For the most part, Alexis de Tocqueville had good things to say about the young United States in his book Democracy in America, which is probably why we tend to forget that he thought Americans weren’t funny. What de Tocqueville missed, according to a new history of American humor, is the extent to which American funniness emerged from subversive groups of outsiders. In Bookforum, Ben Schwartz takes stock of the arguments in American Fun.
Stephen Fry joins “the congregation at the Church of Apple” for the launch of the iPad and shares his thoughts on the company and its newest product.
Out this week: Nutshell by Ian McEwan; Jerusalem by Alan Moore; Commonwealth by Ann Patchett; Black Wave by Michelle Tea; Umami by Laia Jufresa; Loner by Teddy Wayne; Little Nothing by Marisa Silver; Every Kind of Wanting by Gina Frangello; Avid Reader: A Life by Robert Gottlieb; This Vast Southern Empire by Matthew Karp; When in French by Lauren Collins; and Intimations by Alexandra Kleeman. For more on these and other new titles, go read our Great Second-Half 2016 Book Preview.
People laugh when I tell them: everybody’s born right-handed, but the best overcome it. But now, take heed my Southpaw brethren. Science may be on our side. One recent study indicates that left-handedness may lead to “a boost in a specific kind of creativity—namely, divergent thinking, or the ability to generate new ideas from a single principle quickly and effectively.”
George Saunders delivered a little publicized convocation at Syracuse University this year. His main advice to the class of 2013 — be kind. “And so, a prediction, and my heartfelt wish for you: as you get older, your self will diminish and you will grow in love. YOU will gradually be replaced by LOVE,” he said.
“Last week, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival announced that it had commissioned thirty-six playwrights to translate all of Shakespeare’s plays into modern English. The backlash began immediately.” The New Yorker on why we don’t change Shakespeare’s language. You could also check out our traditional and modern readings of Shakespeare.
Over on The Busy Signal, Matthew Hunte presents 75 Notes For An Unwritten Essay on Literary Prizes. (22. “Want it? Want it? Of course I wanted it. I wanted it so fucking bad I could taste it!”)