Monday, August 15, 2005

BOOKS: Have I Mentioned Lately How Much You Rock?

Yes, you. You do. You rock harder than a room full of grandmas on speed. I'll tell you why:

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett (#26)
Waaaaaaay back when I wrote about being disappointed with Christopher Moore's Fluke (after being somewhat entertained by Lamb), I lamented the fact that there are so few funny, smart fiction writers out there.

A bunch of you suggested that, if I like Douglas Adams, I should read Terry Pratchett, particularly his novel Good Omens, co-written with Neil Gaiman. So I tracked down a copy (which was way harder than it should have been, for some reason) and ploughed through it in just a couple of nights. And it was perfect.

Not only was it effortlessly funny (my biggest criticism of Moore is that he tries too hard, and it shows), it was also intelligent and unafraid to drop some semi-obscure biblical references on me. The plot hung together throughout the story (Fluke kind of fell apart about two-thirds of the way through, and even Douglas Adams's storylines had a tendency to meander off-course and never return, though he had some good excuses for this), and... AND... most important, my edition of Good Omens was a deliciously, eminently holdable trade paperback, meaning I could read it in bed with one hand while cradling young Master Sam in the other arm.

Like I said, the perfect book.

So thank you, thank you, thank you for recommending such a thoroughly satisfying novel.*

And please, please, please... if you can suggest any other authors -- and specific titles -- in this vein, please do. I'm trying to read
The Kite Runner, but I have to take a break every 50 pages or so because -- I'll be honest here -- it's a bit of a downer. I need some intermittent yuks to keep me going.

*ETA: Uh, it seems I've neglected to say what Good Omens is actually about. How about I just use Clive Barker's review quote from the cover: "The Apocalypse has never been funnier!"


Anonymous said...

Terry Pratchett rocks--and not just because he's an individualist and minarchist who manages to fool worshippers of the state into nodding their heads in agreement with the political stuff in his books. (Maybe they don't see it, though. Subversive is good.)

Anonymous said...

If you liked Good Omens, I suggest the entire Discworld series from Terry Pratchett. There are like 30 books, of course not all are perfect, but not one is bad. Pratchett's humor just rocks! And the best thing is he keeps writing them, so there's a new one every year :)
Oh and for young Master Sam, when he's a little older, there is The bromeliad trilogy from Pratchett.

Anonymous said...

Pretty much any of Neil Gaiman's books are great. I would especially recommend "Neverwhere". Not quite as slap-happy as "Good Omens", and a bit darker, but still the same intelligent wordplay, copius mythical & literary references, and some cracking good characters.

I also quite enjoyed Matt Ruff's "Sewer, Gas & Electric".

Anonymous said...

I heartily agree with Pirate Jenny. Neverwhere by Gaiman is absolutely FANTASTIC. I read it the other day (after I got it out of the library and it sat there with its cheesy 90s cover for a few weeks) and it was the first book in ages I just couldn't put down.

If you go for Terry Pratchett, my favourites are: Men at Arms, Hogfather, Feet of Clay, Masquerade, Thief of Time, Nightwatch and any that feature Death.

You might also try Robert Rankin's Dance of the Voodoo Handbag (a lot of people I know love him, but I find the others a bit tedious, like the joke's gone too far).

But please, read Neverwhere and I hope you like it!

And a tangent: I tried to get Microserfs out of the library the other day after reading you be happy about it and it turned out that there are no copies in my entire local library system. I was much saddened.

Oh, another recommendation that strikes me would be good for reading with a baby in one hand: Surely You're Joking, Mister Feynman (by Richard Feynman!)

Anonymous said...

Not exactly the same vein as Adams and Pratchett (both authors I too love) but one of the funniest books I have ever read is Youth In Revolt by C.D. Payne. It's about the comic misadventures of the smartest, dumbass teenager you'll ever meet. It's ridiculous and perfect. I also very much enjoyed Frisco Pigeon Mambo by Mr Payne.

Anonymous said...

I'd also highly recommend picking up some more Pratchett--he's consistently witty and creative. I'm also thrilled that someone mentioned Matt Ruff's Sewer, Gas, and Electric. It's a great, bizarre, Rand-parodying, surreal scifi masterpiece.

I'd also highly recommend Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next books. The first is The Eyre Affair, but that's my least favorite, and a friend said she was able to read the second book, Lost in a Good Book without much harm, so I'd suggest starting with that one. They're clever, utterly British alternate-universe fantasy.

Anonymous said...

I heard Gaiman read from ANANSI BOYS his upcoming novel at Worldcon and nearly pissed myself laughing.It was just effortlessly funny. Also he is cute.

Cee said...

God, Good Omens is a perfect book, isn't it? I completely forgot it while compiling my "Favourite Book of All Time" list.

While I love both Pratchett and Gaiman separately, neither of them are quite like what they are when together. I think I'd put Pratchett down as being the funnier of the two, and would recommend his books as similarly humourous - some of my particular favourites of his Discworld series (which can often be read as stand alone novels) are Lords and Ladies and Guards, Guards!.

Heatherkay said...

Maybe I just missed it, but I can't believe that nobody has mentioned To Say Nothing of the Dog by Connie Willis. A very funny time travel novel that is also an extended, recursive reference to another book. To quote

To Say Nothing of the Dog is a science-fiction fantasy in the guise of an old-fashioned Victorian novel, complete with epigraphs, brief outlines, and a rather ugly boxer in three-quarters profile at the start of each chapter. Or is it a Victorian novel in the guise of a time-traveling tale, or a highly comic romp, or a great, allusive literary game, complete with spry references to Dorothy L. Sayers, Wilkie Collins, and Arthur Conan Doyle?

What could be better?

Rebecca said...

Hey, if we can induct yet another member into the Pratchett/Gaiman cult, then our work is done :)

Yes, definitely read Pratchett's Discworld series. I can't tell you where to start because they are all amazing and funny and thoughtful. Monsterous Regiment was one of his best in recent years, although there were many, many moments in Going Postal where I thought I'd pass out from laughing so hard.

Someone recommended C.D. Payne, which was also very good. Nick Twisp, the main protagonist, reminded me of a very warped Holden Caufield.

And since I don't know if anyone has recommended him yet, Anthony Bourdain. A Cook's Tour was one of the best foodie/travel books ever. And Kitchen Confidential was an eye-opener, and made me want a kitchen full of sharp knives and gadgets :) (He also wrote a couple of works of fiction, but I haven't gotten around to reading them yet.)

Dawna said...

I second the recommendations for Gaiman's "Neverwhere" (he wasn't at Worldcon this year, but an extract of "Anansi Boys" was), and also Connie Willis - although I would include her riotous, if light in tone, "Bellwether" as a first read. "The Doomsday Book" is also excellent, but quite harrowing in spots.

Tigerlily said...

All these comments about Gaiman and no "American Gods" recomendations? I liked that one much better than "Neverwhere", but then I'm a bit of a mythology nerd. Dark but clever.

Anonymous said...

I totally second the "To Say Nothing of the Dog" recommendation. It is one of my go-to books for comfort reading. I'd also recommend "The Gospel According to Biff: Jesus Christ's Childhood Pal" by Christopher Moore. That book is high-larious.

Anonymous said...

I was totally excited to read this post about Pratchett (love him!), decide to recommend To Say Nothing of the Dog, and find it already recommended! I just read it a few weeks ago and loved it--so many times I laughed out loud, and now I am recommending it to everyone. It's definitely a pick-me-up.

Anonymous said...

From the Don't-read-it-in-bed-or-you'll-keep-your-partner-awake-with-muffled-snorts-and-chuckles category: David Sedaris. He's a frequent commentator for This American Life (hosted by Ira Glass) on NPR and now a novelist. "Me Talk Pretty One Day" is my fav but "Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim" is a treat, too.

Also, David Eggers' "A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius" is the same kind of hilarity, but I only made half-way through the book.

Anonymous said...


I know it's a bit late, but I wanted to add my votes for Pratchett, Gaiman, and Jasper Fforde. All are excellent! I really enjoyed the Pratchett novels with the Witches (I'm not sure what the first one was, and the only title I can currently remember is Witches Abroad). Gaimain is fantastic, too. I haven't read any of his novels other than Coraline, but I have heard nothing but praise for American Gods and Neverwhere. If you like graphic novels, I would recommend the first Books of Magic trade and the Sandman series. Jasper Fforde and the Thursday Next series are great fun, and the fourth in the series is newly out in paperback. Enjoy your break!

Anonymous said...

I was trapped in bed for almost two full years with a series of knee surgeries, and without comedic authors, I would have gone starkers. Love love love Willis, Pratchett, Sedaris and Gaiman... Roger Zelazny wrote "A Night in the Lonesome October" with outrageous illustrations by Gahan Wilson and it's a Victorian romp so allusive and charming that I reread it every October... and smile the whole time. Also, "Whores of Lost Atlantis" by Charles Busch, a roman a clef about his drag-queen life in the Village when he wrote "Vampire Lesbians of Sodom" is a hoot and a half... Florence King's "Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady" made this transplanted-to-the-NW Southerner weep tears of laughter and recognition, also her "Southern Ladies and Gentlemen" though it's out of print and very much a "grits and gravy" kind of treat... "Rubyfruit Jungle" by Rita Mae Brown will make you avoid Grapefruit with a smile on your face for all eternity... in a good way. Michael Thomas Ford is an essayist who wrote the lovely "Alec Baldwin Doesn't Love Me, and Other Trials of My Queer Life," as well as later collections. Would you wax your lover's back? Enquiring minds want to know!

Hope this book list finds you well!

Tammy said...

It's NEVER too late to keep adding to this list, Vicki. It's my new favourite reading-list-in-progress. So thanks for the suggestions.

And thank you, too, Shirt Lifter (heh). You are the only other person I've ever heard of who's also read Whores of Lost Atlantis! That was a seriously funny book.

Would I wax my lover's back? Done and done, mon frere.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely the funniest work of fiction I have ever read is "Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates" by Tom Robbins. I can't tell you how many times I cancelled plans this summer to have a few more hours with this book. When I finished it I was briefly lost; now I am forcing it on everyone I know. The Brothers Karamazov used to be the book I could proudly call my favourite, but this...tops it.