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"The last few decades have seen a welcome revival of scholarly interest in how we should live. But in an age of relativism that asks us not to be judgmental, the idea that laughter signals inferiority will seem very old-fashioned. And so it is."
With that unapologetic salvo, F. H. Buckley, in this entirely entertaining book on the serious subject of laughter, takes the side of the guardians of good taste in the battle against the soulless forces of modernism.
For those who favor grace over grotesquerie, a so-called new classicism has emerged in recent years as an antidote to what many thinkers, conservative and otherwise, view as a perilously cynical decline in standards. But whether the arts need just a shot of beauty or the aesthetic equivalent of a heart transplant is still uncertain. What is clear, however, is that they've become a target.
Buckley's smart bomb? Laughter, which turns out to be not only the best medicine for living the good life, but the necessary preemptive strike in what the author sees as the fight to regain our sense of humor and beauty—even moral rectitude.
"The loss of a sense of humor," believes Buckley, "has impoverished academic discourse, where nonsensical theories that could not survive the test of ridicule are now taken seriously. Before adopting a fashionable idea, we ought first to enquire whether it twigs our sense of humor."