Tag Archives: funny

What I learned from reading Wodehouse

I’ve read several (well, that might be a bit of a stretch, I’m now on my fourth) books by PG Wodehouse in the past year, and I’ve quite enjoyed them all.

As much as I knew I wanted to read Wodehouse — particularly Jeeves and Wooster, but you start where you can sometimes — I was much more interested in his novels than the short stories. Because I’ve disliked pretty much every encounter I’ve had with a short story in the past decade plus. I was reading greats: Flannery O’Conner and Tobias Wolff, to name two, but I didn’t like ’em. So I thought I had developed a dislike for the short story form itself.

I’d liked O. Henry in high school, but when I revisited his work more recently, I found it trite, and the form too short for the stories therein.

I’d liked James Joyce’s Dubliners in college, but maybe it was the classroom setting and excellent professor?

But Wodehouse’s stories (I’ve read The Man Upstairs and A Few Quick Ones and I’m now reading Plum Pie) have universally thrilled. They don’t all have me laughing out loud, but a fair number do. I love the writing and language, the reappearing characters and stages, and I like the stories.

The one novel I’ve read so far is Frozen Assets, and I loved it, too.

Side note: I’ve fallen in love with The Overlook Press’s Collector’s Wodehouse editions of these books. I love the diminutive hardcover formats, the striped endpapers, the style and colorings of the covers, everything. Thankfully(?) there are many more for me to read!

Wodehouse wrote more than ninety books, so I’ve got plenty of titles from within his repertoire to keep me busy for a while (yay!), but what other short stories / writers do you think I’d enjoy?

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Ibid by Mark Dunn

Since Ella Minnow Pea is one of my favorite books of all time, it only makes sense that I would search out other books by its author, Mark Dunn. (I’m embarrassed to say how long it actually took me to look it up, though.)

When I did that, I found that Dunn has written several other books. So far, Ibid: A Novel is the only one I’ve read.

Here’s the setup: After his editor’s son accidentally drowns the sole copy of his latest manuscript in the bathtub, the author decides to publish that biography — of three-legged circus performer-cum-deodorant magnate and humanitarian Jonathan Blashette — through the only part of the text that survives: the footnotes.

Point the first: I don’t think any other author (that I’ve encountered, anyway) could pull off a fictional narrative consisting wholly of footnotes. Dunn did it, and did it well. So very clever.

Point the second: I was laughing out loud for the first half of the book or so. I found it quite humorous.

Number three: The laughs trailed off as the end of the book neared. With biographies, fictional or not, I guess we generally know how they end? Not that thrilling. Or exciting. Or funny.

Overall, totally worth it, but I was somewhat disappointed in the end. I’m just not sure how justified my feelings on that subject are. Maybe it was unavoidable.

4.5 stars (out of 5)

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Boo Humbug by Rene Gutteridge

It’s Friday of Rene Gutteridge Week. I’m glad for the weekend, as always, but I’m also a bit sad to see the end of this special focus. There are, at least, a few more hours left, though. Later today I’ll post my interview with the author — and the giveaways of Possession, her latest, will remain open through the end of the day.

Rene Gutteridge Week 2011, WordLily.com

Word Lily review

Boo Humbug by Rene Gutteridge book 4 in the Boo series (WaterBrook, 2007), 192 pages

Summary
Lois Stepaphanopolis (great name, right?) has hijacked the community theater of Skary, Indiana (well, not literally) for her latest “genius” plan, twisting arms to get players and all. What’s the play? She’s re-written Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

Thoughts
This is a slip of a book, and yes, it’s a Christmas story. Despite saying in December that I thought Christmas books weren’t really for me, I read this one in the days before Christmas and I quite liked it. I think a big reason why is that it’s not sickly sweet.

Rather, Boo Humbug is funny, as I expected of this series. Yes, it still has a message appropriate for Christmas.

The characters we’ve come to love are still very present, but this book is written from a fresh perspective.

The brilliance of this book is its use of the Dickens tale, both its distortion to the point of ruination in the planned stage play, and how it is paralleled (at least a little) in some of the characters.

I’m sad to see the end of this series, I want more funny books from Gutteridge.

★★★★☆

About the author
Rene Gutteridge (Facebook profile) writes both humorous and suspense novels. She lives in Oklahoma. She wrote plays and sketches before becoming a novelist.

Other reviews
Books, Movies and Chinese Food
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Boo Hiss by Rene Gutteridge

Welcome to Wednesday of Rene Gutteridge Week! We’re taking today a bit slower than it’s been (and will be) the rest of the week, but there’s plenty going on. On Twitter? Use the hashtag #RGWeek.

Rene Gutteridge Week 2011, WordLily.com

Word Lily review

Boo Hiss by Rene Gutteridge, book 3 of the Boo series (WaterBrook, 2005), 352 pages

Summary
Strange things are once again happening in the sleepy town of Skary, Indiana. This time the unexplainable include a new soccer field and a coffee shop with internet access. That’s not all, of course. (Some of the town’s newlyweds are now pregnant, among other things.)

Thoughts
Skary is populated by a passel of quirky characters. The word play — and the outright silliness — makes me laugh.

The plot is full of twists and turns, and the characters’ struggles are believable.
The descriptions of the Christian publishing industry (from an outsider’s perspective) are pretty … interesting, as well.

It’s clear the interior design for this series was given the attention it deserves. More than most books, it’s suitably whimsical (but not distracting).

I’m sad that I’ve burned through nearly all of her comedy titles; I think there’s only one left that I haven’t read now (My Life as a Doormat (in Three Acts)).

★★★☆☆

About the author
Rene Gutteridge (Facebook profile) writes suspense and comedy novels. She lives in Oklahoma with her husband and two children.

Other reviews
Books, Movies and Chinese Food
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Three Men in a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog) by Jerome K. Jerome

three-men-in-a-boatThree Men in a Boat: (To Say Nothing of the Dog) by Jerome K. Jerome (1889), 135 pages

I found this book on AbeBooks’ funniest books list, as chosen by UKers.

This is a funny book. The categorization of comic novel is right on. At one point, I was averaging one out-loud laugh per page. Then I lost count. Plus: It’s short. The narrator is a resistentialist, which is fun, too. This was a good diversion for me.

The book is about three friends (plus the dog, Montmorency) who decide it’s time for a break and set out, sculling up the Thames, camping at night or, alternately, staying at a local inn. Interspersed with the actual events of the book are many backstories, which, at least to some degree, really make the book.

This is not a book to skim, though, despite its brevity. I think it may have had to do with this particular edition (see below), but sometimes I did realize that I didn’t know what I was reading about and have to back up. I’d never missed much (never more than a few lines), but still.

About the various editions:
I read the 2006 Dover edition (linked above). The text is crammed into this trade paperback; Dover printed on the inside of both the front and back covers (although thankfully not the text of the book!) The text is unabridged, but this edition is apparently lacking illustrations that accompanied the original. Several publishers have this book available inexpensively, including Penguin Classics and Tor. Both have a higher page count than this Dover Value Edition (although the Tor page count is nearly twice that of either of the others, which is confusing). I like the cover of the Dover best, though.

There are just so many reasons to recommend this book: If you like dogs. Boating. England. History. Humor. Performing. Camping. Resistentialism. Traveling. Cheese. A fondness for any one of these, I think, would be enough to commend this book to you.

Because of the success of this book, Jerome went on to write Three Men on the Bummel.

This book is in the public domain (at least in the United States); LibriVox has a free audio version, plus links to several different free sources for the e-book.

Other reviews:
Beth Fish Reads
Farm Lane Books
The Indextrious Reader
She Reads Books
Jenny’s Books
Bibliophile Bullpen

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