6 BOOKS that made me laugh out loud by Daniel Menaker
Daniel Menaker is the author of a novel, The Treatment, and two collections of short stories. His work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times, Slate, and many other publications. His esteemed career as an editor at The New Yorker was followed by an equally esteemed career in book publishing. He spent most of his book years at Random House, but I was lucky enough to meet him during his stint at HarperCollins. Below, he shares six books that made him laugh out loud.
Portnoy's Complaint by Philip Roth
I started laughing at the protagonist's first name, Alexander--which, with its A. the Great echo stood in such stark contrast to his character--and then laughed on and off through the rest of the book. Well, smiled, or chuckled, I should say, because, in addition to my amusement, I would shake my head in wonder at the transgressive audacity of the voice, and the honesty about hidden desires.
The Magic Christian by Terry Southern
A satire about the greed and cruelty of capitalism, in which the anti-hero, Guy Grand, amuses himself by ornately offering money to ordinary people who must in one way or another--usually a physical way--degrade themselves as they try to get it.
Candy by Terry Southern
Based closely on Voltaire's Candide, this is a scathingly funny send-up of the cupidity and sexual opportunism of various Sixties counter-cultures, in which the naive title character falls for one kind of social or spiritual con after another.
Martin Chuzzlewit by Charles Dickens
The sections in which Sarah Gamp talks about her nonexistent friend "Mrs. Harris" cracked me up every time. Here is one of a novel's marginal characters citing a fictional friend who can always be counted on to demonstrate the fineness of her own creator. I marvelled at early anticipation of meta-fiction in this invention, in which Dickens makes fun of all storytellers, including himself.
Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
Well, one of Heller's military martinets in a court martial in this book bellows to the stenographer "Read me back my last line" and the stenographer says, "Read me back my last line." Let that stand for the sharp genius of the whole book. I realize its influence almost every day--not long ago someone said to me, "Don't tell me what to do," to which I found myself responding, "Don't tell me what to do."
Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
A book that by anecdotal consensus of my friends and colleagues is the funniest novel ever, period. The title character is a mediocre don at a red-brick university in England, and during a house visit to the supremely tedious and conventional chairman of his department he must, among other desperate maneuvers, try to cover up or dispose of the bedsheets in which he has burned a large hole. Like the other books in this list, Lucky Jim has a very high desperation quotient.
Labels: 6 Books