure to sit around the gently crackling fire that is Mr. Johnson’s mind.” (New York Times)
“Johnson assembles a truly enlightening and readable history of humor.” (Washington Post)
“A rich set of essays . . . . Johnson casts a wide net and he hauls in good material . . . . Fine anecdotes, examples, and insights . . . . Handsomely written.” (The Economist)
“Johnson masterfully weaves a narrative line among the figures, many of whom don’t spring to mind as comic, with a deep appreciation for their wit in writing, filmmaking, painting, and living.” (Booklist (starred review))
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The author of the masterly volumes Intellectuals, Creators, and Heroes returns with a collection of biographical portraits of the greatest humorists and wits in history.
In Intellectuals, Paul Johnson offered a fascinating portrait of the minds that have shaped the modern world. In Creators, he examined a host of outstanding and prolific creative spirits. And in Heroes, he brought together a galaxy of commanding figures from the annals of Western history. Now Johnson turns his impressive intellect and piercing insight to the finest wits of the Western world.
His is a selective survey across history and includes a diverse cast of legendary humorists who got a grand kick out of life, including Benjamin Franklin and the Marx Brothers, Charles Dickens and Damon Runyon, W. C. Fields and Samuel Johnson, William Hogarth and James Thurber. Including darkest humor, broad satire, bawdy wit, biting sarcasm, and more, this entertaining and erudite collection showcases some of our sharpest minds reflecting on the human condition's follies, pretensions, and foibles with that greatest of gifts: humor.
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