In his essay “Mr. Vonnegut in Sumatra,” Saunders writes, “Humor is what happens when we’re told the truth quicker and more directly than we’re used to.” And this is what happens in Saunders’ fiction — but we’re taken there with such a weird, earnest, and often surrealist hand that it transcends funny and becomes something even better. There’s probably not a word for it yet, but maybe Saunders will think one up.
As far as we’re concerned, Sam Lipsyte is the current king of sad-sack humor — his fiction is mordantly, painfully, miserably funny, more often than not narrated by a downtrodden, secretly rage-filled fellow who can’t seem to get it together. White men stumbling around have never been this funny before.
Portis had a mini-resurgence with the film version of True Grit, but we still think that not enough people read him. He is a veritable master of the comic novel, endlessly inventive and ever-deadpan as he details the misadventures of his semi-heroes. Read Norwood and you’ll see what we mean.
We probably don’t have to explain here, considering that Sedaris is widely acknowledged as the funniest writer working today — or at least the most popular one. We think our favorite quip is from Naked: “I haven’t the slightest idea how to change people, but still I keep a long list of prospective candidates just in case I should ever figure it out.” So true, Mr. Sedaris. So true.
This year, we totally fell for Moran’s outrageous, vulgar, hilarious neo-feminist manifesto, How to Be a Woman. And how could we not, with analyses like this one: “Batman doesn’t want a baby in order to feel he’s ‘done everything’. He’s just saved Gotham again! If this means that Batman must be a feminist role model above, say, Nicola Horlick, then so be it.”
The author of the extensive Discworld series is one of the funniest writers in the fantasy kingdom. Though the series he’s best known for has its moments (a lot of them), we recommend Good Omens his collaboration with Neil Gaiman. It’s a comedy about the end of the world, so, you know.
Díaz’s portrayals of young men on the verge are so apt that you can’t help but laugh — and sometimes also feel a little sick to your stomach. We particularly love our Oscar and Yunior, for exchanges like this: “Nothing else has any efficacy, I might as well be myself.” “But your yourself sucks!” “It is, lamentably, all I have.”
True, we haven’t read any of her non-Bridget Jones novels, but we really don’t think we have to. We chortled enough through those to have Fielding on this list twice over.
Christopher Moore is not a highbrow author. But, um, who cares, because his books, inventive and irreverent works of fantasy, are flat-out hilarious. And in this day and age, somebody’s got to have a goofy, absurdist take on that whole vampire thing.
Though we still haven’t seen that purported novel, we can’t very well leave off the contemporary world’s answer to Dorothy Parker, can we? Wicked and incisive, Lebowitz set the ’70s on fire with great writing that dissected the culture with a casual swipe. If only she would come out of retirement!