No Joke: Making Jewish Humor (Library of Jewish Ideas) Hardcover – June 2, 2013
by Ruth R. Wisse (Author)
Humor is the most celebrated of all Jewish responses to modernity. In this book, Ruth Wisse evokes and applauds the genius of spontaneous Jewish joking–as well as the brilliance of comic masterworks by writers like Heinrich Heine, Sholem Aleichem, Isaac Babel, S. Y. Agnon, Isaac Bashevis Singer, and Philip Roth. At the same time, Wisse draws attention to the precarious conditions that call Jewish humor into being–and the price it may exact from its practitioners and audience.
Wisse broadly traces modern Jewish humor around the world, teasing out its implications as she explores memorable and telling examples from German, Yiddish, English, Russian, and Hebrew. Among other topics, the book looks at how Jewish humor channeled Jewish learning and wordsmanship into new avenues of creativity, brought relief to liberal non-Jews in repressive societies, and enriched popular culture in the United States.
Even as it invites readers to consider the pleasures and profits of Jewish humor, the book asks difficult but fascinating questions: Can the excess and extreme self-ridicule of Jewish humor go too far and backfire in the process? And is “leave ’em laughing” the wisest motto for a people that others have intended to sweep off the stage of history?
Honorable Mention for the 2013 PROSE Award in Language & Linguistics, Association of American Publishers
Shortlisted for the 2014 Sophie Brody Medal, Reference and User Services Association (RUSA) of the American Library Association
“[S]ubtle and provocative . . .”–Anthony Gottlieb, New York Times Book Review
“Ms. Wisse provides a rich assortment of mordant wit at the threshold of extinction.”–Edward Kosner, Wall Street Journal
“Accessible to nonacademic audiences as well as scholars, this cultural history is a welcome addition to the study of humor in a sociopolitical context.”–Publishers Weekly
“Seriously funny, humorously serious, scholarly, witty and wise.”–Kirkus Reviews
“[S]harp and thoughtful. . . . To her credit, Ms. Wisse offers no general theory of Jewish humour in her book, preferring description and textual analysis, at which she excels, to psycho-historical puffery.”–Economist
“[Ruth Wisse] has produced an excellent treatise about Jewish comedy in all of its forms, focusing her gaze on how it has changed and responded to the shifting landscape of Jewish powerlessness.”–Elaine Margolin, Jerusalem Post
“[R]ichly absorbing . . .”–Robert Fulford, National Post
“No Joke is a remarkable combination of scholarship and current concerns, written in elegant prose, which can be enjoyed three times: first, for the humor; second, for the erudition; and finally and most important, for its moral vision.”–Rick Richman, Commentary
Series: Library of Jewish Ideas
Hardcover: 296 pages
Publisher: Princeton University Press (June 2, 2013)
Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.7 x 0.9 inches
Shipping Weight: 1 pounds