The Readers' Advisory Interest Group
The New American Dictionary defines humor as: the quality that provokes laughter or amusement. Writers create humor through exaggeration, sarcasm, amusing descriptions, irony, and witty dialogue.
A comic novel is a work of fiction in which the writer seeks to amuse the reader, sometimes with subtlety and as part of a carefully woven narrative; sometimes, above all other considerations. One of the most notable British comic novelists is P.G. Wodehouse, whose work follows on from that of Jerome K. Jerome and George and Weedon Grossmith’s Diary of a Nobody. Nor can Saki’s work be ignored, although his career was cut short by World War I. A.G. Macdonell and G.K. Chesterton also produce flights of whimsy that delighted their reading audiences in their day. Other more contemporary UK authors of this kind include Tom Sharpe, Kingsley Amis, Terry Pratchett, Richard Gordon, Ian Ross, Douglas Adams, Evelyn Waugh, Eric Sykes, Leslie Thomas, Stephen Fry, Mike Harding, Joseph Connolly, and Ben Elton.
Notable American comic novelists include Hunter S. Thompson, John Kennedy Toole, Robert Clark Young, James Wilcox, Carl Hiaasen, Joseph Heller, Peter De Vries, Flannery O’Connor, and Terry Southern.
Percival Everett. I Am Not Sidney Poitier. 2009.
A young black man whose name is Not Sidney Poitier finds himself living through warped versions of Sidney Poitier movies. Learn how he came to live with Ted Turner and have a professor named Percival Everett (Not the Author?). The humor derives from Not Sidney’s deadpan, erudite narration; Turner’s constant nonsequiturs and Everett’s parody of academese; and the subversive denouements of the reworked movie plots. Satirical humor for fans of Joseph Heller, Kurt Vonnegut...and Sidney Poitier’s films.
Carrie Fisher. Wishful Drinking. 2008.
A wild, comical memoir by the well-known actress, relating a wide range of anecdotes from her unusual childhood as the daughter of Debbie Reynolds and Eddie Fisher, her addictions and psychological difficulties, her relationships and of course her experiences playing Princess Leia in the Star Wars movies. The book is adapted from her stage show of the same name, and the tone is very much that of a stand-up comic relating to an audience – confessional and even self-lacerating, but always with a healthy dose of humor and irony, not to mention lots of references to sex.
Kathie Lee Gifford. Just When I Thought I’d Dropped My Last Egg: Life and Other Calamities. 2009.
Most of us have watched and laughed with television personality Kathie Lee Gifford over the years either as co-host of Live with Regis and Kathie Lee or more recently as co-host of the fourth hour of the Today show. We may have even poked fun at her sappy Christmas specials. What I appreciated in this book is her ability to laugh at herself and connect with those of us less famous using wit and a down-to-earth wisdom.
Carl Hiaasen. The Downhill Lie: A Hacker's Return to a Ruinous Sport. 2008.
Love it or hate it, golf appears to be a game that captivates its practitioners. And so, 32 years after his first attempt to master the game, author Carl Hiaasen takes another look at the game that eludes so many and rewards only a handful after great investment in time and money in the quest for the perfect approach to The Downhill Lie: A Hacker’s Return to a Ruinous Sport. Enjoy this quirky approach and Hiaasen’s keen observations of a year spent revisiting the game!
Jerome K. Jerome. Three Men in a Boat. 1889.
Three Englishmen decide to take a leisurely boat ride up the Thames, accompanied by a fox terrier. Their vacation becomes a farcical adventure that includes encounters with a sinister cat, aggressive swans, and an ill-fated trout. Jerome’s narrative is replete with droll observations and constant digressions and anecdotes. The chapter descriptions alone give you a taste of what you’re in for: “Heathenish instincts of tow-lines” ... “I forget that I am steering” ... “Innocence of South Western Officials concerning such worldly things as trains”... and so on. Although it was first published in 1889, the book’s deadpan tone and exaggerated descriptions of mishaps and follies ring just as funny today. For fans of Bill Bryson, Douglas Adams, P. G. Wodehouse, and Stella Gibbons (Cold Comfort Farm).
Christopher Moore. Fool. 2009.
A satirical retelling of the King Lear story, from the viewpoint of Lear’s court jester. Rather like Monty Python in its comic sensibility – lots of deliberate anachronism; skepticism about political and religious authority; absurdity; profanity; and bawdy, indeed raunchy, humor. The plot follows that of the play in large part, along with flashbacks to the fool’s earlier life, but the happy ending is, needless to say, entirely different from the play.
Terry Pratchett. Making Money. 2007.
Postmaster General Moist von Lipwig, an ex-criminal, is forced by some rather strange circumstances to take over the Royal Mint and Royal Bank of the city of Ankh-Morpork and attempt to make them functional. He also has to care for and protect the life of Mr. Fusspot, who due to his inheritance has become the majority shareholder in the bank, although he happens to be a dog. Moist faces some steep challenges in his job, including the fact that the currency costs more to make than its value, the gold that backs said currency is missing, and several members of the family that traditionally owned the bank would prefer that he was dead. The main characters in this book were previously seen in Going Postal, but like other books in the Discworld series, this can be read alone.