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January 10, 2013

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Bluestalking

Word Lily, Hmm! Sounds suspicious there's more than one list of funniest novels floating around out there... The game's afoot!

Word Lily

And, shockingly, this list is almost completely different than the one I saw that was published in England a few years ago ... (but I don't think they claimed "all time" in their heading).

Bluestalking

Good points, Persephone. These should be called 'Books That Made Me Laugh,' which would be interesting as a recommendation from one reader to another. But that's not as eye-catching, not as dramatic for the media, which of course thrives on that. I love lists but absolutely see your point.

Fiction doesn't generally send me into fits of laughter, either, with the possible exception of Wodehouse-like novels featuring understated and ridiculous British humor. And some books have passing hilarious moments but it's so hard to sustain that. It would be tiresome after a while.

I know I've read funny books but drat if I can think of one right now to save my life. Figures.

RSAM will officially go on my list.

Persephone

First off, we gotta lose this idea that we can compile a list "for all time". It's arrogant, to say the least. I, for one, am sick of radio programmes claiming to play the best songs ever and they all fit within the compass of a decade or so.

Secondly, humour is many things, but it's *not* universal -- it depends on shared assumptions and understandings, so something that was hysterically funny fifty years/ two centuries/ a millennium ago rarely is a giggle-fest today, because we simply don't understand the world the same way. So how can we say for all time when what is funny changes drastically with age and place?

The funniest books I've guffawed over are usually not novels. Real life is usually so much more absurd. On this list, the one book I'd agree on without hesitation is Hitchhiker's Guide. It appeals to my sense of humour -- that of a reasonably educated Canadian of British parentage. I never found MASH that funny. Lamb was okay, but I wasn't crying with laughter. One novel that made my belly ache was Red Sky at Morning by Richard Bradford. They made a rather humourless TV movie of it, but the book kills me. But is it a funny book for all time? I can only say that it appeals to me (but I'd still recommend it heartily if you haven't read it).

Never heard of the rest of 'em, but in the two books I've read by Sarah Vowell, her jokes were so topical that I doubt anyone will get them in a few years' time.

"For all time." Sheeesh....

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