Excessive Guffawing

Gerald Hammond

  • Laughter at the Foot of the Cross by M.A. Screech
    Allen Lane, 328 pp, £30.00, January 1998, ISBN 0 7139 9012 0

Have you heard the one about the children who laughed at the prophet and called him ‘slaphead’? A bear tore 42 of them to pieces. Or the one about the maid, expecting her master’s child, who then laughed at her mistress’s infertility? The mistress got a double revenge: she had the maid kicked out into the desert, then had a son herself and called him ‘laughing boy’. If those do not make you laugh, how about the idea of a man writing a book on Rabelais today without once mentioning Bakhtin? The punch-line to that one is that it turns out to be a very good book.

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