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Wit's End: What Wit Is, How It Works, and Why We Need It

3.28  ·  Rating details ·  64 ratings  ·  12 reviews

"A witty book about wit that steers an elegant path between waggishness and wisdom." —Stephen Fry

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

Kindle Edition, 128 pages
Published November 13th 2018 by W. W. Norton & Company
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3.28  · 
Rating details
 ·  64 ratings  ·  12 reviews

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K.J. Charles
Embarrassingly, excruciatingly bad. I'd ask how anyone let this twee nonsense get to publication but a cursory Google tells me it's a bloke who went to Harvard and worked at a bunch of media outlets, so he obviously has important friends. Sadly, they were not good enough friends to tell him not to do this.

The book starts with a prologue written in the style of Alexander Pope, only the heroic couplets *do not scan*. Not even slightly. Geary has no grasp at all of scansion or meter and it's physi
Sep 23, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Each chapter offers the delight of what wit can do. It’s a brilliant way of showing how wit works rather than merely describe it.

Thanks to the publisher for access to the advance reading copy.
Michael G
Geary puts wit on the spit. Well done.
Nov 15, 2018 rated it really liked it
Geary's Wit's End is not strictly a humor book, though there is plenty of humor within it. In portions of the book he explores how we think and what wit is (and is not) on a historical and even a neurological level. Extensive notes, bibliography, and index are included for those who wish to delve into this subject more deeply.
James Geary extols all aspects of wit. Starting with puns, then repartee in conversations, jokes, scientific evaluations of brain images associated with wit, visual wit in art (troupe d’oeil), historical, literary, folk tales, biblical and Talmudic references are dissected in a (what else?) witty way. Each chapter is presented in a different style and sometimes font so one can be in dialogue, another in verse, then spiritual sermon, neuroscience in a scientific paper, and jive and rap.
It’s quite
Ivan Mitrovic
Not much more than a wit classification book, with chapters devoted to pun, metaphor, jive... and examples. I was hoping for “instructions” on how to train your wit. Found one useful thing though. The book mentioned RAT (Remote Associations Test) which I think is very useful for kids. We played RAT competitions (guess the 4th associative phrase given 3) on a few nights and kids loved them.
Anne Libera
I wanted this to be better. I wanted to like it better. There is really good information about comedy, humor, and wit here and there are elements that are conveyed with (yes) true wit in the sense that a truth is genuinely illuminated in a novel and artful fashion. But there is a lot of showing off to wade through to get there.
Andrea Engle
Feb 01, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-read-2019
The gifted author is obviously a witty follower of his own sage advice ... clever notes on how to be creatively humorous ... a very entertaining read ... although I nearly gave it up when the author proposed a dialogue between Denis Diderot and Madame De Stael ...
Danielle Baranowski
Jan 27, 2019 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nonfiction
An interesting look at wit, told via various forms of humor. Interesting, but not to my taste.
Denise Nader
Dec 08, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook, others, comedy
Ivor Armistead
Wit. Amusing, a bit.
Nick Armstrong
Skip over the chapter with all the medical references and you’ll have a 4-star book, easily.
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Feb 09, 2019
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Dec 20, 2018
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James Geary is the author of Wit's End: What Wit Is, How It Works, and Why We Need It, I Is an Other: The Secret Life of Metaphor and How It Shapes the Way We See the World, Geary's Guide to the World's Great Aphorists, the New York Times bestseller The World in a Phrase: A Brief History of the Aphorism, and The Body Electric: An Anatomy of The New Bionic Senses. He is the deputy curator of the Ni ...more
“Diderot was so flustered by the affront that he only thought of a clever retort as he was walking down the stairs on his way out. The encounter led him to devise the term “l’esprit d’escalier,” “the wit of the staircase,” for the experience of thinking of a witty comeback only after it is too late to deliver it.” 0 likes
“The malice of a good thing is the barb that makes it stick.” 0 likes
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