Posts Tagged ‘comic novels’

Stella Gibbons: Cold Comfort Farm

November 10, 2022

    Apparently this novel is regarded as a minor classic of comedy writing. It reminded me at times of The Diary of Nobody and Three Men in A Boat without being as funny as either, and also being as dated as both of those are. It is also, therefore, quintessentially English. Gibbons writes well; the language is fluent and literate and undoubtedly contributes a good deal to what comic effect there is. The London scenes are light, witty and often amusing, the country ones – ie the majority – not so much.

A little research informed me that the work is a parody of a genre of English fiction that was very popular at the time; I was very glad I’d never had to read any of it. Sub-Lawrencian adulation of the virtues of rural folk, squared, by the sound of it.

The satire of the well-heeled aristos and London in-crowd is light-hearted and humorous, not hurtful; the mockery of the rural communities is more leaden, even gratuitously offensive at times; cruel, heavy-handed and not particularly funny to this reader at least. Too many silly nonce-words and too much piss-taking of rural accents and modes of speech. I persevered, for it was relatively short, and easy to read, but there were times it felt tiresome more than anything else. Only one sentence had me laughing out loud: “It was quite interesting, like having tea with a rhinoceros.” Yes, you probably need the context…

I feel a bit churlish, as I really enjoy good comic writing. I don’t mind having read it and won’t ever read it again. The 1995 TV version looks interesting from the casting point of view so I wouldn’t mind watching it one day when I was bored. But John Kennedy Toole it ain’t…

August favourites #11: Comic novels

August 11, 2018

51VdgF+uEDL._AC_US218_516u8jzrppL._AC_US218_There are two novels which I’ll name equally here; having re-read them a number of times, both still have me laughing out loud, uncontrollably at times – though those who know me will acknowledge that isn’t actually that hard to achieve – Jaroslav Hasek’s amazing comic novel The Good Soldier Svejk, set in the Great War on the Eastern Front, with a congenital idiot as its hero, and A Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole, again featuring a buffoon, who brings chaos in his wake wherever he goes and whatever he attempts. It’s also very sad that Toole took his own life, having failed to find a publisher for his manuscript, which then went on to become a cult classic.

I’m doing something different for the holiday month of August, writing about some of my favourites: poems, plays, music, art and other things, a short piece on a different topic each day. The categories are random, as are the choices within them, meaning that’s my favourite that day, and is subject to change… And I will try and explain why each choice is special for me. As always, I look forward to your comments.

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