Thursday, March 3, 2011

This is Not a Laughing Matter

Literary Blog HopNo indeed, this is Literature we are talking about. Tweed jackets, dusty shelves, and serious discussions. Got it?

Can literature be funny?  This week's question for the Literary Blog Hop comes from Gilion, from Rose City Reader.

While this may depend on your definitions of literature and funny, in my world literature can absolutely be funny.   From the classics (Canterbury Tales, Shakespeare, Jane Austen) to the currents (Kurt Vonnegut, Flannery O'Connor, Jonathan Safran Foer) I have found many examples of fine literary fiction that keeps me laughing in one way or another.

An especially good example of this, perhaps, is A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole.  Although it has been quite a few years since I read it, I still laugh about it.  What a character Ignatious is!  I mean, the first few sentences of the book alone...
A green hunting cap squeezed the top of the fleshy balloon of a head.  The green earflaps, full of large ears and uncut hair and the fine bristles that grew in the ears themselves, stuck out of either side like turn signals indicating two directions at once.  Full, pursed lips protruded beneath the bushy black moustache and, at their corners, sank into little folds filled with disapproval and potato chip crumbs.
It just gets better.  This guy is a character. I was fascinated throughout the book, although it was a fascination tinged with a bit of horror and disgust.  Talk about character driven fiction...the plot is interesting, the writing is well done, but the characters are larger than life, and the humor is laced throughout.  Funny literary fiction? But of course.


  1. Humour is integral to any good book - just a flash, that's all it needs. Even F Scott Fitzgerald (one of my old best reads) had a wry, self-conscious wit that only added to the yearning nostalgia.

  2. Of course, I agree! A Confederacy of Dunces sounds great--it's hiding in my massive TBR list somewhere.

  3. ..Stopping by from the Literary Blog Hop.

    Great answer...stop by my blog for my answer and also a book giveaway.


    Chelsey Emmelhainz of HARPER COLLINS is graciously providing FIVE copies for five lucky winners.

  4. Aw, I heart Confederacy of Dunces. It's been so long since I've read it.

  5. Another one for my TBR. Will it ever end?

  6. Oh, Chaucer. I completely forgot about him for my list! Once I muddled through the MIddle English and actually understood what he was saying, I laughed aloud many times. Wish I could say the same thing about the Toole book, but I think I'm the only reader I know (and especially the only Southerner I know) who didn't care for it at all.

  7. I have had this book on my shelf for ages and people are always telling me it is laugh out loud funny. I should probably give it a try.

    I'm a new follower. Love the blog.

    See my hop here:

  8. Nice - A Confederacy of Dunces is also the first novel I think of when I think "funny literature." Ignatius has to be the basis for Comic Book Guy on the Simpsons!

  9. great selection, love books that part horrify & part make you laugh out loud, reminded me of Nick Caves last book " The Death of Bunny Munroe" which funnily enough wasn't my choice.

  10. A Confederacy of Dunces is the book my husband came up with when I posed the question to him. But I couldn't use it because I haven't read it. It has to be on our shelves somewhere so I better go dig it out.

  11. A Confederacy of Dunces immediately came to my mind as well, although I ended up writing about Don Quixote. The first time I read Dunces, I just couldn't stop laughing. Brilliant, brilliant book. Good post!

  12. No, Literature is not Funny. I am sorry to tell you this. Perhaps this is why I will really never be Literary.

    Here is my post:


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