Gateway subculture

Well Met

Now that we've got the guys from The Big Bang Theory to make jokes about 'em on TV, the whole world knows about Renaissance fairs, those gatherings of fans of the nonindoor-plumbing, rough-spun past. In Well Met: Renaissance Faires and the American Counterculture (NYU Press, $35), Rachel Lee Rubin examines their 50-year history, first as a getaway for unworldly hippie types, then evolving from an arts-and-crafts gathering to an entire subculture. She's less concerned with the role-playing aspects than with the way that the fair became a countercultural space that felt safe for those in the mainstream. In other words: How did all those weirdos make a place that's so much fun to visit with your kids?