Thursday, March 3, 2011

Can literature be funny?

Of course.


Luckily for this post, The Blue Bookcase's Literary Blog Hop offers a follow up question:  What is your favorite humorous literary book?

Easy:
Every year I have the great good fortune to teach A Midsummer Night's Dream, and every year as my students and I take on the roles of Bottom & Quince, Helena & Hermia, Lysander & Demetrius, we laugh ourselves silly.  Of course, Shakespeare's greatest comedy is meant to be played, and it's in the playing that this piece of literature leaps off the page and into our hearts, cadging smiles at every turn.

But then so many other stellar comic works leap up to tickle my fancy... So I'll focus here on a few good current runners-up.  (And I also must note that my list below offers ample evidence of my taste for social satire and darkly comic works.)

* I'll sample anything by T.C. Boyle, whose short fiction almost always takes a darkly comic turn.

* And Margaret Atwood's among my favorite authors: She's also a master of the scathing social satire, offering up the darker side of human nature lightened by the regular ironic chuckle.  And her "The Female Body" is among the most darkly, trenchantly hilarious of the myriad literary essays I've ever read.

* Also of note:  Salman Rushdie, a master of both the tragic and the comic (and the tragicomic) yarn.  Not to mention children's fiction that wraps laugh-out-loud word-play around rich allegory: If you haven't read his  Haroun & The Sea of Stories, I highly recommend it. Its sequel, Luka & The Fire of Life, just came out, and I'm looking forward to that one too.

* And how about Matt Haig's The Dead Fathers Club?  The better you know Hamlet, the more creepily hilarious this tale of a modern day 11-year-old with a princely problem gets...

And that's just a few minutes' worth of musing on this worthy topic from The Blue Bookcase's literary blog hop today.  I'll keep adding over the next three days of the tour, but do give me a literary leg up, please:

Frankly, I'm seriously in need of a (new) good laugh:  Which literary-comic masterworks would you suggest?

MFB hilariously,
L

13 comments:

Teacher/Learner said...

I love A Midsummer's Night Dream--it's by far my favourite Shakespeare comedy & good for you for teaching & performing it every year! Now that's a great example of hysterical literature :)

Dana KBS said...

Sea of Poppies had some wonderful humor mixed in with the pathos...I'm sure someone will say Catch-22...I also think Little Women is very funny (sometimes unintentionally)...and, of course, Austen--Northanger Abbey and Emma in particular.

llevinso said...

Shakespeare is always good for a laugh. He was great at playing to every level of the crowd. One of my favorite characters of his was Dogberry in Much Ado About Nothing. Love Midsummer too though. Puck is great.

Laurie said...

Dana - So far, no one's said Catch-22, 'though certainly they should have. Jane's been at the top of many lists. And may I borrow your Sea of Poppies in April? Seems perfect timing... And I've been popping over to Chez 'Knitsmith, Wordpurl' to see what you're up to. Get yo'self a follower patch and I shall be the first in line...
Llevinso - Yes, Dogberry: grintastic. And thanks for your support on the February story. Kind, it was.
T/L: You know, I didn't figure that Bridget fit the hop or I would have offered it up: Laugh out loud it was, and no mistaking.

Mari said...

I'm seeing Shakespeare appear alot, how I love Shakespeare.

I haven't read any of the books you reference in your post (other than Sharespeare).

Do you fundraise/sponsor someone through WoW? I do to, I just received my packet for Rebecca. I'm putting together a package her this weekend.

LBC said...

Good ones. I'm a big T.C. Boyle fan. The play within a play in Midsummer's is one of the funniest things in all of literature.

See my hop here: http://hawthornescarlet.blogspot.com/2011/03/literary-blog-hop-ha-ha-funny.html

Risa said...

A Midsummer Night's Dream is good...but I prefer Much Ado About Nothing...:D

Except for Atwood and Rushdie, I haven't heard of any of the runners-up auhtors or their works. Rushdie, I didn't care much for...but I guess I never really gave him a chance.:-/

Laurie said...

Mari - Yes, I've been sponsoring sisters for six years now, not only in southern Sudan but also in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Risa - I do appreciate Much Ado and As You Like It too. Tell me more about your experiences w/Rushdie's work...

parrish lantern said...

great choice with rushdie,

Listener said...

For a good laugh, I'd recommend Jeeves in the Morning by P.G. Wodehouse. If you've already read that one, try Diary of a Nobody, a lesser-known comic gem from the Victorian Era. Both are available as free public domain audiobooks by following the links at my blog.

Red said...

Stopping by from Sarcastic Female Literary circle. I love Midsummer and agree it's hilarious. I think I need to check out The Dead Fathers Club.

Loni said...

Haroun and the Sea of Stories is a great book!

Laurie said...

Thanks for the suggestions, Listener. I think that Wodehouse would be a great audiobook choice, and I listen to CDs in my car all the time, so I'll check to see if I can borrow it from our local library a.s.ap.
And thanks for stopping by, Red and Loni.

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