Saturday, August 31, 2013

Funny Ha Ha

The other day a friend asked me to recommend some funny books to him because he was "feeling a bit down". I told him that it was probably better to watch a funny movie or a funny TV show instead but he said that he "really wanted to read a book" which is a rare enough emotion in humans these days that it ought to be cherished; off the top of my head then I came up with a little list of my favourite funny novels. These are in no particular order - certainly not in order of which is the funniest or best - just in the rank in which they popped into my brain. Some of them, obviously, are funnier than others but they're all good. I also decided to limit myself to one book per author so that if my friend found one author he liked there would be others he could latch onto like a comedic lifebelt in these troubled times...
hey remember back in the day
when Gwyneth Paltrow wasn't
the most hated woman in the world?

1. Decline and Fall - The first and possibly best of Evelyn Waugh's books. A young man is sent down from Oxford and tries to make his way in life.
2. The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy - while not as good as the Radio Series this is still some funny stuff from Douglas Adams. 
3. Summer Lightning - by PG Wodehouse. You realise I could have picked any of a dozen books here, but even the preface of this book had me in stitches.
4. Cooking With Fernet Branca: James Hamilton-Paterson's modern comedic classic of love and misunderstanding in Italy. 
5. Three Men In A Boat - Victorian humour hasn't aged well but this is the exception that proves the rule.    
6. Emma - Jane Austen: If this doesn't cheer you up you probably need medication. 
7. The Innocents Abroad - Mark Twain casts a jaundiced eye on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land. 
8. Dog of the South - Charles Portis. Portis's funniest book? Well its certainly up there. A man goes to Mexico looking for his ex wife. Trouble ensues. 
9. Inherent Vice: Thomas Pynchon's wittiest and most accessible book. A mystery novel set in a Santa Monica hippy community.
10. The Old Devils by Kingsley Amis. Everyone seems to prefer Lucky Jim but I thought this was funnier and sharper. Old geezers celebrate the life of Dylan Thomas...
11. Hollywood - Charles Bukowski: The dreary old git could be a laugh riot when he wanted to be. More or less the true story of the making of "Barfly". 
12. Platform - Michel Houellebecq. Possibly the funniest Frenchman since Voltaire and one of the funniest books of the last 10 years. A French sex tourist goes to Thailand and gets up to no good. 
13.  Zuleika Dobson - Max Beerbohm. 100 years old but it still tickles the ribs. A beautiful girl arrives at Oxford and causes mayhem. 
14. Catch 22 - Joseph Heller. War and madness on Corsica in WW2. Heller's best book and one of the best WW2 novels. 
15. The Infernal Desire Machines of Dr Hoffman - Angela Carter is not to everyone's taste but I loved this. 
16. Crash - JG Ballard. Again not everyone will see this as a comedy but it really is. 
17. Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas - Does this count as a novel? Its one of the funniest books of all time so I hope that it does. Hunter S Thompson goes to Vegas to cover a sports event....The scene with the bath, the radio and White Rabbit....
18. White Teeth - Its quite a serious book but there are some very funny set pieces. Zadie Smith's best I think. 
19. Mort - Terry Pratchett. This is Pratchett firing on all cylinders and when he was at his most inventive and hilarious. A rip off/homage to Death Takes a Holiday.
20. Into The Heart of Borneo - Redmond O'Hanlon. Ok this isnt a novel. Its a journey Redmond OHanlon took with his friend the poet James Fenton into the, er, heart of Borneo. Its smart and very funny. 

Anyway that was my top of the head list. I'd be happy to hear your suggestions below...