Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sixteen of the funniest books

Some staff members at Publishers Weekly their favorite funny books. The entry tagged by Judith Rosen, New England correspondent:
Oblomov by Ivan Goncharov

If I were to be honest with myself, the funniest book I ever read is a Mad Libs, which I encountered decades ago at summer camp. Later, I discovered a different kind of humor, not so much laugh out loud, but with lines that make you nudge the person next to you until they stop what they’re doing. Then you insist that you just want to read them one line, and the next thing you know you’re doing it again. Ivan Goncharov’s Oblomov, which I read in college in what was then a “new" translation by Ann Dunningan was such a book. In fact I still have the yellowing 95¢ Signet Classic edition. The very idea of a healthy 30-something-year-old man who spent the better part of his life in bed wearing his “authentic oriental robe” struck me then and now as hilarious. And he didn’t even have Angry Birds to while away his time. I’m sure I missed many of the layers of meaning about Russian society, but the idea of a person incapable of exerting himself to cut the pages of a book he wants to read, to figure out what to do about his impending eviction, or to decide whether to get up spoke to my teenage sensibility directly, and still does.
Read about the other books on the list.

Oblomov is among John Sutherland's top ten overlooked novels, Alexandra Silverman's eight top examples of sloth in literature, Francine du Plessix Gray's five favorite fictional portraits of idleness and lassitude and Emrys Westacott's five best books on bad habits.

The Page 69 Test: Ivan Goncharov's Oblomov.

--Marshal Zeringue