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.
New this week: Amnesia by Peter Carey; Outline by Rachel Cusk; The First Bad Man by Miranda July; Binary Star by Sarah Gerard; Bonita Avenue by Peter Buwalda; The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins; Refund by Karen Bender; In Some Other World, Maybe by Shari Goldhagen; Harraga by Boualem Sansal; and West of Sunset by Stewart O’Nan. For more on these and other new titles, check out our Great 2015 First-Half Book Preview.
Urmila Seshagiri writes for Public Books about Jhumpa Lahiri’s In Other Words in its original Italian. As she explains it, “the dual-language Italian-English format literalizes the very ‘separazione totale’ that is In altre parole’s subject, reminding us, page by page, of potential losses.” Pair with Hannah Gersen’s Millions review of the book.