1. Kursal
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    Kursal Senior Member

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    What ever happened to the comic novel?

    Discussion in 'Book Discussion' started by Kursal, Apr 16, 2009.

    I was scouring my local bookshop the other day and not really finding what I was looking for so I thought I would ask at the desk.

    "Excuse me, do you have any comic novels?"

    The look I got back from the shop assistant was akin to a herd of startled gazelle at the first sight of a cheetah.

    "The comics are over by the Children's section and the novels start over there," this last utterance was accompanied by a flourishing of her hand. "Where it says fiction."

    "No," I tried to explain, "I'm looking for funny novels."

    "Humor is in the middle isle."

    And there lies the problem. I wasn't looking for a humor book. I'm not particularly interested in reading the next installment of Board of the Rings (not so much a satire, rather a bloody waste of time) or a book of oh so funny cartoons about the difference between the sexes told with an adorable goat and chicken who are very much in love. I wanted a novel which has a good story and makes me laugh. After trying to explain this, as politely as possible I hasten to add, the assistant asked her college the same question.

    "Have you read any Terry Pratchett?" was his reply, which I thought meant that I was getting somewhere.

    "Yes. Yes, I have read all of the Pratchett books, but that's the sort of thing I'm after."

    "Oh. I'm afraid that's all we really have."

    Now, this blatantly isn't true as I had noticed some Robert Rankin and Tom Holt books as I was wondering around, so they are there. I am wondering, however, what has happened to our great traditions of writing humorous books? Especially in the UK, the comic novel was a staple of many stores for some time. They seam to have disappeared and there is a gaping wound between the serious literature of something like The Kite Runner and the overly absurd Barry Trotter and the badly conceived pun.

    This also leaves me wondering, where can I go to get humorous stories in book form? Are they out there? Have they just been misfiled or am I really left with reading Woodhouse yet again to satisfy my urges?
     
  2. Dalouise
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    Dalouise Contributing Member

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    Well if mine ever gets published, they'll be one more! :D
    I know what you mean though, I grew up with PG Woodhouse and James Herriot. My mother hankered after a black and white cat so she could call it "Jeeves".
    The only recent addition to my bookshelf which hit the button for me was "Poodles at Dawn" by Tara Manning (Poolbeg) I think only sold in Ireland but I expect Amazon could help out. I think it's a shame if the "comic novel" is on the decline - which might also explain my lack of success so far - in these times of strife and worry they are as good as medicine.
    Good luck in your search and please report back if you get lucky! ;)
     
  3. Kursal
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    Kursal Senior Member

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    I will do. It's good knowing that there is someone out there writing one and I may do something myself if I ever get this series finished.

    The last 'comic novel' I got was Fat by Rob Grant. It was a good book but it is another one set in the future and (as much as I like sci-fi/fantasy) I do feel we are relegating comedy novels to a sub-genre instead of letting them stand out on their own.

    Good call on the James Herriot books as well. I remember listening to them as audio books read by the author when I was a child on a holiday in Yorkshire. They really brought the place to life.
     
  4. I-pie3
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    I-pie3 Member

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    I don't know if this will help at all, but I read a book about a year ago call 'Muddle Earth' by Paul Stewart & Chris Riddell.

    It is based vaguely on Lord Of The Rings but with a comic twist and not the same plot (obviously). It is hilariously funny and great for even those who distaste fantasy (like me!).....
     
  5. sophie.
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    sophie. Contributing Member

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    ^I read Muddle Earth, it is quite funny..but I know what you mean Kursal, at the moment there seems to be a huge tide of fantasy and romance, and very little humour.

    *racks brain for funny books* - can't think off the top of my head, I will have to check my shelves :p

    Edit - I also love Wodehouse and Herriot :D
     
  6. Kursal
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    Kursal Senior Member

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    I've read Muddle Earth actually. I quite liked it but, like any children's book, it was a little too filled with puns.
     
  7. sophie.
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    sophie. Contributing Member

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    True..they get tiring :p
     
  8. Dalouise
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    Dalouise Contributing Member

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    That is one of the problems with writing comedy, it's a highly personal thing. I enjoyed the original "Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy" but the second book fell short, to my mind, and by the time I got to the fourth I was embarrassed to read it. However, there will be plenty of fans for all four books. "Pure" humour can be short lived, at least in the Herriot books it was part of a much wider range of emotions evoked.
     
  9. sophie.
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    sophie. Contributing Member

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    That's true, the Herriot books cover a wide range of emotions so they are effective.
    Sometimes they can be sad, and more complex than straightforward humour.

    Unlike some 'humourous' books; those that just convey a desperate desire to make people laugh with cheap gags and toilet humour!
     
  10. Kursal
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    Kursal Senior Member

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    Hitch-Hikers worked on a much more cerebral level and you have to remember that it was following a radio show at the time which was tremendously successful. I see the H2G2 books as more of a 'novel of the film' sort of thing.

    You're right that comedy is very personal but the classics do seam to endure. I think that is partly due to their grounding in reality, something which H2G2 never really had.
     
  11. sophie.
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    sophie. Contributing Member

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    Oh- just thought of a book I read recently that made me laugh - v. satirical, sarky humour..
    Jasper Fforde's book the Eyre Affair, first in series about the mc Thursday Next. V. clever author.
     
  12. x_raichelle_x
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    x_raichelle_x Contributing Member

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    I find with humour in books, many authors try too hard to make it funny. I openly admit I have an appallingly bad sense of humour, and so very rarely find any books which make me laugh. Maybe the writers from Friends should write a book, I might laugh at that....
    xxx
     
  13. Kursal
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    Kursal Senior Member

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    the Eyre Affair I have as an audio book and if the others had been released I would have listened to them. I really enjoyed it, even if it takes a while for you to understand the concepts.

    I often find that a lot of books that critics claim are 'hilarious' actually aren't that funny and what they really mean is light-hearted. I wonder if this is, in some part, why I can't find the books I am looking for?
     
  14. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    While there are many humor books I love (all George Carlin's books, the Erma Bombeck books, Bill Cosby, and Al Franken) humor novels are a little rarer...

    One entire series of comedic novels I can recommend, although I'm a man and these are sort of geared toward women, is the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. They're a comedy-adventure series about a bounty hunter in New Jersey named Stephanie Plum and her sidekick, Lula, a former prostitute now working as Stephie's filing clerk. She never does filing but she often goes along with Stephanie on her adventures. The Stephanie Plum series is "R" rated, so they're not really for kids...

    For mysteries with a touch of humor, I'll also recommend the Amelia Peabody Mysteries series by Elizabeth Peters. I listened to a few of them on audio book and the humor parts cracked me up. Amelia Peabody's husband is a brave archeologist, but he's also stubborn, hard-headed and bumbling -- it's his prim and proper wife who is the true hero of the series.

    Now, with gratitude to the internet and google... if you still can't find a funny novel to read, I googled "humor novels," and low and behold, there are lists of them on the internet, including one at the site titled, appropriately, funnynovels.com.

    Charlie
     
  15. arron89
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    arron89 Banned

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    The last "funny" novel I read was 'The Frog King' by Adam Davies, which is the only book ever to make me both laugh out loud and cry. It's amazingly written, very intelligent, and extremely funny.
    Apart from that, unless you can call the satire of Bret Easton Ellis or the wordplay of Nabokov "comic", I haven't really got anything else to recommend, except people like Ben Elton, or whoever wrote the 13 1/2 lives of captain...something.....or a confederacy of dunces
     

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