Is an occasional guffaw sufficient proof?

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.

RabelaisA 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?

 

 

6 responses

  1. MARK TWAIN – CAUSTIC SARCASTIC WIT.
    I WROTE A TONEE OF PRAISE FO RTH MAN BUT WP HAS DEEMED IT BNECESAARY TO BE PLAGIARISTIC ANS STEAL THE GOOD VIBES I HAD LEFT BEHIND FOR HIM…..
    NO MATTER….

    Circa 1900: American writer and humorist Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835 – 1910), who wrote under the pseudonym Mark Twain­.

    Topical Press Agency/Getty Images
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    Mark Twain was one of the greatest American sarcasts. He wrote his 1903 essay “Was the World Made for Man?” in response to Alfred Russell Wallace’s promotion of the theory that the Earth is the center of the universe. Throughout most of the essay, Twain claims to agree with Wallace. But the essay ends by saying that just as the Earth was made for man, the Eiffel Tower must have been built for the skin of paint at its pinnacle, which demonstrates that Twain was being sarcastic when he initially agreed with Wallace.

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  2. as someonbe who would like to think you have the capabilities to just reach for any book mentioned to you – a (non-existent) facet of my life i’d like to put use (if i had the cash etc yawn)… i do still say gargantua and pantagruel is an extremely amusing read – a laugh out loud read (much to the consternation of the ingrates i live amonst – whitworth not being a very intellectual abode… that said my home was recently broken into and the tedious b’stards stole books and art prints!!!!!!!!!!) feeling very misanthropic today i will leave my angst at your doorstep…. hunter s thompson is also very amusing – but i fear his wrath is genuine at times and the amusing asides are to be read as sympathetic to the issue as against laughing at him… swift was also very amusing – and his ire r.e his fellow man and humanity’s stupidity is totally justified… bringing me, again, back to adaptations… i can honestly say that ted danson did an excellent job in bringing the gulliver character to life for a lengthy rendition of the novel for a televisual excursion into the literary realms of absurdity – like most lit crits and writers swift was a junkie… oscar wilde – being too obvious a wit to enjoy… roddy doyle – never read him… flann o’brien – amusing????? even nietzsche was amusing – lit crits forgetting or, purposely, forgoing his sarcasm…. i draw the line at infering that hitler was a sarcastic clown… celine was very sarcastic – we must include this in any debate r.e. celine’s weak anti-semiticism – celine taking a jewish lover… due to life dealing me blow after blow of incontinent dirgeful demands and asides i would say cycnicism rules, for now, in this abode… as for bawdy umour – it is merely a stop gap to blot out one’s fellow man and his/her absurdities (reading those one dislikes into a situation is a catalyst for a decent night’s sleep)…
    i had a lot to impart but feel that i should shake of this hangover first!!!!
    regards
    jonathan

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    • One major flaw in my list was in only scanning the books I had read since this website started. Thus, most of those Vonnegut titles were not present since I had read them long ago. My recollection, however, is that they contained a great deal of absurdity which probably would have placed them on my list. But at the same time, there was a decidedly non-humorous side to his novels which would moderate his laugh-out-loud status.

      Even with just the 17 years of reading to select from (in a very very quick scan) I left out some authors that others might chose, mostly because they were not highly recommendable but also because their humor was only a step or two above Captain Biily’s Whiz Bang (Kinky Friedman comes to mind).

      More important than Vonnegut’s humor, though, was his humanism.

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    • CORRECT ME IF I’M WRONG… BUT VONNEGUT, AKIN TO GORE VIDAL, WAS HUMOUROUS FROM AN IRONIC PERSPECTIVE – BEHIND WHICH WAS HIDDEN HIS IRE AND SPITEFUL WRATH FOR THE STUPIDITY OF OTHERS… THE GENIUS OF MOST SATIRISTS A LA TWAIN, SWIFT ETC… HITCHENS WOULD BE SAID TO HAVE A SIMILAR OUTLOOK BUT HIS FLAW BEING THAT HE DISLIKED VARIOUS SECTS OF SOCIETY I.E. SO-CALLED PROTO-NAZISM OF ARABIC DISDAIN FOR JEWISH EXISTENCE ETC – LITTLE BRINGING TO LIGHT THAT SEMITIC PEOPLES ARE BOTH ARABIC AND JEWISH ETC ETC ETC ETC.. WHEREAS THE TRUE SATIRIST SEES THE WORLD FROM ALL ANGLES AND SEES THE INHERENT FLAWS WITHIN ALL FACETS OF CONTEMPORARY SOCIETY – NOT JUST VIA GENERALISED COMMENT… ANYHOW; I SUPPOSE WE ALL MUST READ CATCH 22 FOR THE WONDERS OF HEROIC CRAVENISM…
      REGARDS
      JONATHAN

      Liked by 1 person

    • WHEN THE FAINEST GUFFAW IS ENOUGH TO PROVE THAT I AM NOT FOR THIS WORLD AND THAT LINING FOLK UP AGAINST A WALL IS USUALLY THEONLY OPTION…

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