Top Five Comic Novels?

Roger Kimball has his top five comic novels in the Wall Street Journal:

1. Leave It to Psmith by P.G. Wodehouse.

May I begin a survey of superb comic novels by offering the collected works of P.G. Wodehouse–100 volumes, give or take? No? Well, how about “Leave It to Psmith”? Everyone knows about Bertie and Jeeves. Allow me to introduce Rupert Psmith.

2. Scoop by Evelyn Waugh.

“Scoop” is Waugh’s funniest book and the best (and most savage) satire of newspaper journalism in English.

3. Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House by Eric Hodgins.

If you’ve ever thought about engaging an architect to fix up that beautifully sited if slightly ramshackle old place you saw in the country one weekend, read this book. You’ll laugh till you cry, and you’ll think twice about embarking upon an adventure in real estate or house construction.

4. Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis.

The academic novel has become a subgenre of its own. There are some very good ones, but the best is also one of the first, Kingsley Amis’s “Lucky Jim.”

5. The Belles Lettres Papers by Charles Simmons.

Ostensibly a history of Belles Lettres, “the most powerful literary magazine in the world,” this book is in fact a satire of the passions and personalities of the people who run a famous New York weekly book review . . .

I have read both Scoop and Lucky Jim and they are very funny. I will need to think a bit on what my top five comic novels might be. What say you? What are your favorite comic works?

About the author

Kevin Holtsberry

I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season – oh, and watching golf too).

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5 Comments

  • I loved the Psmith books when I was very young (about 14), but I doubt I’d find them funny now. P G Wodehouse also wrote the Jeeves/Worcester series and the Blandings series. I loved them all, but have they dated a bit?

    I wouldn’t call “Scoop” laugh-aloud funny. Lucky Jim did have its moments. Have not read the other two.

    I thought “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” by Hunter Thompson was hilarious, could not stop laughing at that. I presume it is a novel, though the official genre is “Gonzo journalism”.

    The book I’ve read most recently that cracked me up was a few years ago now (2002), “e” by Matthew Beaumont. It is a story of office life told entirely by emails. I thought it had the great combination of being true to real life and funny. He has written a few follow-ups which aren’t as good, and also perhaps the joke is not as fresh now as it was in 2002.

    When I was younger I loved “How to be Topp” by Geoffrey Willans, and “1066 and all that” by Sellers and Yeatman, but these are not novels. You probably have to be close to being taught this stuff at school to find it funny.

    Janet Evanovich writes very funny fiction — or at least did. Her “One for the Money” is laugh-aloud hilarious. Her follow-ups are progressively less amusing.

  • Hmmm. Good question.

    I have Scoop sitting in my ever-growing pile of new as yet unread tomes.

    I keep meaning to read a Wodehouse book. I’m intrigued by the Blandings series and have been very tempted recently to buy the omnibus.

    ‘The Time Waster Letters’ by Robin Cooper was very very funny – and definitely not one to read in public unless you want people to stare at you while guffawing loudly!

    ‘The Snapper’ by Roddy Doyle is also good for a laugh – and one of the few books that worked just as well – if not better – on film.

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