Thursday, March 03, 2011

It is Literary Blog Hop time once again! Hosted by The Blue Bookcase, The Literary Blog Hop is an opportunity for literary book bloggers to answer literary questions about literature. It's all very literary.

Literary Blog Hop

This week's question is from Gilion at Rose City Reader. She poses the question:

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

The answer to this question for me is a resounding yes. However, in my mind there are two categories of humor. There is dumb humor, which can be quite hilarious but has no deeper meaning behind it except evoking a laugh.

Then there's this comic, which I think is just generally amusing...

Then there's intelligent humor - humor with a punch behind it. It's funny but it has a point to make. I think a literary character that exemplifies this humor is Mercutio of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. He is constantly making puns and jokes throughout the play, even as he lies dying ("Ask for me tomorrow, and you shall find me a grave man") but his jokes often have a barb of truth to them. Yes, he makes us laugh, but he also makes us pay attention.

Another example that I've recently discovered is my dear Mr. Charles Dickens, who I hated all through middle school and high school and finally picked up last month. I would find myself laughing aloud at Oliver Twist in public places, and then being appalled that I was laughing. Mr. Dickens was poking fun at poor, pure, innocent little Oliver and making light of the villains who made his life difficult, but he phrased those situations in such wry, subtle words that they seemed ridiculous even while being heart-wrenching. My favorite character was the pompous and awful Mr. Bumble, and my favorite quote is this passage about his wife crying -
But tears were not the things to find their way to Mr. Bumble's soul; his heart was waterproof. Like washable beaver hats that improve with rain, his nerves were rendered stouter and more vigorous, by showers of tears, which, being tokens of weakness, and so far tacit admissions of his own power, pleased and exalted him. He eyed his good lady with looks of great satisfaction, and begged, in an encouraging manner, that she should cry her hardest: the exercise being looked upon, by the faculty, as strongly conducive to health. 'It opens the lungs, washes the countenance, exercises the eyes, and softens down the temper,' said Mr. Bumble. 'So cry away.'
What a jerk, right? But very witty.

I also enjoyed this very true evaluation of a good sense of humor in The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton:

She had a sense of humor (chiefly proved by her laughing at HIS jokes).

Isn't that the truth? Anyway, my point is, literature can be funny, and I think it is often better for it. What about you? Any favorite funny literature?


  1. One of my favorite humorous characters in Shakespeare is the nurse in Romeo and Juliet, but Mercutio's speech is great too.

    See my hop here: http://hawthornescarlet.blogspot.com/2011/03/literary-blog-hop-ha-ha-funny.html

  2. What a well written post. I must disagree with you, however: Literature is not funny. Sorry to contradict you, but I've spoken to One Who Knows.

    Here's my post for this week's Literary Blog Hop: http://readerbuzz.blogspot.com/2011/03/welcome-to-literary-blog-hop-hosted-by.html

  3. not a great dickens fan, my answer was a resounding citing cervantes, rabalais, pynchon etc.
    love the comic. would make a great t-shirt.

  4. @LBC - Oh, I forgot how funny the nurse was!

    @Deb Nance - Ha I loved your post. I suppose we must agree to disagree. ;)

    @parrish lantern - I've heard that Cervantes can be pretty funny! If the comic was a t-shirt, I would have to wear it to my job at Borders!


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