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American Fun: Four Centuries of Joyous Revolt Hardcover – Deckle Edge, February 4, 2014
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“The key to this spirited and challenging book is in its subtitle: ‘joyous revolt.’ . . . American Fun provides an original perspective on how ordinary folk left a mark on the historical landscape in a way that has not received full recognition.” —Howard P. Chudacoff, The New York Times Book Review
“This freewheeling history . . . richly demonstrate[s] how Americans have often blended defiance and wit with the pursuit of liberty.” —The New Yorker
“[I]n his adventuresome new history, American Fun: Four Centuries of Joyous Revolt. . . . Beckman, an English professor at the United States Naval Academy, makes a powerful case that fun may be good but should always be at least slightly less than clean.” —The Daily Beast
“American Fun is ecstatic, erudite, anarchical and utterly irresistible. It’s the great cultural history of busting out and cutting loose that we’ve always wanted and always needed. This is a party you don’t want to miss.” —Lev Grossman, author of The Magicians
“John Beckman’s American Fun is a raucous, frequently dazzling tour through the country’s wild and crazy side, the joyous out-of-control culture that, as he writes, ‘flouts couth.’ In an age of bleak spectacle, Beckman reminds us in living color that ‘folk fun’ and ‘coarse civility’ are deep in the American grain. At once learned, thrilling, splendidly written and wicked smart, this is the best book I've read about popular culture in ages—or ever.” —Todd Gitlin, author, The Sixties: Years of Hope, Days of Rage
“A raucous, anarchic shadow history of celebrations, pranks, and joyous rebellion, American Fun chronicles the American penchant for high energy, authority-flouting acts of fun. . . . In the end, with modern permutations of American fun, American Fun: Four Centuries of Joyous Revolt offers a history that is about fun and is fun to read. It illuminates the very American tradition of stickin’ it to the man, dancin’ in the street, and havin’ a blast.” —New York Journal of Books
“John Beckman’s American Fun offers an alternative history of our culture, zeroing in on the many ways in which our country’s fun making was spurred on by subcultures formed in opposition to that Waspy standard.” —Bookforum
“A lively, entertaining history of American fun. . . . With a novelist’s care for detail and storytelling, Beckman offers a remarkably expansive . . . cultural history.” —Kirkus Reviews
“Folksinger and Yippie organizer Phil Ochs once proclaimed, ‘A demonstration should turn you on, not turn you off.’ There’s even a band named Fun. But who could ever have predicted that there would be this unique, comprehensively researched, scholarly approach to 400 years of fun in America, a historical tradition of ridicule that has served as a threat to the status quo—from King Charley to Dick Gregory, from Thomas Morton to Ken Kesey, from Mark Twain to Abbie Hoffman—in a myriad of forms that provide a strong sense of continuity. Like pasta fazool, which features a bean in every macaroni, a satirical ploy is embedded with a level of irreverent truth. ‘Laughter,’ said Malcolm Muggeridge, the editor of Punch, ‘is the most effective of all subversive conspiracies, and it operates on our side.’ And now, with the aid of technology, that process can go viral, fast and furious. Joyous revolt, after all, is not an oxymoron.” —Paul Krassner, author of Confessions of a Raving, Unconfined Nut: Misadventures in the Counterculture
“American Fun reads like a graphic novel as John Beckman connects the dots between Thomas Morton, the flappers, Abbie Hoffman and punk rock, celebrating fun as a great American value.” —Andy Shernoff, founding member of The Dictators
“Beckman captures the rambunctiousness, subversiveness, and inventiveness of the American spirit, as well as its ugliness, violence, and bigotry.” —Publishers Weekly
“This rollicking and patriotic paean to American ‘rough play’ deserves a serious look.” —Booklist
“Beckman challenges our understanding of American Puritanism by showing that we’ve been an essentially prankish, fun-loving nation. Colonists reveled wildly, Patriots mocked Redcoats, slaves lampooned masters, the Twenties roared, Hollywood entertained, Yippies invaded the stock market, and the Internet isn’t entirely sober-minded either. Have fun reading.” —Library Journal
“American Fun is that rare and lovely thing: a serious and original work of history which entertains from the opening pages to the conclusion. John Beckman captures a vital, yet neglected, feature of American life—the untrammeled pursuit of happiness—and will have you grinning as you learn.”
—Michael Kazin, author of American Dreamers: How the Left Changed a Nation
Top Customer Reviews
To start it all off, everyone knows the Puritans were no fun. There was, however, a competing colony called Merry Mount, begun by the “Cheerful, curious, horny, and lawless” Thomas Morton. Merry Mount was populated with freed servants and welcomed Indians, whose culture and whose lusty women his followers appreciated. They scandalously celebrated May Day by raucous dancing around the previously forbidden Maypole, and they celebrated harvests and their general success frequently; Merry Mount was prosperous.Read more ›
My personal peeve here is that, amidst all this discussion of iconoclastic "fun," there is scant reference to the Marx Brothers. Clara Bow gets pages of discussion; the Marx Brothers, a bare two brief mentions in the entire book. Come on. Beckman is clearly influenced by Howard Zinn; I don't think he succeeds nearly as well as Zinn did. So, buy the Zinn book, and, if you must, check this one out of the library.