Why do we keep playing the lottery when we know we'll lose? How does what we laugh at--those bad jokes, wry allusions, and nasty pratfalls--tell us who we are? And what happens when, through some unforeseen mishap, we lose our identities and become Jane or John Doe? Eric LeMay explores these and other questions in fifteen innovative essays that center on the American self. From reflections on small-town life and baby-making to meditations on found art, 19th century landscapegardens, webcams, and the emergence of the AIDS pandemic, these essays celebrate the layered selves we inhabit, inherent, and sometimes invent. With humor and with reverence,In Praise of Nothing beholds what Wallace Stevens has called the "nothing that is not there and the nothing that is."