PG Wodehouse is without doubt, one of my favourite authors. If I'm ever feeling depressed, I can simply take down one of his many titles almost at ranPG Wodehouse is without doubt, one of my favourite authors. If I'm ever feeling depressed, I can simply take down one of his many titles almost at random and it will cheer me up in no time. For someone to create not one but two massively intricate fictional worlds (Jeeves & Wooster and Blandings Castle), not to mention countless stand-alone novels, takes a level of ability way beyond most writers. And that's without even taking into account his consummate writing and plotting skills.
And this isn't even his best, although it comes very close. But it gets the five stars for chapter 17 (the prize-giving) - one of the funniest sustained pieces of writing in his whole oeuvre, if not English literature in general....more
What always amazes me about PG Wodehouse is the way he disguises his craft so well; the effort with which he polishes every single sentence so that itWhat always amazes me about PG Wodehouse is the way he disguises his craft so well; the effort with which he polishes every single sentence so that it is not only as funny as it could possibly be, but it also reads as though he had just sat down and dashed the whole book off in an afternoon. That's more than craft, that's close to art.
Anyway, along with Right Ho, Jeeves, this is one of Wodehouse's best works. An even more ludicrous plot - Spode, the cow-creamer, the notebook, Anatole, Milady's Boudoir... it goes on and on getting crazier and crazier and yet somehow it all works. And yet he doesn't disregard his characters, who all get their moments to shine - yes, even Bertie Wooster pulls off a coup or too of his own here, even if they don't quite work out the way he expected.
This probably isn't a work that will be included in the canon of "Great World Literature". But if there was any justice, it should be....more
This is a stand-in comment for the entire Myth Adventures series, as I don't intend to comment on all of them. Suffice it to say that Asprin maintainedThis is a stand-in comment for the entire Myth Adventures series, as I don't intend to comment on all of them. Suffice it to say that Asprin maintained an exceptionally high standard throughout this series, which gained a new lease of life when he started to collaborate with Jody Lynn Nye after an enforced absence.
Asprin takes the fantasy tropes and revisits them with some always amusing twists, but at heart the story is about Skeeve and Aahz, the always-reliable Odd Couple pairing who learn just as much from each other despite the "master/apprentice" set-up. And the supporting cast gradually grows into a remarkably entertaining team - Guido and Nunzio, Maasha, Gleep, Bunny, Chumley and, of course, Tanda are rarely wasted and each carves out their own niche.
My personal favourites of the series are Myth Conceptions (where the team of six take on an entire invading army of tens of thousands), Little Myth Marker (for the introduction of Dragon Poker) and Myth Inc. in Action (where the minor characters get their own chances to shine.)
If you like fantasy novels and aren't averse to a bit of good-natured slapstick, look these up....more
This does mean that if you've read the Tough Guide then the jokes are rarely surprising, but they are integrated into the story nicely, and there are one or two genuinely innovative things there too (Derk's obsession with animal genetics is perfectly pitched, and makes for a delightful sequel Year of the Griffin.)
If you've read enough hack fantasy then this will make you laugh out loud often, as the clichés come thick and fast, and yet the story is solid, with some unexpected twists that will catch you out. ...more
You'd never get the impression from reading her other books that Diana Wynne Jones could possibly write anything like this - not in the humorous elemeYou'd never get the impression from reading her other books that Diana Wynne Jones could possibly write anything like this - not in the humorous element, because that's evident from everything she does, but in the viciousness with which she attacks and brilliantly dissects everything that's wrong in "fantasy"; even the acknowledged classics come in for a little bit of a subtle beating here.
I understand that the genesis for this book arose from research she did for the wonderful Encyclopaedia of Fantasy, which required her to devour countless volumes of good, bad and indifferent novels; this was the inevitable result of piles of research notes.
Every page is filled with gems (the entry on Horses is particularly fine, both for the observation about talking whilst riding and the one about pollination) and the fun of following the different trails as you almost create your own adventure is difficult to match.
Anyone who loves fantasy (yes, even the dreadful stuff) will adore this book, from Adepts to Zombies......more
Don't make the mistake of thinking this is a novel. It isn't. It's simply one of the funniest collections of anecdotes you will ever read. From HarrisDon't make the mistake of thinking this is a novel. It isn't. It's simply one of the funniest collections of anecdotes you will ever read. From Harris in the maze, to the story of the cheese and beyond; there is something to make you laugh out loud on almost every page.
2014 edit: Someone has made the brilliant observation that the television show Top Gear is a modern update of Three Men in a Boat. Which it is. Even the characters are largely the same, although clearly Richard Hammond is somewhat more Montmorency than Harris....more
This is a stand-in for the entire Xanth sequence, since it is currently running at 30-odd books and counting. And I love all of them.
Ultimately, thisThis is a stand-in for the entire Xanth sequence, since it is currently running at 30-odd books and counting. And I love all of them.
Ultimately, this is a series that you either "get" or you don't. And if you don't, then nothing I (or anyone else!) can say here will make any difference.
I don't like them for the writing quality. Even after all this time, Anthony still has trouble putting a sentence together, or making his dialogue sparkle or creating a convincing character (either male or female!) Not even for the puns, although they are rarely a disappointment (although lately he has taken to shoe-horning entire paragraphs of them together as though he wants to get them out of the way.) And when he uses one for a title, it's always a doozy: who else would dare to call a novel Stork Naked?!
It's for the ideas and the structures. One Xanth novel often contains more ideas than some novelists manage in an entire career. He plays with multiple character viewpoints in subtle patterns. He slips in forward and backward references to other novels let alone the current plot. He creates huge plot-holes for himself and then delights in tidying up the loose ends and inconsistencies further down the line. The list goes on. There are few authors who can write more than 30 books in one series (and this is probably only half of Antony's total output) and still find ways to surprise the audience....more
There's a quote from Anne McCaffrey on the jacket of my copy of this which reads: "Li Kao may have a slight flaw in his character but the book has noneThere's a quote from Anne McCaffrey on the jacket of my copy of this which reads: "Li Kao may have a slight flaw in his character but the book has none." And it's hard to disagree with such a perfect capsule review. Hugart's magnificent faux-China is glorious in its incidental details, minor characters and set-pieces, and the central plot is as beautifully engineered as you could wish; whilst he doesn't entirely play fair with the reader, it's hard to object to the unfolding of the mystery at the heart of the story, which all makes perfect sense - eventually! But all of that would be nothing were it not for the glue which holds the story together - Number Ten Ox and Master Li Kao, who together make up a pair of characters that are both universal tropes and unique individuals. This is an easy fixture on my "desert island books" list - every time I read it, I find something new to appreciate....more
This should be required reading for anyone who wants to understand the British class system. Even though the setting is somewhat dated, its depictionThis should be required reading for anyone who wants to understand the British class system. Even though the setting is somewhat dated, its depiction of the English Public School and the associated structures is still dangerously accurate, and the jokes are as good as ever. Not to mention the astonishing illustrations which you will never forget. (Searl also created St Trinian's, now better known through the movies, of course.)...more
This is a hoot. Not only is it a splendid book in its own right, but the fun of trying to see how the incidents from The Hobbit are going to be recreaThis is a hoot. Not only is it a splendid book in its own right, but the fun of trying to see how the incidents from The Hobbit are going to be recreated in this lunatic universe is almost unmatched (I think only Jasper Fforde's The Eyre Affair has a similar symbiotic relationship with it's source, and that is far more tangential. Although on reflection, Bridget Jones' Diary probably qualifies too.)
edit: just finished a reread (in the light of Mr Jackson's work) and I'm putting it up a star because it's just wonderful in so many ways....more
This is a stand-in for the whole Just William series by Richmal Crompton. As with Molesworth, these books are not only really, really funny, but alsoThis is a stand-in for the whole Just William series by Richmal Crompton. As with Molesworth, these books are not only really, really funny, but also offer an insight into aspects of the British class system - the subtle distinctions, prejudices and interactions between the different strata of the middle classes (frankly, the working class and aristocrats are virtually absent here.)
And all of this filtered through William's eyes, making perfectly normal social situations into mystifying, suspicious or simply hilarious experiences, with William also able to find the most improbable explanations for the most innocuous events.
And the introduction of Violet Elizabeth Bott also led to one of the great double-acts of English literature - Douglas, Ginger and Henry had to take a back-seat to this magnificent creation.
A glorious evocation of childhood, and subtle social commentary. Fantastic....more
This earns an extra star from me simply because I am only about three months younger than Adrian Mole - so I related to almost everything in here whenThis earns an extra star from me simply because I am only about three months younger than Adrian Mole - so I related to almost everything in here when it originally appeared. Again, the trick of being able to see what are perfectly normal social encounters through "innocent" eyes is well used and makes for natural humour, and Townsend doesn't overdo it, leaving plenty of things off-stage for the reader to fill in....more
Not as intrinsically funny as his first book, but a much more interesting basic premise, combined with a selection of unforgettable characters and a gNot as intrinsically funny as his first book, but a much more interesting basic premise, combined with a selection of unforgettable characters and a glorious punchline (which someone who was there assures me is exactly what happened.)
And an important book as well. The small countries of Eastern Europe are in danger of being lost and forgotten, especially (as I write) during a global recession. It's easy to write funny anecdotes about America (stand up Fry) or even Ireland (Hawkes himself), but to bring to life such a grey country as Moldova is impressive....more
This is essentially an old-fashioned Literary Competition (of the sort now only really found in the Spectator and the New Statesman) but sustained toThis is essentially an old-fashioned Literary Competition (of the sort now only really found in the Spectator and the New Statesman) but sustained to such an amazing degree.
The conceit is fantastic, and manages to remain interesting all the way through to the end. And as with any good "smart" humour, there are so many jokes and references in here that you're unlikely to catch them all even on a second reading (one of the quiet delights is to review the entire results table which is provided and speculate about some of the matches not featured in the main book.)
Probably a somewhat acquired taste though - I imagine that if you don't "get" it straight-away, you probably won't....more
It's often difficult to read books that in their day were pioneers of certain forms of literature, because now they often feel dated. It's even harderIt's often difficult to read books that in their day were pioneers of certain forms of literature, because now they often feel dated. It's even harder with books that are pastiches when the things they are satirising are long forgotten.
But somehow the woes of Mister Pooter are still funny, even when the precise social nuances are almost meaningless to us today. I think that's partly because the characters are so recognisable (the social structures may have changed, but human nature hasn't) and well-constructed farce never gets out of date.
Naturally today we have more modern forms of self-humiliation (e.g. David Brent and Larry David) but the basic principle still holds true - and is as funny and as tragic as ever. And as a primer on mid-Victorian society, it's also surprisingly handy....more