Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. It was born of a love of lists, a love of books, and a desire to bring bookish friends together.
PREVIOUS TOP TEN TUESDAY TOPICS:
- December 29: Favourite Books of 2020
- January 5: Most Anticipated Releases of 2021
- January 12: Resolutions / Hopes for 2021
- January 19: Books I Meant to Read In 2020 but Didn’t Get To
- January 26: New-To-Me Authors I Read in 2020
- February 2: Books Written Before I Was Born
- February 9: Valentine’s Day / Love Freebie
- February 16: Purple, Yellow and Green Covers (to celebrate Mardi Gras)
Laughter is a funny thing… if you know what I mean! Pun absolutely intended. I will also add a disclaimer that what follows is probably as a result of listening to The Infinite Monkey Cage on Radio 4 which may not be the most reliable source. But, apparently, it is a powerful social experience that we rarely do when we are alone. We may smile or smirk – sometimes only inwardly – but rarely laugh when we are alone. Apparently. For me – and this may say more about me than anything else – a comic book may make me smirk; but a laugh-out-loud in response to a book would be more a result of discomfort and surprise than necessarily humour, a defence mechanism perhaps. And, being painfully British, often the result of being confronted with something terribly taboo. Like sex.
Caveat there are sex references below!
I can recall one moment, however, when in public laughter found me and reduced me to incoherent – and deeply unprofessional – giggles. It was when I was a young barrister prosecuting in the magistrate’s court – my case having finished early – a pile of new files was thrust into my hands to prosecute in absentia, one of which was a case of a man who was caught standing on the roof of his house shouting obscenities at the police who had congregated below him generally along the lines of his having slept with their wives or mothers. I was required to read aloud the very po-faced police statements in typically passive-voiced police language – “I proceeded in a westerly direction when I was made aware of an altercation” – and the verbatim dialogue along the lines of “and I f***ed your wife and she f***ing loved my f***ing huge c***, and your mum too with her huge t****….” Oh dear.
Comedy is so hard to do well and rarely comes in an uncomplicated manner but after the last twelve months it has been wonderful thinking of comic and surprising moments and just supreme silliness.
There is so much absurdity in this novel. I mean, she falls in love with a merman! A merman! And her love for him is so very physical and sexual thing, which Broder explores in unflinching details! In fact much of the humour comes from the sex: the attempts to prepare for anal sex were unexpected to say the least.
And the moments depicting the therapy sessions – for sex addiction – were hilarious!
“What does withdrawal entail?”
“People in withdrawal describe symptoms of depression, despair, insomnia, a feeling of emptiness.”
“Oh, so just life,” I said.
“Other symptoms can include nausea, anxiety, irrational thoughts, and even cognitive distortions.”
“Great, more to look forward to.”
Queenie, Candice Carty-Williams
Similarly to Pisces, Candice Carty-Williams’ novel uses the sex to create a truly hilarious – if at times bleak – humour. I mean, it opens with the line
“Can you just bring your bottom riiiiight to the edge of the exam table?” the doctor asked as I inched myself down closer to her face. Honestly, I’ve no idea how they do it.
“Deep breath, please!” she said a bit too cheerfully, and with no further warning inserted what felt like the world’s least ergonomic dildo into me and moved it around like a joystick.
But again, it is the narrative voice, that generates the real humour: as Queenie says, “My eyes must spend at least fifty per cent of any given day rolled to the back of my head.”
The Heart’s Invisible Furies, John Boyne
There is so much here which was hilarious – alongside the terrible and horrific. Perhaps two moments stand out: Cyril Avery’s flight from his own wedding to Alice – sister to Julian with whom he had been infatuated since he was seven – and then his return to Ireland to find that he had unknowingly left his wife pregnant, and therefore had a son, and that Alice had remarried – to a man also called Cyril who “plays violin with the RTÉ Symphony Orchestra.” – and their relationships are wonderful.
‘And what about Cyril?’ he asked.
‘What about me?’
‘No, the other Cyril.’
‘Stop calling him that,’ said Alice.
The Glorious Heresies, Lisa McInerney
There is something gorgeously dark about The Glorious Heresies: alongside the tawdriness, the abuse and drugs and violence. That balance is somehow very Irish, similar to the John Boyne.
The man on the street, the scut in the back corner of the pub, and the burnt-out girl on the quay all said the same: it was better to run alongside Jimmy Phelan than have him run over you. In short pants he was king of the terrace; in an Iron Maiden T-shirt he was Merchant General of the catchment area. He’d sold fags and dope and cans of lager, and then heroin and women and munitions. He’d won over and killed cops and robbers both. He’d been married. He’d attended parent-teacher meetings. He’d done deals and time and half the world twice over. There wasn’t much left that Jimmy Phelan hadn’t had a good go of and yet it was only very recently he’d owned up to the notion that inside him was a void kept raw and weeping for want of a family tree. It turned out, though, that Jimmy Phelan’s eyes were bigger than his belly, and that applied to anything he had a yearning for: imported flesh, Cognac, his long-lost mother.
The bint had only gone and killed someone.
History of the Rain, Niall Williams
I loved this book. It was beautiful and well judged, and very bookish.
And I loved the moment – and it is a tiny moment in the narrative – when Jesus is kidnapped
Perplexity at managing teenagers had given him a face like the letter Z and he kept it largely in his office where he pursued more available consolations by solving crossword puzzles. From school-life, one example: one Christmas week the crib was set up in the Assembly Hall, a life-size alabaster Baby Jesus, Mary and Joseph, two not-life-size camels, two lambs, one cow, one donkey, and three very Islamic-looking Magi. They were laid out on a bed of genuine hay (used) that Jacinta Dineen brought in her bag. Then, while Mrs Murphy in Room 7 was synthesising ‘O Come All Ye Faithful’, Baby Jesus was kidnapped. A ransom note was left in the hay. It said: ‘We have Jesus.’
One Good Turn, Kate Atkinson
Atkinson has a sublime mastery of the literary humerous coincidence – her novels abound with coincidences that would in the hands of a lesser author seem absurd and juvenile. One Good Turn involves dodgy house builders and their thugs, assassins, dominatrixes, well meaning writers in literary cul-de-sacs, Edinburgh festival artists and actors, and suspicious import businesses…
And somehow they come together wonderfully, much to the consternation of one poor character
The sight of Martin was too much for Honda Man. The wheels in his brain seemed to grind to a halt, apparently from the effort of trying to work out why all the people he wanted to kill were in the same room together.
Frankissstein, Jeanette Winterson
This was another great read – an account of Mary Shelley’s birthing of the novel Frankenstein alongside a modern AI vision of the same myth. With sex dolls. And teledildonics.
A young woman wearing tight leather trousers and an oversize buckskin fringed jacket rushed up to the desk, interrupting without even noticing she was interrupting.
She said, I’m looking for Intelligent Vibrators. Where are they? I have an emergency!
What kinda emergency?
The woman shuddered inside her leather and buckskin as she said, I have accidentally posted pictures of myself, mostly naked, except for two tassels, using the Intelligent Vibrator, on my Facebook page.
That wasn’t very intelligent, I said.
Good Omens, Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
How could I not include Good Omens on this list? It is just wonderful and anarchic and great! So many wonderful moments in it, obviously focused on Crowley and Aziraphale – the end of the world main plot is almost redundant!
“He had heard about talking to plants in the early seventies, on Radio Four, and thought it was an excellent idea. Although talking is perhaps the wrong word for what Crowley did.
What he did was put the fear of God into them.
More precisely, the fear of Crowley.
In addition to which, every couple of months Crowley would pick out a plant that was growing too slowly, or succumbing to leaf-wilt or browning, or just didn’t look quite as good as the others, and he would carry it around to all the other plants. “Say goodbye to your friend,” he’d say to them. “He just couldn’t cut it. . . “
Then he would leave the flat with the offending plant, and return an hour or so later with a large, empty flower pot, which he would leave somewhere conspicuously around the flat.
The plants were the most luxurious, verdant, and beautiful in London. Also the most terrified.”
The Discworld series, Terry Pratchett
Any of them and all of them are great for a gentle chuckle as well as the occasional snigger alongside some true humanity and philosophy.
I think the Death novel are probably my favourite
“Picture a tall, dark figure, surrounded by cornfields…
NO, YOU CAN’T RIDE A CAT. WHO EVER HEARD OF THE DEATH OF RATS RIDING A CAT? THE DEATH OF RATS WOULD RIDE SOME KIND OF DOG.
Picture more fields, a great horizon-spanning network of fields, rolling in gentle waves…
DON’T ASK ME I DON’T KNOW. SOME KIND OF TERRIER, MAYBE.
…fields of corn, alive, whispering in the breeze…
RIGHT, AND THE DEATH OF FLEAS CAN RIDE IT TOO. THAT WAY YOU KILL TWO BIRDS WITH ONE STONE.
…awaiting the clockwork of the seasons.
Jeeves and Wooster series, P. G. Wodehouse
Oh it has been a long while since I read a Jeeves, but I love them. The BBC series with Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie was my entry to the books and they are both delightful, full of charm and humour. So many bon mots! But one that seems apt for these days of Zoom calls…
The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13¾, Sue Townsend
Oh Adrian Mole! The novel that reminded me that the suburban and the familiar was as absurd and ludicrous as I was starting to recognise. Mole was absurd himself, of course, deluded, utterly frustrating as a character and so intensely loveable.
I fear he may have been a mirror held up to me showing me myself
Now I know I am an intellectual. I saw Malcolm Muggeridge on the television last night, and I understood nearly every word. It all adds up. A bad home, poor diet, not liking punk. I think I will join the library and see what happens.
I’m not sure how the novel would stand up to being re-read. Possibly better although I fear I may see myself in Adrian Mole’s parents more and, being frank, I am not sure that I want to experience that!
So, pelase do stop by, let me know your laugh-out-loud moments and join the conversation!
FORTHCOMING TOP TEN TUESDAY TOPICS:
- March 2: Characters Whose Job I Wish I Had (maybe not even because the job sounds fun, but maybe the co-workers are cool or the boss is hot?)
- March 9: Spring Cleaning Freebie (for example, books you’re planning to get rid of for whatever reason, book’s you’d like to clean off your TBR by either reading them or deciding you’re not interested, books that feel fresh and clean to you after winter is over, etc.)
- March 16: Books On My Spring 2021 TBR
- March 23: Funny Book Titles
- March 30: Places In Books I’d Love to Live