Sunday, March 29, 2020

Favorite funny books recommended by Irish writers

Declan Hughes's first novel, The Wrong Kind of Blood won the Shamus Award for Best First PI novel and the Le Point magazine prize for best European crime novel. Subsequent novels include The Colour of Blood; The Dying Breed; All The Dead Voices and City of Lost Girls. His books have been nominated for the Edgar, Macavity, Theakstons, CWA New Blood Dagger and Irish Book awards.

His latest novel is All The Things You Are.

Hughes's favorite funny books, as shared with The Irish Times:
The Information by Martin Amis, about the unhinged rivalry between two novelists, is a novel anyone involved in the literary life might find funny; it consistently makes me cry with laughter. However, like the same author’s Money, or his father’s Ending Up, or early Evelyn Waugh, or all of Edward St Aubyn, there is something a little too dark, too savage, too unsettling about it to work for me in the current unpleasantness; other’s nerves might be stronger.

There’s Nancy Mitford, of course, and Anita Loos and Dorothy Parker and Nora Ephron. The Best of Myles is maybe the funniest single book ever, but everyone knows that. Simon Gray’s diaries, all eight volumes, are ragingly funny, and his plays hold up; indeed, weirdly, they seem to work better now on the page than on the stage. Richmal Crompton’s William Brown stories still make me laugh, as do Michael Bond’s Paddington series and Willans & Searle’s St Custard’s books.

But if I must identify as a grown-up, I’ll plump for The Benchley Roundup. Robert Benchley was a fixture at the Algonquin Round Table and a minor Hollywood star. As a comic essayist – writing in Vanity Fair and The New Yorker – he seems to me to have weathered the years better than Thurber or Perelman, his great contemporaries.

Ask That Man, in which a husband, exasperated by his wife’s insistence that he seek travel directions from strangers, undertakes to do the opposite of what he is told; The Tortures of Weekend Visiting, in which host and guest listen anxiously at respective bedroom doors for one another to rise as morning turns to night; The Sunday Menace, in which the mooted remedy for the Sunday afternoon malaise is to set fire to the house; pastiches of opera synopses and strategies to repel your friends’ holiday anecdotes: it’s gentle, quirky, arch, observational, middlebrow fare and it’s very, very funny. And it’s in print!
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue