I have always had a problem with novels claiming to be a laugh-a-minute, in fact any novel that suggested it was universally humorous inevitably made it onto my dud list. Humor in literature just never works for me. But that’s not to say that there aren’t books which I have enjoyed in a humorous way: I just never laughed out loud as the cover blurb promised.
A regular on this site recently asked for recommendations, giving Rabelais’ Gargantua and Pantagruel as an example of a truly funny book he had read. I started reading the Rabelais but lost out to other demands and never really put a dent in the “novel” but I did notice that it was rather free with what we now call “potty humor.” Maybe I’ll reserve it for a few slow and sunny days in early summer (I have at least two different editions but I have read parts in the original French and it’s like reading the original text of Beowulf: it can be done but not by a casual reader).
Still, in the last 17 years or more I must have read a few humorous books that I might recommend, right? Well, I’m going to tediously scan back over some past titles and see if I can make a list. Maybe I’ll encounter some agreement on the humor factor; maybe not.
- Laurence Sterne (Tristram Shandy being the funniest novel I have ever read)
- Evelyn Waugh (very British and fun to read even if I didn’t LOL)
- Roddy Doyle (the Barrytown series had its humorous moments)
- J. P. Donleavy (wicked humor but still no laughs)
- James Joyce (especially Ulysses)
- Anthony Powell (especially A Dance to the Music of Time)
- Eric Chevillard (might need to read in French)
- David Lodge (at times)
- William Kotzwinkle (I haven’t read much but he is amusing)
- Oscar Wilde
- Hunter S. Thompson (too absurd to be funny?)
- William Gaddis (especially JR)
- Douglas Adams (of course)
- Jonathan Swift (satire but funny)
- Carlton Mellick III (crude, bizarro, imaginative)
- Flann O’Brien (and other incarnations)
- Ismael Reed (often funny, definitely imaginative)
- Michael Bond (Monsieur Pamplemousse : not Paddington Bear)
- Christopher Moore (funny for some)
Of course my reading selections might well skirt around the more humorous authors. Who might they be?