Cover image for Wit's end : what wit is, how it works, and why we need it
Title:
Wit's end : what wit is, how it works, and why we need it
ISBN:
9780393254945
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : W.W. Norton & Company, [2019]

©2019
Physical Description:
x, 226 pages : illustrations ; 22 cm
Contents:
Oft was thought, an essay in sixty-four lines -- One bad apple, or, An apology for paronomasia -- Thirty-five days in May -- Watchers at the gates of mind: wit and its relation to Witzelsucht, malapropisms, and bipolar disorder -- Perfect witty expressions and how to make them -- Advanced banter -- An ode to wit -- Turning words -- My name is Wit -- Slapstick metaphysics -- The chains of habit -- Finding minds -- Ambiguous figures -- Wisdom of the sages -- True wit -- Wit's end.
Summary:
"A witty book about wit that steers an elegant path between waggishness and wisdom."--Stephen Fry. In this whimsical book, James Geary explores every facet of wittiness, from its role in innovation to why puns demonstrate the essence of creativity. 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. Demonstrating that brevity really is the soul of wit, Geary crafts each chapter from concise sections of 200, 400, or 800 words. Entertaining, illuminating, and entirely unique, Wit's End shows how wit is much more than a sense of humor." -- Provided by publisher.

Geary explores every facet of wittiness, from its role in innovation to why puns demonstrate the essence of creativity. He 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. And 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, and so forth. -- adapted from publisher info
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Book 809.7 Geary
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Summary

Summary

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.


Author Notes

James Geary is the author of four previous books, including
the New York Times bestseller The World in a Phrase, and is the
deputy curator at Harvard University's Nieman Foundation for
Journalism. A sought-after speaker and avid juggler, he lives
near Boston, Massachusetts.


Reviews 2

Booklist Review

*Starred Review* Upon entering a restaurant and seeing a former spouse, Groucho Marx quipped, Marx spots the ex. In Groucho's spontaneous inversion of a trite phrase, Geary discerns a manifestation of wit as a mental power that breaks through sterile habits of thought, so opening up new imaginative horizons. Though readers might expect wit in a comedian, Geary recognizes wit as an intellectual force that does far more than amuse. As the capacity to fruitfully fuse radically different ideas, wit guides visual artists, scientists, philosophers, dramatists, and priests. Geary indeed underscores the versatility of wit by casting his chapters in various genres one, for instance, in the heroic couplets of neoclassical poetry; another in the sober reflections of a sermon; another in the scintillating dialogue of a satiric play; yet another in the rigorous logic of a scientific article. Readers roaring with laughter at outrageous puns one moment find themselves carefully assessing psychological studies the next, only to then spin into the wild linguistic creativity of jive. Geary's own puckish style mischievous and unpredictable itself sparkles with wit as it provides the thread stringing together these variegated beads, all strikingly different, yet all remarkably similar in illuminating how wit exposes hidden truths, awakens dormant capacities. An exhilarating romp, entertaining and enlightening.--Bryce Christensen Copyright 2018 Booklist


New York Review of Books Review

WIT'S end By James Geary. (Norton, $23.95.) Geary takes an unusual - , approach to writing about wit. The chapter on verbal repartee is written as a dramatic dialogue. For the neuroscience of wit, he delivers a scientific paper. A quirky approach for a quirky topic, freak kingdom By Timothy Denevi. (PublicAffairs, $28.) Beyond the drugs and gonzo journalism, Hunter S. Thompson was a fierce opponent of corruption and the authoritarian tendencies of political leaders. This is what most motivated his writing, Denevi argues in a new biography of the bombastic writer, the new order By Karen Bender. (Counterpoint, $26.) A finalist for the National Book Award, lauded for her short stories, Bender returns with a collection that reflects America's new reality. One story takes place after a school shooting, another centers on a woman grappling with unemployment, muck By Dror Burstein, translated by Gabriel Levin. (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $27.) Burstein is one of the most experimental and exciting Israeli novelists writing today. His new book is a reworking of the Book of Jeremiah tinged with much surreality - there are talking dogs and cunneiform tattoos. heirs of the founders By H. W. Brands. (Doubleday, $30.) Brands, a two-time Pulitzer finalist, has turned to the generation of American political leaders who arrived in the wake of the founding fathers and dominated the first half of the 19th century. The intertwined lives of Daniel Webster, Henry Clay and John Calhoun are examined for all the ways they helped shape the young nation. "One of the odd effects of this exhausting and endless news cycle, for me anyway, is that I am always looking for something else to read. I'm not looking to be distracted so much as absorbed in bold, ambitious books (fiction, typically) filled with big ideas and imaginative characters. You can't get much bigger or bolder than John Irving's a prayer for owen meany, starting with its tiny, eponymous hero - barely 5 feet tall, fully grown - whose high-pitched utterings Irving renders solely in all-caps. 'THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS COINCIDENCE,' Owen declares, matterof-factly, staking out his position on one of the existential questions at the heart of the book, set in small-town New Hampshire in the 1950s and '60s: Are our lives governed by fate or by chance? T am doomed to remember a boy with a wrecked voice,' the novel's narrator - and Owen's best friend - says in the book's opening sentence. Months after finishing A Prayer for Owen Meany,' I find myself suffering a similar fate." - JONATHAN MAHLER, STAFF WRITER, THE NEW YORK TIMES MAGAZINE, ON WHAT HE'S READING.