Top Five Saturday is a meme hosted by Devouring Books to discover and share books that all have a common theme. The list of themes currently runs at
- 1/4/20 — Funny Books
- 1/11/20 — Books Over 5 years old
- 1/18/20 — Unreliable Narrators
- 1/25/10 — Books by Favorite Authors
So a lighthearted start to the new year and “funny books” – which is a bit of a difficulty: as a teacher I often point out that I have had my sense of humour thoroughly removed in training! And a book that seeks to be funny just for the sake of being funny would – in my opinion – become tedious terribly quickly.
So my list here will not necessarily include “funny books” as such but books which include real and genuine humour – often in the form of satire or absurdity, often in order to highlight the darkness and existential dread that often populates my reading!
Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series
First off, ignoring the above caveat, is Pratchett’s Discworld series and perhaps, with the Christmas festivities still in the back of my mind, I’d like to nominate Hogfather or perhaps Carpe Jugulum, the first Discworld book I read – but perhaps the posthumously published The Shepherd’s Crown. But for sheer silliness, and for the joy of scatological humour, let’s turn to The World of Poo a charming tale of Geoffrey and his quest for ever increasingly obscure poo for his poo museum! The book was first mentioned as Sam Vines’ favourite bedtime read in Snuff and I may start reading it to my daughter!
Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
This one is on the back of the deliciously wonderful adaptation with David Tennant and Michael Sheen as the demon Crowley and the angel Aziraphale. Demon Hounds, teenage angst and cosmic power, theh Horsemen of the Apocalypse and and beautiful bromance served up with all the wit and joy you would expect from this pairing!
The Glorious Heresies, Lisa McInerney
An unromaticised depiction of the working and criminal classes in Ireland populated by teenage drug dealers, alcoholics, prostitutes and ganglords and focused on a single murder by Maureen, the ganglord’s mam. It doesn’t sound like a recipe for humour but Mcinerney’s narrative voice, her distinctly Irish voice, is deeply if darkly ironic and humourous. Take one example, from Maureen’s reaction to her murder of an intruder:
She looked at the man face-down on the tiles. There was blood under him. It gunged into the grout. It’d need wire wool. Bicarbonate of soda. Bleach. Probably something stronger; she wasn’t an expert. She didn’t usually go around on cat feet surprising intruders with blunt force trauma. This was a first for her.
She was shit at cleaning, too. Homemaking skills were for good girls and it was forty years since anyone had told her she was one of them.
He was definitely dead, whoever he was. He wore a once-black jumper and a pair of shiny tracksuit bottoms. The back of his head was cracked and his hair matted, but it had been foxy before that. A tall man, a skinny rake, another string of piss, now departed. She hadn’t gotten a look at his face before she flaked him with the Holy Stone and she couldn’t bring herself to turn him over. It’d be like turning a chop on a grill, the thought of which turned her stomach. She’d hardly eat now. What if his eyes were still open?
The Pisces, Melissa Broder
I continue to have mixed thoughts about this one: the summary (girl recovering from poor relationship falls for a merman and has lots of sex with him) only ever feels absurd and the writing is surprisingly frank sexually and genuinely laugh out loud funny in many places – not unlike the BBC series Fleabag.
Finding an example that doesn’t refer to sex or intimate body parts is difficult but her descriptions of the group therapy sessions were wonderfully written
Back at group, the word of the day seemed to have shifted from unavailable to triggered. In the safe space of Dr. Jude’s crap-filled office, everyone, it seemed, had recently been triggered by something.
For Chickenhorse it was an escalation of the issues with her landlady. Apparently, the harassment had increased and was now becoming a question of abuse. Chickenhorse’s landlady had entered her apartment without her permission, while she was showering, no less, and had brought her little son with her. When Chickenhorse exited the shower, she was shocked to find a three-year-old boy and his teddy bear. She screamed and accidentally dropped her towel. Now the landlady was accusing her of unseemly behavior toward her son. She was given a thirty-day eviction notice.
“My inner child is triggered, because I no longer feel safe,” she said, looking particularly chicken-gummed. “But I’m having trouble getting in touch with my anger. I’m scared I won’t have a place to live, so instead of fighting back I’m trying to be ‘good’ and begging the landlady to let me stay. But I’m the one who has been victimized!”
The group cooed and soothed, letting her know it was not her fault. Was anything ever our fault?
I wanted to tell Chickenhorse that she probably just needed to get laid. Why wasn’t she dating again? Maybe it’s because Dr. Jude’s version of dating, “conscious dating,” sounded boring as shit. You were supposed to call and check in with a friend before and after every date, no texting more than once a day, no sex outside of a monogamous relationship. Maybe Chickenhorse didn’t think she could follow the rules. She seemed very Fatal Attraction to me.
One Good Turn, Kate Atkinson
Again, another unexpected place to find humour: a detective novel by the wonderful Kate Atkinson, but it is a delicious addition. Take, for example, Gloria’s arrival at the hospital bedside of her husband Graham who has suffered a heart attack.
On the drive to the new infirmary out at Little France, Gloria had practiced the kind of conversation she would have with Graham. Despite the fact that Gemma and Clare had told her he was unconscious, Gloria hadn’t really foreseen that this would be a hindrance to his talking. Graham talked, it was what made him Graham, so when she saw him in the A and E, linked up to an array of blinking, beeping monitors, she was still expecting him to open his eyes and say something typically Grahamesque (“You took your fucking time, Gloria”). So his absolute passivity was puzzling.
The A and E consultant explained that Graham’s heart had gone into “overload” and stopped. His “system” had been “down” a long time, resulting in his current state of suspended animation, which he might or might not recover from. “We reckon,” the consultant said to Gloria, “that roughly one in a hundred men die during sexual intercourse. The pulse of a man having sex with his wife is ninety beats a minute. With a mistress it rises to one hundred and sixty.”
“And with a call girl?” Gloria asked.
“Oh, through the roof, I imagine,” the consultant said cheerfully. “Of course, he might have been revived quicker if he hadn’t been tied up.”
So, happy new year to you all and a wonderful 2020!