10 Literary Parodies That Work

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Well, at least there’s one decidedly delicious thing to have come out of the 50 Shades of Grey phenomenon. Quite literally delicious: this week sees the release of 50 Shades of Chicken: A Parody in a Cookbook , which details the sordid adventures of a young, inexperienced chicken as she gets her breasts and thighs handled by a chef — while serving up some excellent recipes for roasting chicken as well. It’s enough to make you snort that cooking wine right out of your nose. Inspired by this new and hilarious release, we’ve put together a list of ten literary parodies that totally work on their own merit — no mere joke books these. Click through to see which we chose, and if we missed your favorite parody, be sure to add it to our list in the comments.

Fifty Shades of Chicken: A Parody in a Cookbook , FL Fowler

Here’s just a little taste for you, from the recipe for “Popped-Cherry Pullet” (and don’t forget to watch the book trailer when you’re done).

He fixes me suddenly with a predatory stare. “We’re going to remedy this situation right now.” “What situation?” I ask, alarmed. “Your situation. You’re utterly unseasoned. I’m contemplating haute cuisine with you, when you’ve never been paired with anything, it seems.” He cocks his head to the side. Paired? My inner goddess pulls her head from under her wing. “I’m going to make dinner with you right now. We’ll begin with something sweet, soft, and juicy.” Holy shit. “I thought you didn’t make dinner,” I say, my heart pounding. “I thought you just cooked, um, hard.” I hear his stomach growl deeply, the effects of which travel all the way to my tail at the base of my cavity — down there.

Cold Comfort Farm , Stella Gibbons

Perhaps the most famous parody novel, Cold Comfort Farm takes on the entire tradition of the gloomy, romantic, and (some might say) overwrought novels depicting rural life that were popular in the ’20s and ’30s, like those of Mary Webb, Thomas Hardy, D.H. Lawrence, and the Brontës. Packed with clichés and in-jokes, and inhabited by four cows named Feckless, Aimless, Pointless, and Graceless, you’d expect this novel to be a throw-away, but it’s held up in its own right as a wicked satire, still hilarious to this day.

Bored of the Rings , Harvard Lampoon

Oh yes. In this ludicrous send-up of Tolkien’s epic fantasy series, Frito Bugger is sent by his uncle Dildo Bugger and con artist/stage magician Goodgulf Greyteeth on a mission to steal the Ring of Power — along with Arrowroot, Legolam, Gimlet, Moxie, and Pepsi, of course. The gents of Harvard Lampoon twist all the characters you know and love to their own off-color means, sending them trotting off down the path and mocking everything they meet along the way. The brilliance is that somewhere in there, the story takes on its own meat and becomes more than just a punny blow-by-blow, but a (raunchy, irreverent) story in its own right. A must for fans and decided non-fans alike.

P.G. Wodehouse’s American Psycho,” Rhian Jones

Though somewhat smaller in scope than some of the other entries on this list, this short story, published at McSweeney’s , is hilarious for fans of either Ellis or Wodehouse, beginning: “The affair of the inferior business card is one which casts rather a gloom over the otherwise illustrious annals of Bateman family history. The fault, if it comes to that, was entirely that of Paul Owen, and the solution was, as ever, down to Jean, the finest secretary for which a man could wish.” Right-o, time to kill people with a nail gun.

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies , Seth Grahame-Smith

As much as we hate to admit it, this book totally works. And it works so well that it has spawned a million spinoffs in its own right: Jane Slayre, Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, plus two sequels to P&P&Z. After all, “It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.”

The Lost Diaries , Craig Brown

In this volume, Brown recreates the supposed inner musings of a host of famous diarists, from Virginia Woolf and D.H. Lawrence to Yoko Ono and Keith Richards to President Barack Obama and Her Majesty the Queen. Though some entries work better than others (and any two readers would probably disagree on which these are), in general it is a rollicking compendium from a top notch parodist, worthy of anyone’s time.

On the Sidewalk,” John Updike

In Updike’s send-up of Kerouac’s On the Road, published in The New Yorker in 1959, two boys take a journey quest (via scooter and tricycle) through Mrs. Cacciatore’s iris bed and “into the wide shimmering pavement.” “Contemplate those holy hydrants,” one shouts to the other. “Get a load of those petulant operable latches; catch the magic of those pickets standing up proud and sequential like the arguments in Immanuel Kant; boom, boom, bitty-boom BOOM!” It’ll have you rolling in the grass.

Goodnight Dune , Julia Yu

There are a handful of parodies of classic bedtime book Goodnight MoonGoodnight Keith Moon, Goodnight iPad — but our favorite has got to be Goodnight Dune, which re-imagines the story with a hearty dose of David Lynch’s film adaptation of Frank Herbert’s Dune. Nerdy children need to softly drift off into slumber too.

The Mote in the Middle Distance,” Max Beerbohm

Beerbohm’s wicked 1912 parody of Henry James begins thusly: “It was with a sense of a, for him, very memorable something that he peered now into the immediate future, and tried, not without compunction, to take that period up where he had, prospectively left it. But just where the deuce had he left it?” If you’ve read any James, you’re smirking right now, and so, actually was James himself, who loved the story, and who once, when he and Beerbohm were at the same party, directed a questioner to “Ask that young man. He is in full possession of my innermost thoughts.” That’s approval from the top, friends.

Snowball’s Chance , John Reed

In this controversial novel written in the weeks following the September 11 attacks, Orwell’s exiled Snowball returns to the farm with a new idea (capitalism) and a new motto: “All animals are born equal — what they become is their own affair.” Whether you agree with its basic message or not, the amount of outrage this little puppy drummed up (the Orwell estate had a fit) makes it a parodic success in our book.