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Literary Blog Hop

The Literary Blog Hop is a fortnightly event held at The Blue Bookcase prompting book bloggers to answer a question.

Can literature be funny? What is your favorite humorous literary book?

Of course literature can be funny.  It is not because a book is literary that it has to be dry and serious.  I believe that wit and sarcasm are an effective way to discuss serious topics.  Plain humour is also enjoyable.

The first titles coming to mind are not literary titles per se, although it is always difficult to figure out where you draw the line.  Maybe the fact that they actually had me laughing out loud is a sign of the quality of the writing?  However, I will not discuss these now.

I am quite responsive to sarcasm and Margaret Atwood’s writings often make me laugh for this reason.  Her novels, as well as short stories and non-fiction, often display such sarcasm or just plain humour.  I am thinking of The Penelopiad, for instance, with its parody of The Odyssey, or Payback in which Atwood creates a revision of Scrooge called Scrooge Nouveau, who is a stereotypical modern business man:

“As you know, there are two Scrooges.  There’s the squeezing, wrenching, grasping, scraping, clutching, covetous old sinner we meet first in the story about him – I’ll call this one ‘Scrooge Original’, following the lead of certain soft-drink and potato-chip companies.  Then there’s the second Scrooge, the one that emerges after his born-again experience.  I’ll call him ‘Scrooge Lite’ . . .

But let’s contemplate a third Scrooge: as he would be if he were among us in the early twenty-first century.  I’ll call this one ‘Scrooge Nouveau’, because when you’re introducing a high-end quality product it’s just as well to make it sound a little French.

Scrooge Nouveau is the same age as Scrooge Original, but he doesn’t look it.  He looks much younger, because, unlike Scrooge Original, he does spend his money: he spends it on himself.  So he’s had hair transplant, and some facial adjustment, and his skin is tanned from the many voyages he’s taken on his private yacht, and his very white and expertly restored teeth gleam eerily in the dark.”

One cannot remain cold to the humour displayed in her short fictions either.  The examples are numerous.  It is a sarcastic humour that has me grin and think at the same time.

“All men are created equal, as someone said who was either very hopeful or very mischievous.” (“Alien Territory”, Good Bones)

Another book I read not too long ago that had me laugh or smile a good bit is Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut.  I find the tone of passages such this one humourous:

“Everybody in America was supposed to grab whatever he could and hold onto it.  Some Americans were very good at grabbing and holding, were fabulously well-to-do.”

I also enjoy playfulness, which in itself can be humourous.  If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller by Italo Calvino would be a good example of a book that made me giggly because of its form.  I found the first chapter addressed to the reader quite fun, and then I found the fact that each beginning of a story-within-the-story is abruptly interrupted for one reason or another hilarious.

“You have now read about thirty pages and you’re becoming caught up in the story.  At a certain point you remark: ‘This sentence sounds somehow familiar.  In fact, this whole passage reads like something I’ve read before.’ . .

Wait a minute!  Look at the page number.  Damn!  From page 32 you’ve gone back to page 17!  What you thought was a stylistic subtlety on the author’s part is simply a printers’ mistake: they have inserted the same pages twice.”

These are just a few examples.  I think that literature is often infused with humour, so I could be going on all night.  What type of humour in books makes you laugh?

I have talked about Nightjar press before, when I reviewed Alison Moore’s “When the Door Closed, It Was Dark” and “The Beautiful Room” by RB Russell.  Nightjar is dedicated to the short story and publishes signed and numbered chapbooks every six months.  They are now ready to launch their spring titles: “Field” by Tom Fletcher and “Lexicon” by Christopher Burns.  I have never heard of them, but I trust Nicholas Royle’s tastes.  You can find details to order your copies on Nightjar’s blog.

Nicholas Royle is also the editor of the forthcoming Best British Short Stories 2011, which is published by Salt Publishing and is the first anthology of a new annual series.

I also discovered yesterday that another collection edited by Royle will come out in October: Murmurations: An Antholgy of Uncanny Stories about Birds, published by Two Ravens Press.  This particularly caught my attention because I was mentioning not too long about how often birds are present in short stories and how eerie their presence can be.  This is another collection I would like to check out!

This is my 4th year taking part in the Earth Hour, a global event aimed at raising awareness about sustainability issues.  This year, I have decided to write a daily post during the month leading to the event in order to share some thoughts about the environment and give tips the little changes we can make in our daily lives.  There will also be some guest posts by fellow bloggers who will share their own views on a topic related to the environment.  You can read my introductory post here and access the Earth Hour website here.

I encourage you to comment and share your own tips, ideas and experience.  In the last couple of days before the event I will do a few posts about what readers had to say.  I believe we can learn a lot by sharing!

I live in a rainy country and, here, saving water does not seem to be a priority.  Let’s put it simply: people do not care!  We do not have to pay for water and when I suggest we should, people jump at me: “Why should we when it rains so much?”  Well, simply because it would be a way to get people to be more inclined not to waste water and the money collected could be invested to improve water pipes and in environmental projects.

Oh yes, pipes are a problem in Ireland.  Many are old and badly conceived, so, as soon as it freezes (which is not often), they burst.  We have had a cold winter and to prevent pipes from freezing, people just let the water running.  That’s right!  Councils have thus had to cut the water off in some places.  I’m sure it is a lot more complicated than that, but I still don’t understand how people can leave the water running.

Do you remember when you were a kid and your mother would scold at you because you left the water running while brushing your teeth?  These days are gone, people waste and do not care anymore.  I know, I am exaggerating a little, but not that much.  I am not saying that we should live like our grandmothers used to, but simply that we should make an effort.  A bath should be a well deserved treat, for instance.

Now, I have been thinking about ways to avoid wasting water.  It can be a bit tricky, but here are a few tips that can be easily implemented.

How often do you empty your glass of water in the sink because it has been sitting there for too long?  Maybe you could empty it in a plant instead, or pour it in your pet’s water bowl?  I’m sure it will not lake a difference to them, but it could save a lot of water. 

What about when you cook with boiling water?  What do you do with it?  A good way, even though not very practical, to use this water is to pour it on weeds.  Boiling water, especially if it is starchy, burns weeds, thus, you won’t have to use those chemical weedkillers, which are terrible for the environment.


You could also collect rain water.  Put a bucket outside and use this water for your plants, they will be even happier than receiving tap water that has been treated.  If you have a bit of space in your garden, you could even install a water tank.  What we did in my garden is that we have attached a little gutter to the shed and have put the water tank under it so it fills up more quickly.

These are the only ideas I have been able to come up with so far.  Can you think of anything else?