I've been putting off writing about it because some of these are books that were kindly recommended back when I was bitching about the fact that there are so few funny authors out there. And I didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings. So before you read any further, promise me you won't feel bad, okay? It's not you, it's me.
Lords and Ladies by Terry Pratchett (#44)
Now, this book was kind of fun. It takes place in a magical land called Discworld where the wizards are doofuses and the witches are sardonic and the general citizenry is amusingly dim-witted.
The premise of the story is that elves -- which live in a parallel dimension -- are trying to get into the Discworld dimension, and they're not very nice... if you take "not very nice" to mean that they steal babies and eat people and make a general nuisance of themselves. The fate of Discworld is in the hands of three witches. I'll leave you there.
The story had all the classic fantasy trappings. There are trolls and unicorns, and I believe there may also be dragons, though I can't be one hundred percent sure of that. And Pratchett puts a nice absurdist spin on these elements, which made me think of him as a sort of Piers Anthony for grown-ups.
But when I finished Lords and Ladies (and I'll grant that the second half of the novel rollicked along in a satisfying way), it didn't make me want to shout from the rooftops or race to pick up the other Pratchett novel, Monstrous Regiment, that I'd also checked out of the library. And when I think back, I don't remember even smirking once while reading it, much less being surprised into laughing aloud, which is one of the most satisfying feelings I can think of.
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (incomplete; status unlikely to change)
I just couldn't get into this at all. I liked the whole "literal underworld" element and wished that I knew London better so that I could appreciate the clever parallel mapping of the two worlds, but that was about it. The main character felt like an obvious take on Arthur Dent, in being a regular schlub who is irrevocably trapped in a completely foreign environment, but I just didn't care what happened to him, or to Door, or to any of the other characters.
Do you hate me yet? No? Keep reading.
Frisco Pigeon Mambo by C.D. Payne (#45)
For a 180-degree change of perspective, I turned to this book, a sort of Richard-Adams-by-way-of-Bukowski story about a group of pigeons who get released from a test lab where they're accustomed to drinking sherry and smoking cigarettes. And they all believe they're human.
The story follows the reluctant escapees -- led by the narrator, Robin, who has a tendency to channel Sam Spade in moments of stress -- in their attempts to get back to the lab, incidentally wreaking havoc on the entire city of San Francisco in a series of increasingly bizarre events.
Payne is good at constructing outlandish plots, but his efforts here put me in mind of his hugely superior novel, Youth in Revolt, which I read a few years ago. looooved, and recommended to everyone I knew. Frisco Pigeon Mambo just didn't measure up.
Right now I'm trying to get into Jasper Fforde's Lost in a Good Book but, notwithstanding the fact that I'm in love with his name, I'm just not feeling it. And man, there's something so depressing about reading an ostensibly funny book and not getting it. It's like the time a few years back that Rusty was in southeast Asia for six straight weeks, so I was already sad and lonely and then I got sick and stayed home from work and rented two movies: Eyes Wide Shut, because I wanted to see what all the hubbub was about, and Dog Park, because I thought it'd be a good idea to have something funny on hand to watch after the Kubrick film and any movie featuring Janeane Garofalo, Bruce McCullough, and Luke Wilson must be funny, right? And so I watched Eyes Wide Shut and it was a downer, but I was expecting that so I could roll with it. But then I watched Dog Park and when it was over and I hadn't even smiled once, I cried.
What was I talking about? I forget. Anyway, by now you're probably sitting there all, "Whatever, Judgey McJerkypants. Why don't you name some funny books then." Alrighty then.
I judge a book to be funny when it surprises me by making me laugh out loud. When it compels me to pester Rusty incessantly with, "Oh my god... okay, now let me read you THIS part." When I need to foist it on everyone I know because I simply cannot stand the thought that they exist another day without experiencing the sheer unadulterated FUNNINESS of this book.
Given these criteria, here are the funniest books I've ever read:
- Forrest Gump by Winston Groom -- Of course, no one will touch this book since the movie came out. Their loss. It's a thousand times weirder -- and darker -- than the movie, and there's even an orangutan named Sue, who accompanies Forrest on a space mission (yes, that is correct)! I laughed my ass off many, many times.
- Last Chance to See by Douglas Adams -- It's probably blasphemous to say this, but I think this book contains some of Adams's best, funniest writing. This non-fiction account of Adams's quest to see several endangered species in their natural environment is absolutely brilliant and quite touching, to boot. His description of the mating habits of the kakapo, a fat, flightless species of parrot, is one of the funniest things I've read. Ever.
- The Code of the Woosters by P.G. Wodehouse -- To my mind, this novel is the jewel in Wodehouse's crown. All my favourite characters are here -- Bertie, Jeeves, Gussie Fink-Nottle, Madeline Bassett, Aunt Dahlia, Anatole the chef -- and it has a fabulous rant that ends with the magnificent rhetorical question, "Did you ever in your puff see such a perfect perisher?"
- The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde -- Come on, dude. Oscar Wilde is dirty and catty and bitchy and really knew his way around a double entendre (and perhaps even the rare triple entendre). The verdict? Guilty, your honour, of making me chuckle pretty much continuously throughout reading it.
- Good Omens by Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman -- I've already written about my big love for this book. I wish Pratchett and Gaiman would pair up again.