Can literature be funny? What is your favourite humorous
This is a hard question. Literary novels often deal with intellectual issues, but there is one book that stands out as quite a funny read despite its’ subject matter: ‘Catch-22’.
War isn’t something to be joked about, but Heller’s approach to the whole thing is refreshing. Unlike Conrad’s ‘Heart of Darkness’ or Faulks’ ‘Birdsong’, it is not always filled with gore and gloom. Instead, the terrors of war are explored through a narrative that bounces back and forth from hilarity to horror.
When we are introduced to the cast, we realise that everyone is a little bit crazy. Yossarian (a bombardier) has decided to live forever, if only those anonymous people called ‘the enemy’ would stop trying to kil him all the time. His friend Lieutenant Milo Minderbinder has an entrepreneurial streak that is brought out when the German’s offer him a 6% profit if he bombs his own camp. Major de Cloverly (no one know his first name, no one dares ask out of fear), a Henry Fonda look-alike called ‘Major, Major, Major’ and other characters such as Nately’s whore’s kid sister are among the oddballs that make up this superb cast.
When reading ‘Catch-22’ I realised that Heller wasn’t trying to ‘make sense’ of war, but rather display the senselessness of it. The characters are all a bit loopy, riddled with insecurities and peculiarities that made me giggle; and this reflects how people are often forced to act irrationally in times of extreme hostility But despite the comic relief there are moments where the horror of war shows through, and has more of a shock value thanks to the humour that is present.The style is reminiscent of Thomas Pynchon, but nowhere near as convoluted. If you haven’t read it yet, I really recommend it. Writing doesn’t get better than this.
What’s your funniest literary read of all time?