The Funny Books Lit Wish List

This week we're talking funny books: what would you put on the list for the reader who likes a laugh or two? Of course, "funny" is a relative term, but that's the charm of this exercise really. To start off, we asked a few Canadian authors for their funny books picks, and we'd welcome your suggestions as well.

Sussex Drive by Linda Svendsen, selected by Terry Fallis, whose novel The Best Laid Plans won the Stephen Leacock Medal for Humour in 2008. Fallis' latest book is Up and Down. Fallis' endorsement reads on the back of the book as follows: “In Sussex Drive, Linda Svendsen takes us deep behind the lines of Ottawa’s politics, polls and pomp, and into the lives of Canada’s two most powerful women. By turns shocking, funny, sizzling and illuminating, this story is brilliantly written with an unnerving authenticity that makes it seem all too real. You’re going to want to read this.”

About the book: Torn from the headlines, Sussex Drive is a rollicking, cheeky, alternate history of big-ticket political items in Canada told from the perspectives of Becky Leggatt (the sublimely capable and manipulative wife of a hard-right Conservative prime minister) and just a wink away at Rideau Hall, Lise Lavoie (the wildly exotic and unlikely immigrant Governor General)—two wives and mothers living their private lives in public. Set in recent history, when the biggest House on their turf is shuttered not once, not twice, but three times, Becky and Lise engage in a fight to the death in a battle that involves Canada’s relationship to the United States, Afghanistan and Africa.

You can read an excerpt here.

Hard Core Logo by Michael Turner, selected by Anakana Schofield whose own novel Malarky is pretty funny and was just cited by Jenny Diski in The New Statesman as a "Book of the Year". Schofield notes, "One of the funniest Canadian books I've ever read is Michael Turner's Hard Core Logo. I actually sustained a pain in my lung from laughing when reading it. Plus I read parts of it to my son who took great pleasure in shrieking quotes from it in inappropriate public places, like the middle of BC Ferries."

About the book: Hard Core Logo is an epistolary novel that portrays a punk rock band reunited for one last shot at glory. Adapting a scrapbook approach, consisting of monologues, conversations, letters, interviews, photographs, and related paraphernalia (including posters, invoices and contracts), Hard Core Logo tells the story of Joe Dick, an unrepentant, true-blue punk rocker, whose no-holds-barred approach to music was severely undermined by the breakup of his band, Hard Core Logo, done in by changing times and fortunes. However, when he and the band are asked by a longtime fan to reunited for an environmental benefit, his passions are once again stirred, and he convinces his bandmates to turn the one-time reunion into an actual tour. The book provides a fascinating, warts-and-all glimpse into the life and times of a rock band, and the dichotomy between the grim realities of life on the road, and the rock'n'roll spirit that inspired them in the first place.

Book Cover How Should a Person Be?

How Should a Person Be? by Sheila Heti, selected by Claire Cameron whose second novel is forthcoming in 2014. Cameron writes, "This book has been called a lot of things, but I think its humour gets overlooked. It is playful in the best way and humour is used to get at a truth. As Heti writes, 'you have to know where the funny is, and if you know where the funny is, you know everything.'"

About the book: How Should a Person Be? is a novel of many identities: an autobiography of the mind, a postmodern self-help book, and a fictionalized portrait of the artist as a young woman—of two such artists, in fact. For reasons multiple and mysterious, Sheila finds herself in a quandary of self-doubt, questioning how a person should be in the world. Inspired by her friend Margaux, a painter, and her seemingly untortured ability to live and create, Sheila casts Margaux as material, embarking on a series of recordings in which nothing is too personal, too ugly, or too banal to be turned into art. Along the way, Sheila confronts a cast of painters who are equally blocked in an age in which the blow job is the ultimate art form. She begins questioning her desire to be Important, her quest to be both a leader and a pupil, and her unwillingness to sacrifice herself.

The Waterproof Bible by Andrew Kaufman, selected by Corey Redekop whose new novel Husk has been described as "hil-AIR-ious." Redekop reports that The Waterproof Bible is "one of the funniest, oddest books I’ve read in some time."

About the book: A magical story of love and the isolation that defines the modern condition—Andrew Kaufman pulls off the near impossible and creates a wholly original allegorical tale that is both emotionally resonant and outlandishly fun.

Rebecca Reynolds is a young woman with a most unusual and inconvenient problem: no matter how hard she tries, she can't stop her emotions from escaping her body and entering the world around her. Luckily she's developed a nifty way to trap and store her powerful emotions in personal objects—but how many shoeboxes can a girl fill before she feels crushed by her past? Three events force Rebecca to change her ways: the unannounced departure of her husband, Stewart; the sudden death of Lisa, her musician sister; and, while on her way to Lisa's funeral, a near-crash with what appears to be a giant frogwoman recklessly speeding in a Honda Civic. Meanwhile, Lisa's inconsolable husband skips the funeral and flies to Winnipeg where he begins a bizarre journey that strips him of everything before he can begin to see a way through his grief… all with the help of a woman who calls herself God.

Sleeping Funny by Miranda Hill, selected by Angie Abdou whose latest book is The Canterbury Trail. No surprise, really, that Sleeping Funny is funny—the word's right there in the title after all. Abdou calls it "very fresh and funny."

About the book: Sleeping Funny is that rare book—a debut that introduces us to a fully mature writer, one who instantly draws you in with her lean style, empathy and wit, and keeps you reading, with growing admiration and delight, from first page to last. These stories showcase Miranda Hill's astonishing range and virtuosity, introducing us to a protean variety of characters, each as well-realized as the next. Here is a writer who can seamlessly inhabit the consciousness of a sixteen-year-old navigating an embarrassing sex-ed class, a middle-aged minister experiencing a devastating crisis of faith in a 19th century rural village, a pilot's widow coping with her grief by growing an unusual "victory garden" during World War II, and well-heeled modern professional women juggling jobs, kids, and husbands, and trying to cope with the arrival of a beautiful bohemian neighbour, on a gentrified street in downtown Toronto.

The qualities that unite these remarkable stories are a pervasive sense of mystery and magic, a wonderful wit and sophistication, and most surprisingly, the slight disorientation implied by the title: In Miranda Hill's beguiling universe, the "real world" is recognizable and slightly askew, as if you were experiencing one of those strange dreams where you think you are awake—or as if you've been "sleeping funny" and are on the cusp of waking into the everyday world you thought you knew.

And now, over to you. Please add your favourite Canadian funny books in the comments below!

December 17, 2012
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