Literary Blog Hop, A Funny Book

The Literary Blog Hop is hosted by The Blue Bookcase and “is open to blogs that primarily feature book reviews of literary fiction,classic literature, and general literary discussion”.

This week’s topic is:

Can literature be funny? What is your favorite humorous literary book?

First, let me say how much I love sad, gut-wrenching literary fiction.  The kind that grabs you, choke-hold, by the throat and does not release you until the last word on the last page is read. And we all know how utterly humorless some of the writers of literary fiction are.  How serious they can be.  I should be climbing the walls in my bedroom.  My reading list should make me cranky and morose all the time but I’m not.  And that’s thanks to the wickedly comic and utterly funny books mixed in with my sad reads.  So, yes, literature can be funny. My earliest encounter of comic literary fiction was Shakespeare’s Henry VI Part One.  Oscar Wilde’s plays are also funny and witty.

My favorite humorous books are all satires.  I love Heart of a Dog by Mikhail Bulgakov.  Most readers know of Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, which is a masterpiece of 20th century literature.  But his novella, Heart of Dog, is a sheer delight.  The Soviet ideology called for the creation of a New Soviet Man, a strong selfless, healthy and enthusiastic individual who would gladly support and spread Communist ideology.  In the book, a stray dog takes human form and becomes Sharikov, a lazy, crude and narcissistic version of the New Soviet Man.  Heart of a Dog is a parable in which Bulgakov condemns the Soviet system.  It’s a serious book with much in it to ponder. But you will be in stitches most of the time.

What is your favorite funny book?

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28 comments

  1. Did you mean classic literature or modern literary fiction?

    This is a subject that is near and dear to my heart. I’m a humor writer with literary ambitions. I’ve placed humorous stories in literary journals and I have a website devoted to parodies and satire: fake book reviews, funny letters to famous authors like Cormac McCarthy and Dave Eggers, etc… I’ve tried to find some sort of community to latch onto for those of us who like a big dose of humor with our literature, but I haven’t had much luck.

    Anyway, my best stories are those that are overtly funny, but with darker undertones hiding just below the surface. I think there are a lot of literary writers like that. People like Heller, Vonnegut, Daniel Keyes, and many others.

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  2. I agree. Literary books can often be so ‘heavy’ that a few light moments scattered throughout can make all the difference whether I am left depressed or not. Thanks for your interesting post. Visiting from Curled up with a Good Book.

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    • Thanks for stopping by my blog. I definitely like heavy books but it can get a bit too much at times. Funny though that I’m not inclined to try lighter reads. Just as well that some literary fiction can make one laugh.

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  3. I am so glad to hear that Henry VI is funny. I’ve just read Richard III and it was not funny. I was going to read Henry VI (all three parts) next.

    A funny book that comes to mind is THREE MEN IN A BOAT. As un-Victorian of a Victorian novel as you can imagine.

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    • I have not read Richard III . I love Richard II a lot. As is typical of Shakespeare, there are some great and eloquent speeches in that play. I will look up Three Men in a Boat . Thanks.

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  4. I have a copy of The Heart of a Dog on my TBR pile, but have been putting it off because I thought it was going to be A Serious Russian Novel. I shall hurry it up the pile now. 🙂 Terry Pratchett is probably my favourite comic novelist, and of all his books the funniest (IMHO) is Hogfather. But recently I read a huge and thematically serious literary novel – Darkmans by Nicola Barker – which was creepy and unsettling and absolutely hilarious. Ooh, and I second bythefirelight: the humour in some of the Canterbury Tales is delicious. The Miller’s Tale and the Wife of Bath’s Tale particularly I think.

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    • Do, do read Heart of a Dog . I haven’t read anything by both Pratchett or Barker. I will add both recommendations to my wishlist. There is really nothing quite like a serious literary novel which is also funny! Thanks.

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    • Thank you. I recommend all the books by Bulgakov. His works are often overshadowed by the two giants of Russians lit. He quite unlike what one considers as the traditional Russian author.

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    • Thanks, Stu. I agree, lots of Russian lit has humor. I think most people limit their reading of Russian Lit to books by Tolstoy and Dostoevsky.

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    • Ah, a reader after my own heart. The poet Gregory Orr (whom I recently discovered) says “I believe in poetry as a way of surviving the emotional chaos, spiritual confusions and traumatic events that come with being alive”. I’ve been reading a lot of poetry to see me through a period when I need saving.

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  5. I have also heard of the Master and Margarita… Yes, why not? Literature is not always a moody business. It can and has been funny at times. I laughed and laughed when I read Our Husband has Gone Mad Again by Ola Rotimi and Soyinka’s The Lion and the Jewel. Both of these are plays. I have also enjoyed some funny characters in novels.

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    • Some of Soyinka’s work are really funny. Yes, yes, Rotimi’s book is quite hilarious. I recommend Master and Margarita. It’s one of my all-time favorite books.

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  6. I love Heart of a Dog (much more than Master and Margarita) so am glad you chose it! The Russian movie adaptation from 1988 is very good, too, and it’s apparently available here with subtitles.

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    • I would love to see the movie. Although I also love Master and Margarita , I found Heart of a Dog much more accessible. Have you read The White Guard? A wholly different work from the other two books but also an enjoyable book.

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      • The movie’s wonderful, in black and white or sepia, I don’t remember which. I’m not a big movie person (I always feel like I’m missing reading time!) but loved it.

        As for White Guard… well, I’ve picked it up several times and never been able to get into it. I’m hoping that one of these years it will hit me right!

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      • I read White Guard at a stage in my reading life when I was determined to devour all the translated books by Bulgakov that I could get my hands on. Perhaps that help ;).

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  7. Elechi Amadi’s ‘The Concubine’ is not exactly a funny book, but Wodu Wakiri the wag will live you in stitches throughout the story.

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