Wednesday, May 17, 2023

Knock, Knock: In Pursuit of a Grand Unified Theory of Humour

Knock, Knock is a humorous and accessible monograph on the *nature* of humour by William Hartston. Released 9th May 2023 by Watkins Publishing, it's 224 pages and is available in paperback, audio, and ebook formats. 

The author poses the question to readers: Why, when we know so little about *what* humour actually is and *why* we find things funny (or not), would anyone write a book about the subject? He spends the next couple hundred pages doing an entertaining and enlightening job doing precisely that. It's not academic in scope or language, but the book is helpfully annotated throughout and the chapter notes are both erudite and entertaining. Amongst the annotations -are- a plethora of academic treatises on various related subjects which will give keen readers a fertile source to mine for further reading.

Much (most?) of the time, rigorously writing about what's funny is distinctly unfunny. E.B. White famously said “Explaining a joke is like dissecting a frog. You understand it better but the frog dies in the process.” In this case, the author's bonhomie, intelligence, and wit carry the day, and readers will likely experience grins and a giggle in the course of the read. 

Four stars. This would make a good choice for school or public library acquisition, home use, or gift giving. Spelling and vernacular are British standard English (as is the author), but won't cause issues in context for readers from elsewhere. 

 Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes.

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