I have recently read three very funny but wildly different books: Wigs On The Green (Nancy Mitford), Sexually, I'm More Of A Switzerland (David Rose) and When God Was A Rabbit (Sarah Winman).
Wigs On The Green has been out of print for decades and has only just become available again in the last few months. It is a pre-World War II satire on Nazis and fascism and political fervour, so it isn't hard to imagine a few raw nerves being touched. I found it curious; in some ways it is even fluffier than Mitford's other novels, yet the underlying sentiment is far more serious than this lightness might suggest. It is definitely worth doing some background reading on it first, at least the introduction which in my edition is written by Charlotte Mosley. I really like the idea of deadly serious messages being delivered in seemingly flippant ways, and by making certain characters and ideas appear utterly ridiculous, Mitford does this splendidly. The book's biggest flaw is that it's too short.
I've been reading the other two books simultaneously, because Sexually... is a collection of personal ads from the London Review of Books and therefore something to be dipped into. I'd really like to read a section of the personals in the paper itself, to get an idea of how typical these ones are. They are sometimes completely bizarre, often hilarious and at other times totally incomprehensible. Really, the best thing for mw to do is give some examples:
This advert may well be the Cadillac of all lonely hearts adverts, but its driver is the arthritic granddad with a catalogue of driving convictions. Arthritic Granddad (67) with a catalogue of driving convictions including "Driving whilst trying to turn the dang wipers off", "Driving whilst wondering if his urology appointment has come through", "Driving whilst "Hey! Isn't that where your Aunt Maude's first husband lived after the divorce came through? He's settled in Jersey now. I could never stand him - he used to do this thing with his teeth..." " Would like to meet someone who knows how to stop the oven from beeping. Box no 9729
I walk the line between indifference and, meh, whatever. If you're going to write do it quickly. The OC is on in half an hour. Woman. Thirties. Box no 5710
The finest mind in the academic world conceived this ad, but it was his secretary who took two and a half hours out of her day to collate his angst-ridden ramblings, phone the LRB and pay for it with her own money. He's basically looking for an affair with a twenty-something idiot tart who needs good grades. I'm looking for a better job, a decent pension package, and a man to 50 who's great in bed and doesn't make condescending comments about every damn book I read. Man, 57. Or his secretary, 43. Box no 1207
Casanova began his career as a librarian. I've begun mine as a museum curator, which is more or less the same thing except it involves old bones and stuff instead of books. And there is a designated picnic area in a museum whereas libraries don't like you bringing in food. And we have fun maps you can colour in as you go around. And help points for the disabled. Man, 24. Museum curator and potential Casanova. Box no 7971
To be honest, it almost makes me want to be single so I can give it a crack.
And now to When God Was A Rabbit. Funny, funny, funny! Yet also terribly sad and beautifully written. It is Winman's first novel and she really is an excellent writer with a fantastic ability to draw characters. There were several awkward moments when I laughed out loud while reading this book in public. There is a lot of sub-par writing out there, so I find it really heartening to read something of this quality.