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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 7 February 2015
This is an academic study, and I sympathise with the reviewer who suggested that its title does not adequately suggest that; I would add, neither does the cover which uses cartoons by John Leech. I have read both academic and more popular books by Mary Beard and find her writing lucid, her arguments clear, and her sense of perspective on disputed issues very refreshing. ( I am an historian but not a Classicist. ) I had to concentrate harder than usual when reading this; because so much is not known and unknowable about laughter in classical times, the writer had to keep posing unanswerable questions - fair enough, but the proliferation of question marks got to me a bit. Much of it, however, was interesting, with attractive insights. I liked her survey on theories seeking to explain laughter, and I enjoyed the chapter on the Roman joke book. One niggle - I realise this is published by an American press, but I found the American spelling in a book written by a distinguished British scholar from a famous British university very annoying. But if that's OK with Mary Beard, who am I to quibble !!??
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on 27 July 2014
An excellent read - Beard is always provocative and turns her questions one way and another, like a jeweller with a gem - always illuminating, and unafraid to point out what we don't know, and what we can't know - and then to speculate a bit without neglecting the boundaries set by what we do know! A book to read- and re-read, as there is a lot to take in at first reading. Did Romans rally not smile (the physical gesture - obviously their conventions would have been different) - or did they merely ee no need for a disitnct word for it?
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on 8 August 2014
I bought this for my grandson who is reading Classics AND had a look at this myself - we both felt it was it was excellent value and ideal for holiday reading with a purpose. The 'Joking, Tickling and Cracking Up' gives a slightly misleading impression of what is basically a scholarly work about humour at this time. Worth buying to keep for reference purposes and coud be useful when making presentations or introducing a talk/lecture.
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on 12 July 2014
This is an academic book - it is written from an academic series of lectures so is an extended treatment of a narrow topic. That being said, however, there is quite a lot here for the general reader with an interest in classics.

Print production - another well made book, clear, well typeset and well proof read.
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on 14 August 2014
This is really for the academically- minded lay-person who can follow a very literate author who has amost human approach. It goes well beyond just Rome and says a great deal about all of us and how we use laughter, or approeciate what laughter really means in our lives. Worth the effort, definitely.
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on 25 October 2015
Anyone expecting to open this book by Dr Beard and find list of jokes told by Roman standup comedians will be disappointed - partly because a lot of Roman gags which have survived to the modern day just aren't that funny, which alone tells us just how important context and shared experience is to humour (see observational comedy). Indeed, this book should come with a health warning that it is probably not up the street of would-be Bob Monkhouses and casually interested readers, for it is an entertainingly written tome of more scholarly intentions.

Beard examines the nature of Roman humour, as an instrument used by Roman politicians and lawyers seeking to engage with their respective humour, the red lines of what was socially acceptable humour (depending very much on context - after all, you wouldn't expect to tell knob jokes at a Church of England General Synod), and the influences of Roman humour both by and on the Greeks. Beard asks some interesting questions and challenges a few basic assumptions - did the Romans smile the way we do, and did the ancients understand the concept of the joke as a single transferrable meme rather than a memorable one-off comment by some purveyor of bons mots? Her answers will certainly make you think hard about humour in the modern age, as well as shining a light on the Roman psyche.

Plus, I was interested to see that one of my favourite sick jokes was first told over 2,000 years ago.
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on 28 September 2014
I can see that others recognise that this book is really very academic but they still give it 5 stars. I think that's overdoing it on a website like Amazon where most people fall into the general public category.

I really wanted to like this book, I loved Pompeii (definitely for the general public) and her work on Roman art (in the middle) and hoped this would be a fascinating work on laughter. I've even studied Plautus in the past so had a view of sorts on Roman comedy - although quite rightly she's very clear the book is about laughter and not comedy. However, I really struggled with the detailed analysis of language and eventually in her chapter on Cicero I just didn't have the will to go on. I don't feel I've really learnt anything about the Roman attitude to laughter as a result of the 5 chapters I did read, so for me the book was a disappointment.

I don't want to put anyone off buying it and trying it for themselves, but I want them to realise it's not an easy read.
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on 26 August 2014
I have just read this brilliant book. I am a historical writer and have just published my first novel - The Love God by Martin Campbell - about the relationship between the Emperor Hadrian and his Lover Antinous. I tried very hard to write Roman humour but found it difficult as there was so little written on the subject. Of course now I've published Mary Beard has published this fascinating and amusing assessment of the Roman's and their jokes.
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on 15 July 2014
Mary Beard brings Roman living to life in an easy way. Another excellent book by her.
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on 29 August 2014
A challenging but rewarding read, sound intellectual content livened and illustrated by cleverly chosen and shrewdly presented examples.
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