Wacky Comedies
July 2016

There must be a name for this kind of comedy, but I don’t know what it is.  It features absurd situations; overwrought, frantic action; sometimes a bizarre combination of genres; sometimes a ridiculous plot for which, for some reason, I am very willing to suspend my disbelief; eccentric, wacky characters, from whom I feel somewhat distanced, yet I still like them.

Whatever they may be called, I love them! Here are some of my favorites.

  • Undermajordomo Minor by Patrick deWitt (2016). A funny and bizarre genre-bending folk, fairy, Gothic, adventure, coming-of-age story that includes a fair maiden, a cruel soldier, a mad baron, a creaky castle, sneaky pickpockets, secretive servants, mysterious correspondence, a star-crossed romance, brooding betrayal and 10 other things you’re already thinking of — in a Mitteleuropean setting, told by a peculiarly distancing omniscient and flowery narrator. “This is the territory of the Brothers Grimm, as seen through the skewed lens of Wes Anderson or Monty Python.” (The Guardian)
  • The Portable Veblen by Elizabeth McKenzie (2016). Hilarious mixture of dysfunctional families, social criticism, and highly eccentric characters. An engaged couple in Palo Alto works through family and ethical problems. “Riotous. . . . A delightfully knotty synthesis of psychological study, philosophical inquiry, romantic page-turner, and economic critique.” (Electric Literature) “This novel is like vegetables cut on a bias: slightly skewed, pleasing to look at, and, thanks to its skilled chef, a joy to consume. . . . A funny and well-written novel about family, love and the perils of misplaced ambition.” (Book Page)
  • The True and Splendid History of the Harristown Sisters by Michelle Lovric (2014). Set in the nineteenth century, a saga of the lives of seven sisters with exceptionally long hair on their journeys from rural Ireland to Venice. “This is a story to sweep you up and spin you about like a mad Irish jig. It swirls you away amid giddy torrents of language into a fantastical, sensual, yet villainously comic world.” (The Times) “Fabulous escapism, a rich and detailed plot, unusual and memorable characters, larger than life but oddly real, a bit of a saga, a bit of a fantasy, a dash of historical realism, an edge of melodramatic soap opera, all tied up with excellent writing and a cracking pace.” (The UBS Review of Books)
  • Skios by Michael Frayn (2013). An hilarious farce of mistaken identities, embarrassing situations, amazing coincidences and mislaid clothing, building to a frenetic denouement set on a Greek island. “Immensely entertaining . . . Michael Frayn is a master of that most frantic of genres: the door-slamming, coincidence-splattered, slapstick-studded genre of farce.” (New York Times) “Awkward sexual encounters, mistaken identities and buffoonish caricatures of powerful men and women litter the plot of this engaging, even bawdy comedy. . . Skios sparkles with a precise, theatrical timing.” (The List)  Read more here.
  • Skinny Dip by Carl Hiaasen (2006). Will Joey Perrone survive being tossed overboard by her bribe-taking biologist husband and get revenge on/ his thwart his scam to pollute the Everglades?  “A great American writer about the great American subjects of ambition, greed, vanity, and disappointment.” (Entertainment Weekly) “Carl Hiaasen is a lot like Evelyn Waugh.  Both simmer with rage, both are consumed with the same overwhelming vision . . . [Both] write the funniest English of this century.” (Washington Post Book World)  Read more here.

I would love to hear any other novels you might know of like these and also any names (real or made up) that you think would describe this genre. I look forward to sharing these in a future blog.