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American Laughter

March 2023
1min read

Russell Baker’s Book of American Humor

read by Tony Randall, The Mind’s Eye (four cassettes) .

If you find that most American comic writing before Abraham Lincoln seems meant for a mysterious lost race of chucklers, then this sampler is for you. No humorist before the sixteenth President appears except for Benjamin Franklin. Russell Baker, the New York Times columnist and author, has collected works by familiar names from Artemus Ward to Molly Ivins. In Robert Benchley’s masterfully disappointing tale “Uncle Edith’s Ghost Story,” Uncle Edith repeatedly has to tell some interrupting brats to shut up as he works to his story’s anticlimax. There are dark epigrams from Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary , domestic dialogues between a mother and daughter by Erma Bombeck, and Art Buchwald’s 1950s press-conference spoof inspired by Ike’s state visit to Paris (“Jim, whose idea was it for the President to go to sleep?” “How many blankets were on the bed?”). Lincoln himself shows up; his “Cables From the White House” is much funnier than Artemus Ward’s “How Old Abe Received the News of His Nomination.” And the master Mark Twain makes several welcome appearances. It’s worth hearing Tony Randall shift gears from his clipped, Broadway delivery into a plausible rural Missouri accent when reading Huck’s father’s drunken tirade: “And they call that a gov’ment?” There are thirty entries in all.

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Stories published from "July/August 1995"

Authored by: The Editors

Heart of the Land
Essays on Last Great Places

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Russell Baker’s Book of American Humor

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The Architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright

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Is trial by jury the essential underpinning of our system of justice or—as more and more critics charge—a relic so flawed it should perhaps even be abolished? An experienced trial judge examines the historical evidence in the case.

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Drawn to the story of the fearsome Confederate raider by a modern act of violence, the author finds a strange epic in the Rebel’s restless remains

Authored by: Jocelyn W. Knowles

Consigned to the Pennsylvania Railroad’s “Garbage Run,” they fought their own war on the home front, and they helped shape a victory as surely as their brothers and husbands did overseas

Authored by: James G. Barber

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Authored by: Harold Holzer

A report from the field on the battle to authenticate what its owner still hopes is the earliest Lincoln photograph

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