The best literary fiction that made me laugh out loud

Who am I?

As a kid, I wrote a series of plays with my family as characters. Everyone (even the dog and cat) had lines that demonstrated their quirks, except me—the sane and reasonable one. When I performed these playlets for my mother (performing all parts, since no one else would co-operate) she laughed so hard she cried, and it’s fair to say my subsequent writing career has been an attempt to recapture the feelings that experience generated. Beginning as a joke writer (including a stint working for Jay Leno), I now focus on literary fiction, though humor is always a part of my work.


I wrote...

Rude Baby

By James W. Morris,

Book cover of Rude Baby

What is my book about?

Rude Baby is a literary comedy set in the near future, in a supermarket so big it contains an entire world. A snarky store-brand baby freed from its packaging seeks wisdom from those he meets, refusing to grow up until someone can prove the effort worthwhile. Are any important truths to be found in Canned Goods? What about Frozen Foods? And who is the man with the sword? Why is he covered in blood?

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of My Life and Hard Times

James W. Morris Why did I love this book?

I received a copy of this book as a gift on my eleventh birthday, and by the time I’d finished reading it, I had decided to become a writer. What seems at first to be a simply-written series of reminiscences from Thurber’s boyhood in Columbus, Ohio is in fact a fake (or at least exaggeration-filled) memoir, full of tales about charmingly addled characters and unlikely incidents. The chapter entitled “The Dog that Bit People” is my personal favorite.

By James Thurber,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked My Life and Hard Times as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A Bantam Classic, published in 1961. Cover and spine a little rough. Book appears to be unopened (unread). Pages lightly tan with age. Clean, bright used copy with tight binding. NEVER a library book./jl


Book cover of Zazie in the Metro

James W. Morris Why did I love this book?

I bought an English version of this French novel about Paris while actually in that city as a starving backpacker, and have forever associated the wacky joyfulness of the book with the pleasures of that trip. Originally written in a high-energy, idiomatic, slangy, bawdy version of French that scandalized many conservative readers, the plot involves a young country girl named Zazie, obsessed with the Parisian subway system called the Metro, though she’s never seen it. Finally allowed to visit her uncle in the city, she is outraged to find the Metro closed, its workers on strike. She runs away, roaming the crowded city streets, her hilarious extended tantrum not only upsetting her befuddled uncle’s safe and settled lifestyle, but also spreading a generalized craziness throughout Paris. 

By Raymond Queneau, Barbara Wright (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Zazie in the Metro as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Impish, foul-mouthed Zazie arrives in Paris from the country to stay with Gabriel, her female-impersonator uncle. All she really wants to do is ride the metro, but finding it shut because of a strike, Zazie looks for other means of amusement and is soon caught up in a comic adventure that becomes wilder and more manic by the minute. In 1960 Queneau's cult classic was made into a hugely successful film by Louis Malle. Packed full of word play and phonetic games, Zazie in the Metro remains as stylish and witty as ever.


Book cover of The Dead Father

James W. Morris Why did I love this book?

I studied the post-modernists in college, and find Barthelme to be the funniest and most likable of that group. His collection of short fiction, Sixty Stories, is my desert island book, but he also wrote a few novels that I like, especially The Dead Father. The dead father looms large in the ethos of his society, and is also literally big—3,200 cubits long. And the dead father is not really dead—though all agree he’s past his prime. So, a road trip is organized: nineteen of his followers attach a cable to drag the massive, complaining figure to a cliff at the edge of the world. A truly witty and absurd little book.

By Donald Barthelme,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Dead Father as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The Dead Father is a gargantuan half-dead, half-alive, part mechanical, wise, vain, powerful being who still has hopes for himself--even while he is being dragged by means of a cable toward a mysterious goal. In this extraordinary novel, marked by the imaginative use of language that influenced a generation of fiction writers, Donald Barthelme offered a glimpse into his fictional universe. As Donald Antrim writes in his introduction, "Reading The Dead Father, one has the sense that its author enjoys an almost complete artistic freedom . . . a permission to reshape, misrepresent, or even ignore the world as we…


Book cover of A Confederacy of Dunces

James W. Morris Why did I love this book?

Unfortunately, the author of A Confederacy of Dunces was not able to get the novel published in his lifetime (a struggle I relate to), but that tragedy should not detract from the deep comic pleasure this book provides readers. Its main character, Ignatius J. Reilly, is an obese, thirty-year-old, well-educated, incorrigibly lazy man living with his eccentric mother in 1960’s New Orleans. Finally forced by circumstance to seek employment, Ignatius has a series of bizarre adventures while interacting with some truly colorful characters in the French Quarter of that city. From first page to last, I think this may be the most consistently funny novel ever written.

By John Kennedy Toole,

Why should I read it?

14 authors picked A Confederacy of Dunces as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

ONE OF THE BBC'S 100 NOVELS THAT SHAPED OUR WORLD

'This is probably my favourite book of all time' Billy Connolly

A pithy, laugh-out-loud story following John Kennedy Toole's larger-than-life Ignatius J. Reilly, floundering his way through 1960s New Orleans, beautifully resigned with cover art by Gary Taxali
_____________

'This city is famous for its gamblers, prostitutes, exhibitionists, anti-Christs, alcoholics, sodomites, drug addicts, fetishists, onanists, pornographers, frauds, jades, litterbugs, and lesbians . . . don't make the mistake of bothering me.'

Ignatius J. Reilly: fat, flatulent, eloquent and almost unemployable. By the standards of ordinary folk he is pretty much…


Book cover of Tenth of December: Stories

James W. Morris Why did I love this book?

I belong to writers’ group headed by George Saunders, and I’m pleased to report he is just as intelligent, funny, and kind-hearted off the page as on. Although he wrote an acclaimed novel, Lincoln in the Bardo, George is still known best for his long career as a writer of funny and empathic short fiction. Any collection of his stories might be recommended, but my favorite is Tenth of December. The title story, in my view, is a masterful achievement, evidence of America’s best writer working at the top of his game.

By George Saunders,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Tenth of December as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

**ESCAPE FROM SPIDERHEAD NOW STREAMING ON NETFLIX - STARRING CHRIS HEMSWORTH AND MILES TELLER** The prize-winning, New York Times bestselling short story collection from the internationally bestselling author of Lincoln in the Bardo 'The best book you'll read this year' New York Times 'Dazzlingly surreal stories about a failing America' Sunday Times WINNER OF THE 2014 FOLIO PRIZE AND SHORTLISTED FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK AWARD 2013 George Saunders's most wryly hilarious and disturbing collection yet, Tenth of December illuminates human experience and explores figures lost in a labyrinth of troubling preoccupations. A family member recollects a backyard pole dressed for…


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By Karen Lynne Klink,

Book cover of At What Cost, Silence?

Karen Lynne Klink Author Of At What Cost, Silence?

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Child abuse survivor Reader Adventure traveler Animal lover

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What is my book about?

Secrets, misunderstandings, and a plethora of family conflicts abound in this historical novel set along the Brazos River in antebellum Washington County, East Texas.

It is a compelling story of two neighboring plantation families and a few of the enslaved people who serve them. These two plantations are a microcosm of a country on the brink of war, encompassing a variety of issues: love and friendship between men, relationships between fathers and sons, sibling rivalry, slavery, and the position of women in society.

At What Cost, Silence?

By Karen Lynne Klink,

What is this book about?

Adrien Villere suspects he is not like other boys. For years, he desperately locks away his feelings and fears-but eventually, tragedy and loss drive him to seeking solace from his mentor, a young neighbor Jacob Hart. Jacob's betrayal of Adrien's trust, however, results in secret abuse, setting off a chain of actions from which neither Adrien's wise sister, Bernadette, nor his closest friend, Isaac, can turn him.

At What Cost, Silence presents two contrasting plantation families in a society where strict rules of belief and behavior are clear, and public opinion can shape an entire life. Centerstage are the Villeres,…


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