A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again
David Foster Wallace
Repeatedly listed among the funniest books of all time, this collection of “essays and arguments” by the American writer David Foster Wallace encourages reflection on some of the more ridiculous aspects of our society. In the title essay the author describes his experiences on board a luxury cruise in the Caribbean. The helpful crew was intent on making sure everyone on the ship had fun. Only Wallace didn’t. Instead he painstakingly observed the customs and habits of his fellow passengers, providing plenty of mirth for the reader.
You don’t need to love football to get caught up in reading Fever Pitch because the background narrative around supporting London club Arsenal is entwined with the author Nick Hornby’s memories of love and life. The story of events related to each match always reveals something personal, expertly interwoven with the multiple “rites” surrounding the pre-match, the match and the aftermath. It was Hornby’s father who first took him to the stadium to make up for his inability to communicate with his son. In so doing, he gave the youngster a lifelong passion and us a hugely enjoyable insight into the British football scene.
This entertaining narrative tours American fashion and customs from the 1920s to the 1950s through the personal experiences of Auntie Mame. Guardian to an 11-year old orphaned nephew ¬– the book’s author – hers is a life of adventure, dotted with unexpected twists. It unfolds in 11 chapters, making it feel more like a series of short stories than a novel, and centres on the education and growth of the boy and his aunt's unpredictable vicissitudes. Her young ward moves from an eccentric nudist school chosen by his aunt to university studies, while she loses her fortune during the 1929 stock market crash and seeks employment at Macy's. Auntie Mame then marries a wealthy oil magnate but is soon widowed. None of the characters in Patrick Dennis's book will leave you indifferent: you either worship or detest them.
The Groucho Letters
This collection of letters is to be read at leisure rather than all in one go, but it stands apart for the interest aroused by the author, the comedian Groucho Marx, whose hilarious shows set him apart in the 20th century, with his jokes and cheeky sarcasm. The letters reveal his correspondence with the famous figures he encountered during his lifetime, including US President Harry S. Truman and the English poet T.S. Eliot. His contact with other comedians, such as Fred Allen and Jerry Lewis, and with journalists, authors and screenwriters, including Arthur Sheekman, Goodman Ace and Earl Wilson, also come to light. The author is witty and sentimental, but also grumpy, bitter and scathing.
The Pickwick Papers
Picaresque novels are often winners and success is assured when they are authored by a writer such as Charles Dickens. The Pickwick Papers, conceived as a serial in the 1830s, is a series of stories about Samuel Pickwick's travels with his friends to the English countryside and the people they encounter. The whirl of adventures involves bizarre characters – charlatans and villains – who raise a smile with their witty, mind-blowing stories. The understated protagonist is Sam Weller, a young shoeshine boy who becomes Pickwick's trusted servant and companion. His sense of humour instantly touches the reader's heart.