Vulpes Libris

A collective of bibliophiles talking about books. Book Fox (vulpes libris): small bibliovorous mammal of overactive imagination and uncommonly large bookshop expenses. Habitat: anywhere the rustle of pages can be heard.

What Makes Us Laugh

In these cloudy days of winter and gloomy current events, sometimes we need not just lighter fare, but something that sends us over the top into glee. The Foxes have a wide selection of reading material which sets them off and here’s a sampling.
durrell-cover Kate has a great memory, “When I ‘borrowed’ my brother’s Christmas copy of My Family and Other Animals (at age 12 or thereabouts), I was forcibly told to leave the room because reading it made me cry so loudly with laughter I was causing a family disturbance. Gerald Durrell’s writing usually has that effect on me, even now. His brother Laurence is also a fiendishly funny writer, when he stops being arty. His short story ‘Frying the Flag’ makes me weep with snorting, messy giggles.
Oh, and there’s also the account of the forty-eightsome reel in George Macdonald Fraser’s The General Danced at Dawn …..”
red-dwarf-cover Lisa turns to sci-fi, “The funniest book I’ve ever read is Red Dwarf: Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers by Grant Naylor (Rob Grant and Doug Naylor). It focuses on Dave Lister, the last remaining human being, and mixes sci-fi with wry social commentary and blisteringly funny gags. I will never get bored of this book.”
Hilary said “Cold Comfort Farm made me cackle with laughter the first time I read it, and it still makes me laugh to this day. There are so many inspired jokes and set pieces, but the scene that cracks me up every time, just by thinking of it, is Judith Starkadder’s charged confrontation with her libertine son Seth over a sympathetic snood of boiling porridge.
coldcomfortfarm I can also remember when I was very young reading Three Men In A Boat, which I’d won as a Sunday School Prize, while I was suffering from tonsillitis, and laughing until it hurt over the scene where they bribe an engine driver at Victoria Station to be the 10.20 to Kingston, (a situation which right now, with the state of Southern Railways, is way beyond satire).”
hitchhikers-guide-cover Moira admitted, “It takes a lot to make me laugh out loud, but one book – or more precisely one scene in one book – which does it unfailingly is the cricket match in A. G. Macdonell’s England, Their England … a Scotsman’s view of one of the most arcane games ever invented (with the possible exception of ‘Mornington Crescent’), and a perfect description of what it looks like to a completely clueless outsider.
My ‘go to’ books for a quick pick-me-up if I’m feeling a bit down – and which still elicit guffaws and snorts even though I know what’s coming next – are almost anything by P. G. Wodehouse and Douglas Adams’ A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the latter of which contains one of my favourite ever exchanges:
Ford Prefect: ‘It’s unpleasantly like being drunk.’
Arthur Dent: ‘What’s so unpleasant about being drunk?’
Ford Prefect: ‘You ask a glass of water.’
There. I laughed again.”
alpine-for-you-cover Jackie agrees with Moira on P.G. Wodehouse, “The first time I read one of Wodehouse’s books, I kept laughing so hard I would have to put the book down. I hadn’t read anything before that which was scene after scene of hilarious dialogue and descriptions. More recently, the very first book in Maddy Hunter’s tourist mystery series, Alpine For You, was unexpectedly comical with entertaining conversations between eccentric characters.”
So if you’re having a blue winter’s day, you might want to try one of our favorites. Unless you have some other suggestions that we’d love to hear about?

9 comments on “What Makes Us Laugh

  1. Shay Simmons
    January 30, 2017

    “Oh, and there’s also the account of the forty-eightsome reel in George Macdonald Fraser’s The General Danced at Dawn …..”

    There are so many parts of the McAuslan books that make me laugh until I have to lie down…I can’t choose a favorite.

  2. noelleg44
    January 30, 2017

    I don’t think I read any funny books when I was young – unless you count some of the Golden books!

  3. Beth Goehring
    February 3, 2017

    Lucky Jim is considered by many to be the funniest novel ever written (I’d argue Evelyn Waugh gives Amis a run for his money with The Loved One and William Boyd’s A Good Man in Africa is certainly a contender, too); I LOVE IT, and it always does the trick when I’m feeling rotten.

  4. sewhitebooks
    February 3, 2017

    Not one from Sir Terry Pratchett? I snort laugh my way through most of his works.

  5. djemmand
    February 5, 2017

    I too found myself laughing my head off when I had the fortune of stumbling onto A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. A book with a great sense of humor is a keeper.

  6. magicquill17
    February 5, 2017

    Any Percy Jackson fans over here? I laughed half the time off when I was reading PJO and HOO

  7. themusingidealist
    February 9, 2017

    I second the recommendation of Terry Pratchett. I’m surprised he’s not on here. What about Confederacy of Dunces? “you can always tell employees of the government by the total vacancy which occupies the space where most other people have faces.” “I mingle with my peers or with no one, and since I have no peers, I mingle with no one.”

    There are a couple of adult elements in the book but they’re handled well and serve the purpose.

  8. cathysrealcountrygardencom
    February 9, 2017

    This is a perfect selection. I love the biting humour of Saki short stories to liven up a dark February.

  9. Jackie
    February 9, 2017

    Saki is one of my favorite short story writers, so I agree with you.

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Acknowledgment

  • (The header image is from Aesop's Fables, illustrated by Francis Barlow (1666), and appears courtesy of the Digital and Multimedia Center at the Michigan State University Libraries.)
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