Skip to comments.Five Best - Read 'Em and Laugh - My favorite comic novels.
Posted on 03/11/2006 4:59:36 AM PST by Caipirabob
1. "Leave It to Psmith" by P.G. Wodehouse (Doran, 1924).
May I begin a survey of superb comic novels by offering the collected works of P.G. Wodehouse--100 volumes, give or take? No? Well, how about "Leave It to Psmith"? Everyone knows about Bertie and Jeeves. Allow me to introduce Rupert Psmith. The "P" is silent, he explains, "as in phthisis, psychic, and ptarmigan." But the comedy is uproarious in this tale of an impecunious though impeccably turned out dandy who impersonates the modern poet Ralston McTodd--a scaly specimen--in order to cadge an invitation to Blandings Castle so that he can pursue the beautiful Eve Halliday. The plot is stuffed with improbable twists, farcical turns, breath-stopping complications and one of the greatest predawn flowerpot-throwing scenes in literature.
2. "Scoop" by Evelyn Waugh (Little, Brown, 1938).
"Scoop" is Waugh's funniest book and the best (and most savage) satire of newspaper journalism in English. William Boot is the retiring author of "Lush Places," a nature column in the Daily Beast, the brash flagship of Lord Copper's gargantuan publishing empire. He is not to be confused with John Courtney Boot, the ambitious novelist eager to get away from London and his girlfriend. A helpful friend, the mesmerizing Mrs. Stitch, invites Lord Copper to a lunch party, wraps him around her little finger and has everyone at the table regale him with the exploits of young Boot, "the Prime Minister's favorite writer." "Get Boot," Lord Copper commands, and his underlings buzz into action, producing the wrong Boot, of course, who is promptly outfitted and sent to the godforsaken African hot spot of Ishmaelia to cover the impending revolution. The rest is farce--or just journalism.
(Excerpt) Read more at opinionjournal.com ...
"The best of all that is decent in the world." Very apt comment by Vimto. Wodehouse showed how to amuse without vulgarity. Sadly, the world of Wodehouse has been replaced by sitcoms.
Now forget the movie Catch 22, it was awful and did not catch the spirit of the book at all. Mister Roberts was much better but still left out a lot, especially that part where the sailor gets a dose of the clap in the middle of nowhere and wants the doc to cure it. The doc can't believe that he wants to cure his "badge of courage". It is funny stuff but of course could not be included in the movie in those days.
Postmark to read later.
I must say, Three Men in a Boat, by Jerome K. Jerome, is one of the few novels that actually make me laugh out loud. I can heartily recommend it to anyone with a lingering case of the winter blues.
"Lucky Jim" bump!
And if you liked Kingsley Amis, I also recommend "The Alteration"
Scoop is one of the funniest books out there! I haven't read it for years - thanks for reminding me of it.
A modern book I thought was very funny, although not quite as innocent, was "The Lecturer's Tale," by James Hynes. It is a satire on the pretensions of modern academic life and has some howlingly funny moments.
I haven't read Scoop but if it's his funniest it must be hillarious.
Any list that leaves out Catch 22 isn't worth its salt. I would add The Sot Weed Factor by John Barth (Doubleday 1967).
I could never get into 'Scoop', but recommend 'Black Mischief' and 'Put Out More Flags'.
Keith Laumer's "Retief" science fiction series has much of Wodehouse' style of wit- to the dismay of diplomats everywhere.
"Don Quixote" belongs on any list of comic novels.
I'm currently reading the Discworld books by Terry Pratchett, some of the funniest stuff I've read in years. I particularly liked this passage from The Wee Free Men:
'Here, wee hag! Stannit ye still, right noo!'
She stared up.
A tiny blue man had poked his head up out of the snow on top of the hedge.
'There's a headless horseman after me!' she shouted.
'He'll no make it, hinny. Stand ye still! Look him in the eye!'
'He hasn't got any eyes!'
'Crivens! Are ye a hag or no'? Look him in the eyes he hasnae got!'
The blue man disappeared into the snow.
Tiffany turned round. The horseman was trotting under the trees now, the horse more certain as the ground levelled. He had a sword in his hand, and he was looking at her, with the eyes he didn't have. There was the breathy noise again, not good to hear.
The little men are watching me, she thought. I can't run. Granny Aching wouldn't have run from a thing with no head.
She folded her arms and glared.
The horseman stopped, as if puzzled, and then urged the horse forward.
A blue and red shape, larger than the other little men, dropped out of the trees. He landed on the horse's forehead, between its eyes, and grabbed an ear in both hands.
Tiffany heard the man shout: 'Here's a face full o' dandruff for ye, yer bogle, courtesy of Big Yan!' and then the man hit the horse between the eyes with his head.
To her amazement the horse staggered sideways.
'Aw right?' shouted the tiny fighter. 'Big toughie, is ye? Once more wi' feelin'!'
This time the horse danced uneasily the other way, and then its back legs slid from under it and it collapsed in the snow.
'Big toughie, is ye? Once more wi' feelin'!' Words to live by! <g>
VENUS ON THE HALFSHELL by Kilgore Trout.....