had such knowledge carried to his heart.rnBut beyond such uecessarv’ works arernother treatments of topics that I will callrnpolitical and even religio-philosophical.rnTvo of the best essays were presented atrnthe hiternahonal Exposition of the Artsrn(under the auspices of the Congress forrnCultural Freedom) in Paris in 1951, and Irnwill neglect this context to observe that thernCentral Intelligence Agency would bernmore likely to sponsor covertly toda a h i prnhop poetrv’ slam than any such with rebuttalrnof vulgarized democracy.rnWill it not be borne in upon us inrnthe next few years that Hitler andrnStalin are the Common Man, andrnthat one of the tasks of democrac}’ isrnto allow as many nren as possible tornmake themselves uncommon?rnIf anything can be better than that,rnthen it must be the essay “The AngelicrnImagination,” which shows the falsehoodrnof claiming, or aspiring to, unmediatedrnknowledge of essences. It is the most sophisticatedrnportrayal of modern error andrneen per’ersion that I know—and I believernthat it accurately prophesied a greatrndeal of contemporar)’ confusion, includingrnHarold Bloom’s latest excursi on hisrngnosticism.rnIn short, Allen Tate’s essays are necessar-,rnand that’s why they are again available.rnI’hev ought someday to be publishedrn(with other examples of his work)rnin the Library of America; as a single volumernof literar7cultural criticism, the F.ssarsrnof Four Decades is the finest examplernof its kind in American literar’ histop..rn].0. Tate is a professor of English atrnDowling College on lang Island.rnIn Season and Outrnby Christie DaviesrnEncyclopedia ofrn20th-century American HumorrnAlleen Pace Nilsen and Don NilsenrnPhoenix: Or’x Press; 360 pp., $79.75rnThe Nilsens have produced an interesting,rnerudite, and thorough Encyclopediarnof lOth-Century American Humorrnwith entries ranging from AmericanrnIndian humor to cartoons, exaggeration,rnhoaxes, joke patterns, sitcoms, and wit. Itrnis a trulv comprehensive and encclopedicrnvolume with an excellent bibliograph’,rna work that will become a standardrnreference not just in libraries but in thernhomes of those who loe humor.rnAmerica exports not only film and televisionrncomedies but new genres of jokes.rnThe riddling shle of joke, the rebirth ofrnthe ethnic joke in the latter half of thern20th century, disaster and dead-celebritiesrnjokes, lawyer jokes, and blondernjokes—all have been exported to the restrnof the wodd, wliich has then copied andrnadapted them to local circumstances,rnwbile adding a dash of releance and ingenuit)-.rnIn the 20th ccutur-, Americanrnhumor becanre an important cultural influencernriiroughout flie rest of the world: arnprocess much accelerated b- the internet.rnAnd so it is not simpl- Americans whornwill appreciate this book. Nonetheless,rnmany of the entries—blackface comedy,rncomic books, dialect humor, frontier humor,rnurban legends, and audeville —rnrelate to dishnctive aspects of flie .Americanrncultural tradition. Curious!), thernentry on iron- in American humor isrnonl’ just over a page long, much of itrnconcerned with such celebrated Americansrnas George Bernard Shaw, JonathanrnSwift, and Peter Sellers. The entrv’ on witrnis also very short. Section F begins withrn”FicHon,” and there is no entr- on ‘T’cministrnHumor,” perhaps because there’s nornsuch thing. Jewish humor, however, getsrna well-deserved fi’e pages. (It is strikingrnthat Jews constitute a far greater proportionrnof comed’ vriters and comedians inrnAmerica than riie’ do of writers and actorsrnin general.) A further useful aspect ofrnthe encyclopedia is its attention to humorrnscholarship—a branch of learning morerndeveloped in America than in any otherrncountry, even though it has its origins inrnBritain—as well as to concepts needed tornunderstand humor better. There are, forrninstance, excellent sections on ambiguity,rnincongruit)’, language pla, metaphor,rnand superiorih’ as aspects of Irow humorrnworks.rnWhile the 20th centur w as a great onernfor American hmnor, it produced twornforces that now threaten not ouK comedyrnbut American culture in general: dumbing-rndown and polihcal correctness. Thernimportation from England of the lelctubbies,rnwhich are bound to stulhf}’ andrnretard children’s progress in masteringrnlanguage and concepts, is a good examplernof both of these forces in achon. Thernobviously gay Teletubbies are England’srntriangular revenge for Disncv’s vidgarizationrnof Winnie the Pooh. The original byrnA.A. Milne is a sophisticated book forrnadults as well as children; the Disney filmrnis simply a means to sell cuddly toys. Thernproblem lies with the publishers of juvenilernbooks, staffed as they are by over-cautious,rncategor-bound old women of bothrnsexes devoted to dunibing-dowrr and polihcalrncorrectness alike. These businesses,rnmoreover, are not even commerciallyrnsuccessful: Most of their income comesrnfrom the reprinting of old favorites.rn(Over 40 houses turned down the mone’-rnspinning Harn’ Potter before it foundrna publisher.) No wonder the Nilsens’ entryrnon children’s literature consists largelyrnof lists of older books and summaries ofrntheir plots.rnInevitably, the text includes a numberrnof references to the rise of political correctnessrnin America, from which an outsiderrnconcludes that the results have beenrncensorship, the cramping of creativity,rnand a suffocating climate of fear. Indeed,rnmost of the best American humor of thern20th centurv could not have originatedrn— let alone been published or broadcastrn—during the 1990’s. (Another exuberant,rnaggressive, exciting Americanrnfrontier is closing.) Accordingly, thernNilsens’ encyclopedia is rich in press accountsrnof p.c. incidents such as the harassmentrnof, and near assault on, JohnrnO’Sullivan when he visited Yale to justifyrnNational Review’s mockery of the Clinton-rnCore administration’s attempts tornraise campaign contributions from Chinesernbusinessmen b’ publishing a cartoonrnthat portraed members of Clinton’srnCabinet with Chinese features. ThernChinese themselves did not object, butrnthe Yale vigilantes turned up with placards,rnspouting abuse and striking at one ofrnAmerica’s most prominent editors. Anotherrnaccount tells of Mohamoud M. Ismail,rna sociologv professor at TrentonrnState College who, in 1995, sued hvo colleaguesrnfor collecting and distributingrnteaching material in the form of cartoonsrnthat he found oflensie to blacks.rnThe Nilsens must have the bestlibrar’rnin America of newspaper cuttings and internetrndownloads on their subject. Allrnthe humor that is fit to print can be foundrnhere, plus a good deal that isn’t.rnChristie Davies is a professor in thernFacult}’ of Letters at the University ofrnReading in England.rn34/CHRONICLESrnrnrn