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Humorists: From Hogarth to Noel Coward [NOOK Book]

Overview

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 ...

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Humorists: From Hogarth to Noel Coward

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Overview

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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Editorial Reviews

Dwight Garner
…warmly appealing if slightly dotty…This book's long view, and its deep eccentricities, are what give it a burnished glow. You'll want to consume it with good Scotch and (what the hell) maybe even a pipe…
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
British historian Johnson (Churchill) misses the mark with this odd collection of biographical snapshots of "humorists"--the term is debatable--throughout Western history. Noting that laughter was first recorded in words in chapter 18 of the book of Genesis, Johnson divides humorists into two categories: those who create chaos for laughs and those who analyze the inherent oddness of individual personalities to find comedy. But instead of using this basic rubric--and all points of intersection--to explore the evolution of humor from the 18th century to our current one, Johnson's portraits of these so-called humorous men (Nancy Mitford is the only woman, and she shares a chapter with Noël Coward) lose any sense of a central thesis. Particularly in the cases of painters Hogarth, Thomas Rowlandson, and Toulouse-Lautrec, Johnson's intense focus on minute details of works not reproduced in the text make his analysis difficult to grasp for readers unfamiliar with the artists' work. Chapters devoted to Charlie Chaplin, Laurel and Hardy, the Marx Brothers, and James Thurber are among the best, and in them Johnson is able to stifle his urge to overanalyze the biographical elements and let the subjects--and their amazing comedic work--speak for themselves. (Dec.)
Booklist (starred review)
“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.”
The Economist
“A rich set of essays . . . . Johnson casts a wide net and he hauls in good material . . . . Fine anecdotes, examples, and insights . . . . Handsomely written.”
New York Times
“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.”
Washington Post
“Johnson assembles a truly enlightening and readable history of humor.”
Booklist (starred review)
“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.”
Washington Post
“Johnson assembles a truly enlightening and readable history of humor.”
The Economist
“A rich set of essays . . . . Johnson casts a wide net and he hauls in good material . . . . Fine anecdotes, examples, and insights . . . . Handsomely written.”
New York Times
“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.”
Booklist
"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."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062024862
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 11/30/2010
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 272
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Paul Johnson is a historian whose work ranges over the millennia and the whole gamut of human activities. He regularly writes book reviews for several UK magazines and newspapers, such as the Literary Review and The Spectator, and he lectures around the world. He lives in London, England.

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Table of Contents

Introduction

1 Hogarth

The Grand Old Master of Chaos 1

2 Benjamin Franklin

Founding Father of American Laughs 17

3 Dr. Johnson

Melancholy Merriment 31

4 Thomas Rowlandson

Bottoms Up! 45

5 Dickens

Nothing So Odd as Life 57

6 Toulouse-Lautrec

Master-Monster 77

7 G.K. Chesterton

A Living, Talking Gargoyle 97

8 Damon Runyon

Guys, Dolls, and the Puppet Master 113

9 W.C. Fields

The Dong with the Luminous Nose 123

10 Charlie Chaplin

Supple, Subtle, and Sentimental 137

11 Laurel And Hardy

Era of Good Fooling 153

12 The Marx Brothers

Second Law of Thermodynamics 165

13 James Thurber

Raising a Laugh by Accident 173

14 Noel Coward, Nancy Mitford, And Class 193

Further Reading 215

Index 219

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Customer Reviews

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