The Age of Irreverence
A New History of Laughter in China
University of California Press 2015
Christopher Rea‘s new book explores five kinds of laughter that emerged from the tumultuous first decades of China’s twentieth century: jokes, play, mockery, farce, and humor. The Age of Irreverence: A New History of Laughter in China (University of California Press, 2015) takes a playful approach to approaching play – it’s not every book of Chinese history and literature that comes with a blurb by Eric Idle of Monty Python fame, after all – and simultaneously offers readers a useful lens into modern Chinese history and a pleasurable introduction to some fascinating primary sources. Rea’s book situates the history of laughter within broader stories of early Republican print history, the Shanghai popular press, cinema, early amusement parks, photography, hoaxes, and much more. The epilogue considers the resonance of these issues in the context of twentieth-century digital humor, and in light of controversies over and celebrations of the recent Nobel Prizes of Mo Yan and Liu Xiaobo. Enjoy!