A rarely laugh out loud when I read a book, so when I found myself doing that while reading the Snow Whale, I started to wonder what were the funniest novels I’ve ever read.
Kurt Vonnegut and Joseph Heller come to mind, but they are both more amusing more than anything. And repetitive. While I like them, I don’t think they wrote the funniest books that I’ve read.
Charles Bukowski was a favorite of mine. I find his conflicts with society to be hilarious, although at times he can be pathetic and sad.
A Prayer for Owen Meany is a book that got me laughing out loud. But the entire book wasn’t that funny. Especially at the end when the narrator gives long sermons about skipping Vietnam, etc.
Which brings me back to the Snow Whale. Yes, it starts out funny. The humdrum of marriage, work, mid-life couldn’t be done any better and I thought that this might be the best comic novel I’ve ever read.
But the book offers so much more. And while there is a “fish out of water” element, it stops being funny, which isn’t a bad thing. Instead of novels that make me laugh, I started thing of Iron John by Robert Bly. In that book, he says that there really aren’t any true rituals or tests that initiate us into manhood. We are left empty feeling like man-children. And that’s exactly what happens to Jacobs. He is a man child on a quest to become a man.
What follows is an amazing journey. There are such tense moments at sea that I forgot that I was laughing at the beginning. No matter. This is a book that starts child-like and comic and grows into a more mature novel offering a lot more than just a few laughs.
So, what are the funniest novels you’ve ever read?