Letters to a Young Contrarian

By Christopher Hitchens | Go to book overview

XVI

Very well, I did promise to take my life in my hands and write about humor. Start with the word "wit," which, as I used it above, means native intelligence or savvy. When we say that someone lives by his wits, we don't mean that he makes an income from stand-up comedy, and when we call someone a half-wit we don't suggest that that person lacks a funny side. But there is a relationship between intelligence and humor and, though it's very unwise to try and describe it, this is what I propose to attempt now.

A good place to start is with my friend Martin Amis, whose whole work is a vivid, lasting illustration of comic brilliance allied to high intelligence. In his memoir Experience he revenges himself upon some dolt or other, describing him as humorless and adding that by calling him humorless he means very deliberately to impugn his sense of seriousness. Radicalism is humanism or it is nothing; the proper study of mankind is man and the ability to laugh is one of the faculties that defines the human and distinguishes the species from other animals. (With the other higher mammals, which I do not in the least wish to insult, there may be high levels of

-115-

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Letters to a Young Contrarian
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page *
  • Preface vii
  • Introduction xi
  • I 1
  • II 13
  • III 19
  • IV 27
  • V 35
  • VI 41
  • VII 47
  • VIII 53
  • IX 55
  • X 61
  • IX 69
  • XII 79
  • XIII 85
  • XIV 95
  • XV 105
  • XVI 115
  • XVII 123
  • XVIII 127
  • Envoi 139
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