American Fun: Four Centuries of Joyous Revolt

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In American Fun, Beckman asserts that America was founded on rebellion as much as on Puritanism – a rollicking, lively rebellion of rule-flouting and bodily joy, not a stiff principled refusal. Fun served as release for marginalized groups, but it wasn’t just a form of stress relief; it was a way to comment on society’s rules, and often to change them. Beckman rolls thru centuries of American history with fun as the lens, reframing events and groups as disparate as Puritan revel Thomas Morton, African-American slaves on antebellum plantations, Gold Rush miners, and flappers flouting the law to stage a dance marathon. Three strains of American fun developed in different eras, Beckman argues: a first strain of commercialized, packaged entertainment developed in the Gilded Age, a second folk tradition flourished in the Jazz Age, and a third in the revolutionary 1960s. As befits the subject matter, Beckman’s prose is lighthearted, but it’s never flippant. His argument, that light-hearted rebellion is a key part of the American character, is compelling, as are his implications that contemporary society would be a bit healthier with more American fun.

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Star Count 4/5
Format Hard
Page Count 432 pages
Publisher Pantheon
Publish Date 2014-Feb-04
ISBN 9780307908179 Buy this Book
Issue May 2014
Category History


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