Books to Read: C is for Comedy


Hello and welcome to a Sunday Morning Meet-Up
in which I present Books to Read: C is for Comedy.
One of the greatest writers of comic novels is, of course, P.G. Wodehouse. I recommend
The Code of the Woosters. When Bertie Wooster goes to Totleigh Towers
to pour oil on the troubled waters of a lovers’ breach between Madeline Bassett and Gussie
Fink-Nottle, he isn’t expecting to see Aunt Dahlia there – nor to be instructed by her
to steal some silver. But purloining the antique cow creamer from under the baleful nose of
Sir Watkyn Bassett is the least of Bertie’s tasks. He has to restore true love to both
Madeline and Gussie and to the Revd ‘Stinker’ Pinker and Stiffy Byng – and confound the
insane ambitions of would-be Dictator Roderick Spode and his Black Shorts. It’s a situation
that only Jeeves can unravel. Writing at the very height of his powers, in The Code of
the Woosters, P.G. Wodehouse delivers what might be the most delightfully funny book
ever committed to paper. A comedy of manners is a novel that satirizes
the manners and affectations of a social class, often represented by stock characters. The
plot of the comedy is often concerned with an illicit love affair or some other scandal,
but is generally less important than its witty dialogue. This form of comedy has a long ancestry,
dating back at least as far as Shakespeare’s Much Ado about Nothing. Jane Austen specialised in the comedy of manners
novel, with Emma, Mansfield Park and Pride and Prejudice. Other novels typifying this
approach are Evelina by Fanny Burney, Excellent Women by Barbara Pym, Vanity Fair by William
Makepeace Thackeray and A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh. Parody is a story that mocks or satirizes
other genres, people, fictional characters or works. Such works employ sarcasm, stereotyping,
mockery of scenes, symbols or lines from other works, and the obviousness of meaning in a
character’s actions. Such stories may be “affectionate parodies” meant to entertain those familiar
with the references of the parody, or they may well be intended to undercut the respectability
of the original inspiration for the parody by pointing out its flaws (the latter being
closer to satire). The Princess Bride by William Goldman is a
notable example of a parody. Beautiful, flaxen-haired Buttercup has fallen
for Westley, the farm boy, and when he departs to make his fortune, she vows never to love
another. So, when she hears that his ship has been captured by the Dread Pirate Roberts
– who never leaves survivors – her heart is broken. But her charms draw the attention
of the relentless Prince Humperdinck who wants a wife and will go to any lengths to have
Buttercup. So starts a fairy tale like no other, of fencing, fighting, torture, poison,
true love, hate, revenge, giants, hunters, bad men, good men, beautiful ladies, snakes,
spiders, beasts, chases, escapes, lies, truths, passion and miracles.
Other examples of parodies include: Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen and Pride and Prejudice
and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith. Romantic comedy aka RomCom is a subgenre that
combines the romance genre with comedy, focusing on two or more individuals as they discover
and attempt to deal with their romantic love attractions to each other. The stereotypical
plot line follows the “boy-gets-girl”, “boy-loses-girl”, “boy gets girl back again” sequence. Naturally,
there are innumerable variants to this plot (as well as new twists, such as reversing
the gender roles in the story), and much of the generally light-hearted comedy lies in
the social interactions and sexual tension between the characters, who very often either
refuse to admit they are attracted to one another or must deal with others’ meddling
in their affairs. Although, I know very little about this genre,
I have chosen a typical modern example. I Followed the Rules: True Love by the Book
by Joanna Bolouri is from the bestselling author of The List and Relight My Fire. I
Followed the Rules is rated as an hilarious novel about how to find true love by the book. ‘My friends think I’m insane, I’m stalking
men all over town and I’m on a deadline.’ Most people have heard of The Rules of Engagement,
the book that promises to teach women how to find the man of their dreams in ten easy
steps. Cat has decided that, while a lot has changed since the eighties, it might be entertaining
to follow it to the letter. But when you’re looking for love – actively
chasing it down, actually – a lot can go wrong. ‘I’m not joking when I say this is the funniest,
down to earth and yet crazily sexy & romantic book I’ve read in this genre!’ says an Amazon
reviewer. ‘This made me laugh my head off quietly on
the train’ said another Amazon reviewer ‘This is the funniest book I have read and
it is absolutely brilliant’ said yet another Amazon reviewer.
If this is a genre that appeals to you, you may want to check out books by this author. Comic fantasy is a subgenre of fantasy that
is primarily humorous in intent and tone. Usually set in imaginary worlds, comic fantasy
often includes puns on and parodies of other works of fantasy. It is sometimes known as
low fantasy in contrast to high fantasy, which is primarily serious in intent and tone. The
term “low fantasy” is also used to represent other types of fantasy, so while comic fantasies
may also correctly be classified as low fantasy, many examples of low fantasy are not comic
in nature. The most famous comic fantasy novels are the
Discworld series by Terry Pratchett. Black comedy, or dark comedy is a parody or
satirical story that is based on normally tragic or taboo subjects, including death,
murder, suicide, illicit drugs and war. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller is probably the
most famous black comedy ever written and the phrase Catch 22 has passed into general
use. Explosive, subversive, wild and funny, set
in the closing months of World War II, this is the story of a bombardier named Yossarian
who is frantic and furious because thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill
him. His real problem is not the enemy – it is his own army which keeps increasing the
number of missions the men must fly to complete their service. If Yossarian makes any attempts
to excuse himself from the perilous missions then he is caught in Catch-22: if he flies,
he is crazy, and doesn’t have to; but if he doesn’t want to he must be sane and has to.
That’s some catch. Comic science fiction is a comedy that uses
science fiction elements or settings, often as a light-hearted (or occasionally vicious)
parody of the latter genre. The most famous is The Hitchhikers Guide to
the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, and of course, Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut Jr. Satire is often strictly defined as a literary
genre or form, though in practice it is also found in the graphic and performing arts.
In satire, human or individual vices, follies, abuses, or shortcomings are held up to censure
by means of ridicule, derision, burlesque, irony, or other methods, ideally with the
intent to bring about improvement. Satire is usually meant to be funny, but its purpose
is not primarily humour as an attack on something the author disapproves of, using wit. A common,
almost defining feature of satire is its strong vein of irony or sarcasm, but parody, burlesque,
exaggeration, juxtaposition, comparison, analogy, and double entendre all frequently appear
in satirical speech and writing. The essential point, is that “in satire, irony is militant.”
This “militant irony” (or sarcasm) often professes to approve (or at least accept as natural)
the very things the satirist actually wishes to attack.
Two examples of satiric novels are, Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes and Animal Farm by
George Orwell. And now here is a quick recap and I’ll be
back on Thursday with my December Mid-Month Wrap-Up.

10 thoughts on “Books to Read: C is for Comedy

  1. Watching this I realised that I don’t read a lot of comedy. I love Wodehouse and Pratchett, have read and enjoyed all of Jane Austen, and Catch 22 is the funniest novel I ever read. I prefer to watch comedy. I love romantic comedies (isn’t my wife a lucky girl!) and Sitcoms – both American and British, with Fawlty Towers my all time favourite.

  2. I really enjoyed this! I really like Georgette Heyer's Regency Romances. Many of them are extremely funny in the Pride & Prejudice way except the humor is broader and sometimes approaches a more Shakespearean flavor.

  3. P. G. Wodehouse. Enjoy his writings.

    Recently showed, on my channel, The Prank, by Anton Chekhov.
    A collection of short stories in which Chekhov makes fun of the money grubbing habits of the middle class, pretentision of aspiring artist and writers, bureaucratic corruption, and others.

    Augusten Burroughs; Running with Scissors, is such a funny story.

  4. Wow this was really interesting, thanks for breaking down the types! I was obsessed with Douglas Adams when I was a kid , the school’s library had an illustrated edition from the show and I wish I could find it now.

  5. I don’t really know of any fiction writers that make me laugh, obviously something missing in my life 😊. It’s really only non fiction writers like Bill Bryson that make me laugh out loud.

  6. Books that made me laugh out loud include –
    'Lucky Jim' by Kingsley Amis
    'Augustus Carp, Esq., By Himself: Being the Autobiography of a Really Good Man' by Sir Henry Howarth Bashford
    'Diary of a Nobody' by George and Weedon Grossmith
    'Miss Marjoribanks' by Margaret Oliphant

  7. 42 is the answer to everything, Don Q had me laughing out loud numerous times. I have never really enjoyed Wodehouse in book form or TV adaptions. A Confederacy of Dunces is also a favourite picaresque book with plenty of humour.

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