What Wit Is, How It Works, and Why We Need It
This event includes a book signing
November 14, 2018
7:00 PM ET
Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138
This event is free; no tickets are required.
Harvard Book Store welcomes writer and journalist JAMES GEARY—deputy curator at Harvard University’s Nieman Foundation for Journalism—for a discussion of his latest book, Wit's End: What Wit Is, How It Works, and Why We Need It.
About Wit's End
Much more than a knack for snappy comebacks, wit is the quick, instinctive intelligence that allows us to think, say, or do the right thing at the right time in the right place. In this whimsical book, James Geary explores every facet of wittiness, from its role in innovation to why puns are the highest form of wit. Geary reasons that wit is both visual and verbal, physical and intellectual: there’s the serendipitous wit of scientists, the crafty wit of inventors, the optical wit of artists, and the metaphysical wit of philosophers.
In Wit’s End, Geary embraces wit in every form by adopting a different style for each chapter; he writes the section on verbal repartee as a dramatic dialogue, the neuroscience of wit as a scientific paper, the spirituality of wit as a sermon, and other chapters in jive, rap, and the heroic couplets of Alexander Pope. Wit’s End agilely balances psychology, folktales, visual art, and literary history with lighthearted humor and acute insight, drawing upon traditions of wit from around the world.
Entertaining, illuminating, and entirely unique, Wit’s End demonstrates that wit and wisdom are really the same thing.
“I have been reading Wit's End in juxtaposition to rereading and again writing about James Joyce's Ulysses. Geary prompts me to think that Joyce's title could have been No End to Wit. Goethe wrote an essay called No End to Shakespeare. There seems to be no end to James Geary's versatility.” —Harold Bloom
“Comedy is famously impossible to describe without destroying it, so James Geary―in this entertaining and informative and funny book―makes a very smart and effective move: he embodies the many different forms that wit takes, from poems to jokes to jive to rap. In a time of constant, unintentional humor, here is a purposeful and valuable reminder that sometimes it's on purpose and sometimes it's very nearly life-saving.” —David Shields, bestselling author of Reality Hunger and The Thing About Life Is One Day You'll Be Dead
“Playful, fiercely intelligent, silly, funny, and immensely informative―Wit’s End makes for a breathless read that leaves you feeling enormously enriched. The reinvention from chapter to chapter is a masterstroke and keeps the subject matter joyously buoyant.” —Reece Shearsmith, actor, writer of The League of Gentlemen
Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes
As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.
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