November 3, 2008

Traversing Literature: From Amusingly Overrated to LOL to Laughable

Election Special: The New York Times recently asked the all-important question: What is the most "lol" novel of all time? The editors of the Book Review section named their top vote-getter: Lucky Jim.

Said editors clearly have egg white in their veins. Kingsley Amis’s satire of neurotic intellectuals and English academic life is the funniest novel EVER? [Amis, below.] Heck, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is a better comic novel than Lucky Jim, and it's NOT a comic novel! Still, it certainly made me laugh... when I wasn’t cringing or reaching for my Spanish dictionary. (And off the top of my head, both Motherless Brooklyn and Catch-22 are much funnier than Lucky Jim.)

Writing in the Guardian, Diane Shipley noted the dearth of recognition in the Times for funny female authors. Shipley’s list of possibilities (Nancy Mitford, Jane Austen [above], Marian Keyes) left out Dorothy Parker, but then Parker's longer works were less well known than her withering one-liners and morbid poems. Examples?

Regarding a book she had not enjoyed, Parker wrote, “This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.” And as to poetry:
It costs me never a stab nor squirm
/To tread by chance upon a worm./“Aha, my little dear,” I say,/“Your clan will pay me back some day.”
Wait, I know what woman author is the funniest: Ayn Rand! I’ll never forget my astonishment at reading the much bally-hooed tandem of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead. But I guess that "lol" and "laughable" aren’t really the same thing, are they?

Last Thing: Hmm, I thought this entry would somehow turn into an "election special," but it has failed to do so. :)

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