is an anthology edited by Alexander Jessup, first published in 1920. The book contains 25 short stories by some of the most celebrated American writers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including Mark Twain, O. Henry, Willa Cather, and Edgar Allan Poe.
The book’s introduction begins with an explanation of what makes a humorous story, and why such stories are important. According to Jessup, a humorous story is one that “makes us laugh, and in so doing, it takes us away from our daily troubles and concerns.” He argues that laughter is essential to our well-being, and that humorous stories have the power to lift our spirits and bring us joy.
Jessup goes on to describe the history of American humor, tracing its roots back to the early days of the country. He notes that American humor is often characterized by its irreverence, its wit, and its ability to poke fun at authority figures. He cites examples of famous American humorists, including Benjamin Franklin, Mark Twain, and Will Rogers.
The introduction also provides a brief overview of each of the 25 stories included in the book. Jessup notes that the stories cover a wide range of subjects and styles, from the slapstick comedy of O. Henry’s “The Ransom of Red Chief” to the subtle satire of Mary Wilkins Freeman’s “The Revolt of ‘Mother’.” He praises the authors for their ability to capture the humor and absurdity of everyday life, and for their skill in creating memorable characters and situations.
One of the themes that emerges from the introduction is the idea that humor can be a powerful tool for social commentary. Jessup notes that many of the stories in the book use humor to critique social norms and conventions. For example, in James Thurber’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty,” the main character uses his vivid imagination to escape from the mundanity of his life. Jessup suggests that this story is a commentary on the restrictive gender roles of the time, and a call for greater freedom and creativity.
Another theme that emerges is the idea that humor can be a means of coping with difficult situations. Jessup notes that many of the stories in the book deal with serious topics, such as poverty, illness, and death. However, he argues that by finding the humor in these situations, the authors are able to help their readers to deal with them more easily. For example, in Mark Twain’s “The Invalid’s Story,” the narrator describes his own near-death experience in a humorous and lighthearted way, making the story more accessible and less frightening.
Throughout the introduction, Jessup emphasizes the importance of laughter and humor in our lives. He suggests that in difficult times, humor can be a source of comfort and a means of coping. He argues that humor can help us to see the world in new and unexpected ways, and that it can be a powerful tool for social change.
In conclusion, The Best American Humorous Short Stories is a collection of some of the most memorable and entertaining short stories in American literature. The book’s introduction provides a valuable overview of American humor and its place in the cultural landscape. It also offers insights into the themes and techniques employed by the authors, and highlights the importance of humor in our lives. Whether you are a fan of classic American literature or simply enjoy a good laugh, this book is sure to delight and entertain.