Marlin Perkins, Abe Lincoln, and more...; Lincoln's disarming humor; Abe Lincoln Laughing, edited by P.M. Zall. Berkeley: University of California Press. 193 pp. $15.95.
''Lincoln was a superb raconteur; his wit was spontaneous, his store of anecdotes formidable, his ability to apply exactly the right story to each situation phenomenal.'' Honest Abe's sense of humor is so enshrined in American folklore that countless stories have become attached to his name. P.M. Zall's purpose is to separate the authentic from the apocryphal. Searching through 19 th-century magazines, memoirs, and other documents, Professor Zall has rediscovered hundreds of anecdotes, which he quotes from their first written sources. Some are stories Lincoln appears to have told - although not necessarily originated. Others illustrate Lincoln's quick wit in conversation. Here's an example:
''As [a visitor] was about to leave he said to Mr. Lincoln, 'I want you to be honest with me. How do you like being president of the United States?' Well, Mr. Lincoln looked at him and said, 'You have heard the story, haven't you, about the man as he was ridden out of town on a rail, tarred and feathered, somebody asked him how he liked it, and his reply was, if it was not for the honor of the thing, he would much rather walk.'' So we see how Mr. Lincoln made his point while disarming his listener with a smile.