Brexit Pursued by a Bear
There being a seemingly relentless atmosphere of gloom, uncertainty and a certain pinch of unpleasant political hostility, as an alternative I offer a highly personal selection of some the funniest and most light-hearted of books with which to be distracted from the media’s procession of talking heads.
1. Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh
Arguably Waugh’s best book, this satire of the ‘bright young things’ remains as fresh and funny as when first published in 1930.
2. Out of Sheer Rage by Geoff Dyer
A book about the apparent failure to write a book about D. H. Lawrence – a failure which, by the end, you realise isn’t a failure at all – is about as far-removed from traditional literary criticism as it is possible to be: a paean to travel, an endorsement of procrastination, and a defence of writers against their critics – it also, almost by accident, provides a more illuminating picture of its subject than most of his many biographers
3. Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris
If nothing else, at least read the chapter where a character issues a self-imposed directive to spend a week in which he cannot utter anything to any of his colleagues that hasn’t been said by a character in The Godfather films.
4. Ending Up by Kingsley Amis
Five cantankerous, dyspeptic unlucky Jim’s booze and bicker their last away in an English cottage – this is a minor masterpiece you can read in a lunch-break and then sell in the afternoon.
5. Right Ho, Jeeves by P. G. Wodehouse
6. Eats, Shoots and Leaves by Lynne Truss
A genuinely funny book about grammar – more than a decade on, I imagine that is still hard to believe if you haven’t read it yet.
7. Money by Martin Amis
The perfect match of author and subject and one of the most memorable comic creations in British fiction.
8. As You Like it by William Shakespeare
“Last scene of all,
That ends this strange eventful history,
Is second childishness and mere oblivion,
Sans teeth, sans eyes, sans taste, sans everything.”
(Admittedly there are funnier lines I could have chosen…)
9. Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde
“How you can sit there, calmly eating muffins when we are in this horrible trouble…”
10. Notes from a Small Island by Bill Bryson
…and a gentle, affectionate look at the strange British people from one of its most famous outsider chroniclers.