This week Top Ten Tuesday is looking at funny books, so I’m listing my ten favorite P.G. Wodehouse novels. Okay, I won’t go that far, but..
The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, Max Shulman. I was given this collection of ’40s-era campus stories as a graduation present from my high school librarian, and fell for it instantly. It’s one of my Very Favorite Books, one I’ve rebought over the years as my reading copies have fallen apart. I’ve since read a lot more of Shulman but Many Loves is the vintage stuff.
Sharpe’s series ,Bernard Cornwell. I’m not going to pinpoint a particular book, because Cornwell’s gift for inserting humor into tense action sequences is consistent throughout the series. The humor is mostly Sharpe himself, who has little patience for pretentious higher-ups lecturing him (“I never invited him to a duel. I offered to beat the hell out of him.”) , but other characters like Hogan and Harper also provide smiles.
Saxon chronicles, Bernard Cornwell. The humor in the Saxon stories is again mostly in dialogue, but there’s also situational humor — as when Uhtred draws his sword to kill a man after the intended piously asks God to strike him down that instant if he’s ever lied. (“Lord Uhtred, NO!” cries Aethelflaed.) Other characters also help:
“Oh, lord, I am so many things! A scholar, a priest, an eater of cheese, and now I am chaplain to Lord Uhtred, the pagan who slaughters priests. That’s what they tell me. I’d be eternally grateful if you refrained from slaughtering me. May I have a servant, please?” (Death of Kings)
The Best Cook in the World, Rick Bragg. Stories around southern cooking, particularly behind Bragg’s mama’s best recipes. (“She does not cook chitlin’s, because she knows what God made them to do.”) . Bragg ‘s other works are replete with humor, too.
The Importance of Being Earnest, Oscar Wilde. This one had me roaring when I watched the stage production at Alabama Shakespeare Festival, and reading the play is almost as good:
“I hope you have not been leading a double life, pretending to be wicked and being good all the time. That would be hypocrisy.”
Pretty Much Anything By P.G. Wodehouse. I read Wodehouse because Isaac Asimov mentioned him so many times, and Asimov is my most-read author (70+ books). I’ve mentioned this many times since I first read Wodehouse in 2015, but you don’t know how funny English can be unless you have experienced him, especially in full form in the Jeeves & Wooster stories. Wodehouse’s narration is a ball, as is his dialogue. He’s a pick-me-up that’s unputdownable. The Wooster stories concern a lovable if useless young aristo who spends his days cavorting with the fellas, and putting his mind to work rescuing himself or his friends from precarious situations like gainful employment or marriage. Invariably he only makes matters worse, but his butler Jeeves is forever in the background pulling strings and playing the straight man to Wooster’s absurdism. I can’t help but hear Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie when I read the novels, which makes it even funnier.
“And yet, if he wants this female to be his wife, he’s got to say so, what? I mean, only civil to mention it.”
“It seems to me, Jeeves, that the ceremony may be one fraught with considerable interest.”
“What, in your opinion, will the harvest be?”
“One finds it difficult to hazard a conjecture, sir.”
“You mean imagination boggles?”
I inspected my imagination. He was right. It boggled.